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Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

How to Give Non-Weight Focused Compliments

Why it’s important to know how to give non-weight focused compliments and to have exit strategies for diet talk

Diet mentality has become so common in today’s society that a lot of times it feels like second nature to want to comment about the way someone looks. Negative comments like “Are you sure you should be eating that?” or “I thought you were trying to lose weight” can be super harmful, especially when you are not aware of someone’s place in their health journey. On the other hand, so-called positive compliments such as “You look amazing, have you lost weight?” or “Wow! You look so toned recently, what are you doing differently?” may make some people feel good momentarily, yet they may have unexpected effects down the road. Having ideas for how to give Non-Weight Focused Compliments and Exit Strategies to Diet Talk can be so helpful for healing and your health.

There are several reasons why compliments based off one’s appearance need to stop already:

  1. Weight loss and weight gain do not tell you anything about the person’s happiness or health. Don’t believe me? Check out 7 factors that impact the scale to provide examples of how easily weight can change. Also, the person you may be praising for losing weight may be dealing with disordered eating, depression, food guilt, or restrictive eating habits. Further, the person you are judging for gaining weight may be recovering from disordered eating or finally letting go of diet rules and restrictions that have been controlling them for years. 
  2. Weight-related comments can be very triggering for some people, even if they don’t show it or brush it off. Those with disordered eating come in all shapes and sizes, and these comments may trigger them into relapsing.
  3. Body-related comments shift the importance of what truly matters. Focusing on dieting or body image can take so much time and attention away from other things, like making memories, spending time with those you care about, creating relationships, and eating foods you truly enjoy.

For all of these reasons, that is why we should stop commenting or complimenting others on their physical appearance, and instead compliment them on more important things, like their personality, energy, and work ethic.  

How to use Non-Weight Focused Compliments on Someone Without Focusing on their Appearance

  • I love your energy, it’s so contagious!
  • You have accomplished so many amazing things!
  • It’s been awesome seeing you make self care and your needs a priority. 
  • You’re such a good friend. I really appreciate you being there for me.
  • You have the best sense of humor!
  • You’re a great listener. Thank you for being there when I need someone to talk to!
  • You are so talented at what you do.
  • Your dedication to reach your goals inspires me!
  • You look so happy!

Actions to help support family and friends on their health journey

  • Listening
  • Inviting them to a physical activity such as a walk or yoga class
  • Cooking together
  • Reminding them of their accomplishments
  • Doing an activity together that they enjoy

Exit Strategies When in an Uncomfortable Conversation about Weight or Dieting 

So what do you do when people just don’t get it? When you start rejecting diet culture and weight focused approaches you may notice others are still very much caught up in diet talk. Here are some exit strategies and how to respond to diet talk.

Strategy #1: Be Honest

It is okay to say that the conversation is making you uncomfortable or that you would rather not talk about the certain topic. 

Strategy #2: Agree to Disagree and Move On

“I know we may not agree eye-to-eye on weight or body image, but I would still like to enjoy this lunch I’m having with you. Can we talk about _____?”

Strategy #3: Be Prepared

If you know that certain people like to bring up the topic of weight gain, weight loss, etc., be prepared with a way to positively divert the conversation. 

Strategy #4: The Sweet-Sour-Sweet Approach

This approach entails making a sweet comment, followed up by setting a boundary, and ending the conversation on a positive note. For example, you could say:

“I am very thankful that I have close friends and family that care about me. However, I don’t see the importance of discussing my weight changes with you. I would love to talk about ______.”

Strategy #5: Use an Excuse

An excuse is not necessary, because you have the right not to engage in a conversation that makes you uncomfortable and you don’t need to apologize for it. It can be as simple as getting up to go to the bathroom or saying you need to make a phone call. 

Strategy #6: Share

Share some of the positive health habit changes you are working on or resources you have found helpful for intuitive eating, gentle nutrition or joyful movement. 

Anti-Diet Culture Resources:

More examples for how to respond to diet talk

https://alissarumsey.com/intuitive-eating/how-to-respond-to-diet-talk/

https://www.rewire.org/how-to-exit-diet-culture-conversations-without-losing-friends/

Co Author: Katelyn Schwartz B.S Dietetics and B.S Exercise Science

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