OMG! She looks SO good......
You know what comes next, right??
She's definitely lost weight!
Always with reference to weight loss.
This is a line I have personally heard so many times recently.
I mean - it's a line I've heard my whole life but I'm always so surprised when I hear it now, considering the work I do, most people keep their almond counting and body comments to themselves when I'm around. Ha!
But of course this talk persists - despite a shifting culture, THIN is still resolutely the preference in mainstream beauty and wellness. It's been deeply ingrained in us to see weight loss as GOOD. Thinness as more attractive and healthier, without question. And even if, on some level, we are collectively seeing the holes in these stories - many can't see why it might be harmful to compliment someone on "looking good and taking care of themselves"...what's SO wrong with that??
Let's pull it apart.
Here's the implication when someone comments positively about another person's weight loss:
1. Weight loss is ideal.
2. Being a thinner you is a more attractive you.
3. Weight loss is an accomplishment.
4. Being thin is healthier. ("It's so good to see her taking care of herself" is often an add-on to the weight-loss comment).
The flip side?
1. If you haven't lost weight or are in a larger body, you aren't ideal.
2. If you aren't thin, or getting thinner, you are less attractive (and remember! In our culture attractiveness is very closely linked with WORTH, so this isn't just a superficial concern).
3. If you aren't in a thin body or losing weight you are failing. Not trying hard enough.
4. If you aren't thin or losing weight you aren't healthy.
Like my aunt loves to say: there are TWO sides to a pancake. :)
What if the weight loss is not actually because the woman is a happier, healthier version of herself? Every single woman I've heard these comments about in the past few months has been struggling with a very real, stressful, life-altering circumstance: illness, divorce, death, and the grips of anxiety and/or depression from these situations. Conversely, what about those women who GAIN weight in these stressful situations? The shame of weight gain in our culture often compounds the already-stressful life events.
What happens when those women heal from traumatic life events and possibly start eating/sleeping again? What happens when they gain weight back? What happens when being emotionally stable is equated with less desirability, health, and accomplishment?
Or what about women who actually do shift their lifestyles to something that feels more energizing and inspiring to them and they DON'T lose weight. In this culture - where do they fit in? Have they not accomplished anything? Because, you see, weight is not inherently in our control. Some women lose weight with lifestyle changes, some stay the same, some GAIN weight. #itsafact
Here's a BIG question - What if weight loss actually HURTS our health? This is JUST RECENTLY beginning to be studied. What if it turns out that dropping weight is actually detrimental long-term - especially in certain populations. What are we applauding??
There are so many scenarios where weight loss is not healthy, or ideal, and not in the individual's control. The same can be said about weight GAIN. And of course, there are many women who lose weight who are intensely criticized...
So here's a solution - LET'S STOP TALKING ABOUT WEIGHT.
Let's congratulate women on things that they are actually in control of.
Let's NOT reinforce Euro-centric, misogynistic beauty ideals.
If we see a woman's body changing and feel the need to say something - let's genuinely engage in conversation: ask about her life. Is she okay? What's going on in her world?
Let's celebrate women caring for themselves and prioritizing their own well-being (in any way) - instead of saving the congrats for if, and only if, weight loss happens to follow those changes.
Let's work to see the beauty and health in a variety of bodies, recognizing TRUE markers of health and vitality instead of just weight.
Let's allow women's bodies to shift without judgement - good or bad.
PS Have you checked out new ways to work with me?? I have sessions for those not ready to do a full 6 month program, sessions for parents worried about their kids weight/health/nutrition/body image, and sessions for health professionals!!! READ MORE HERE.