We live in a world where a woman’s body size is a focal point, making it difficult to break free from the perpetual cycle of dieting and body shaming. Here’s what we should be focusing on instead.
Society teaches women that one of their most valuable assets is the appearance of their bodies. In general, compliments are a nice gesture, such as telling someone they look nice today or that you like their hair.
However, complimenting women for their body size and shape is problematic and damaging.
Well-meaning compliments like: “Have you lost weight? You look great! What diet are you on?” or “Wow, look at her body. I wish I looked like that!” can cause more harm than good. It reinforces the lie that in order to be healthy or worthy, we must be at a smaller size.
Quite often, we don’t have any idea of what’s going on in a person’s life, whether it be illness, stress at work, or limited access to food that led to their weight and body size changes. For those who may be suffering from disordered eating and over-exercising, there is no way of understanding the type of extremes they are pushing themselves in order to maintain their body size.
And when these behaviors are validated by an incoming stream of compliments, it essentially confirms to the person that they should continue behaviors that may be ruining their life. What we see on the outside cannot tell us what their mental health is. Are they obsessing about their weight? Are they happy? Do they have an eating disorder? Are they missing out on life because they are so invested in trying to make their body size something it was never meant to be?
When we comment on someone’s “new body”, we are essentially saying there was something wrong with it before. It was something that needed to be fixed, despite the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes. And when biology kicks in and that person regains the weight (as 95% of dieters do), this creates feelings of shame and failure. Let’s start acknowledging that some people are meant to exist in bigger bodies and still be healthy.
Remember, not all women are meant to be a size 2.
In fact, women are far more interesting than their body size, what they eat, or their exercise routine. They are smart, they work hard, and have shown resilience in a patriarchal society. There are far better things to compliment women on other than their bodies, such as:
- Work ethic
So what do you do if you’re on the receiving end of comments around your body? Try ignoring the comment, smile and change the subject. If the person is open-minded and you’re comfortable with sharing the rationale, open up the conversation on why you prefer not to have your body discussed. And lastly, you have the power to set boundaries –
Don’t be afraid to tell someone not to comment.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: BROOKE CAGLE
Hannah Turnbull, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Columbia, MO helping others build healthy relationships with food through simple delicious recipes and living life in balance. In a world full of food rules and restriction, she helps individuals navigate what works in their everyday lives.