I understand that is an upsetting title to read for some people and I can already hear the cries of “but, I worked so hard to…” I get it, I do. I especially get it as someone who was rewarded with both pseudo fame and money for losing weight why it is a tough thing to hear. Losing weight is constantly applauded in our society, as though making yourself smaller were somehow a skill or a noble tribute you made in honor of this twisted concept of “willpower” rooted in self-deprivation that has come to be looked at as a favorable attribute in today’s society. There is this pervasive idea that punishing oneself is a badge of honor. I’ll get to that insane concept in a future blog though, first let me explain to you some reasons why losing weight isn’t an accomplishment.
1. The term accomplishment includes in its definition “skill or ability in a task,” here is the thing with losing weight, it doesn’t require any particular skill, it doesn’t require practice or study. In addition, it doesn’t DO anything. I hear your protests now, “but, but, but, it makes you healthier!” No, it doesn’t. Study after study (like this one, or this one oooorrr this one) have shown while there is a strong correlation between eating/exercise habits and health, there is not the same correlation between weight and health, thus focusing on weight loss is ineffective for improving health. Just losing weight alone does not make you healthier and can be done in a manner that actually makes you ill. In addition to being ineffective, studies have found it can actually be counterproductive to improving health (here) when you comment on someones weight.
2. You can lose lots of weight and still be incredibly unhealthy. For example, the weight loss methods on TBL involved starving and overtraining. Both of these things, though they left me a lot smaller, did not leave me healthier. Ignoring the negative psychological ramifications of that experience and just looking at the effects on my physical health; my immune system crashed and it took months to get stable again after that process. So many people were applauding my external appearance while blatantly disregarding the unhealthy methods used to gain that appearance. This is the same problem with continuing to celebrate weight loss as though it were something noble, you have no idea how someone lost that weight and you might be praising some very unhealthy choices or an illness.
3. A myriad of people end up losing weight due to health problems- both psychological and physical. The dangers of lauding weight loss as an accomplishment can both exacerbate the psychological problems someone is facing and can be incredibly insulting or hurtful to someone who is physically ill.
“Complimenting” someone on his or her weight loss is inappropriate. Always. Continuing to compliment people on making their bodies smaller perpetuates the ideas that other peoples bodies are your business and that you know anything about their health or well being by looking at them. I know that there are people reading this that are like, “but I like when people comment on how much weight I’ve lost…” I understand that, and I suggest that you sit back and take a moment to see why you feel that way. Think about what part of your self worth has been anchored in a concept that has been dictated to you by society, the 40 billion dollar diet industry and this false idea that you have accomplished anything by making yourself smaller.
Imagine instead a world where we compliment one another on authentically caring for ourselves. “You’re eating foods that nourish you? You are exercising more in a way that adds to your well-being, strength and cardiovascular health? You getting enough sleep? Fantastic!” These things, these are accomplishments because they take time, practice, dedication and study. What impact would it have on your psychological and physical health if all of us started to recognize that on a day-to-day basis? If we complimented one another other on the things that actually did matter, on our skill in taking care of ourselves as opposed to our appearance? Think about how much healthier would we all genuinely be.
You have no idea why someone weighs what they do; their body is none of your business. If you are genuinely interested in being supportive about your friend or acquaintances health, then be a friend! Being lonely is so much worse for your health than being obese (see, here is proof) so instead of focusing on unimportant non-accomplishments of the people you love, just be a friend, that does wonders for their health.