Advice

19 Better Compliments to Give Than ‘Did You Lose Weight?’

Philly dietitians, nutritionists, and eating disorder experts give us tons of affirming alternatives.


compliments

There are way better compliments to give friends than asking if they lost weight. / Photograph courtesy Getty Images

Let’s do an experiment: Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized — not by a mean girl like Regina George but by a well-meaning friend, family member, coworker, or other human in your life who said something like, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” Or, “You’re so lucky you can eat whatever you want and stay so thin.” Or, our personal favorite: “When’s the baby due?” — when you’ve already made it very clear that you’re never having kids.

So, everyone then? Even if it wasn’t one of those specific remarks, you’ve probably received a body-image-related “compliment” that actually made you feel worse. Which makes us wonder: Why do people feel the need to comment on how others look in the first place? “Because it’s a culture that values thinness,” says Dalina Soto, a registered dietitian who runs the Philly-based private practice Nutritiously Yours. “As soon as you see someone who’s thin, regardless of whether they’ve lost weight or haven’t lost weight, even if they’re already thin to begin with, people ask, ‘Oh my god, did you lose weight?’”

We could go on a whole rant about how society’s broken and every size is beautiful (and I’m sure we will at a later date). But, for now, in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we reached out to several local dietitians, nutritionists, and eating disorder experts to get their advice on how to give compliments that don’t tiptoe anywhere near the dreaded “w” word.

Adrienne Ressler, body image expert and vice president of professional development at the Renfrew Center Foundation (The Renfrew Center is a longtime residential eating disorder treatment facility.)

“The best recourse is to simply not say anything about appearance. Instead, make a comment or ask a question that has nothing to do with how anyone looks. Comment that they look happy, or even upset, today and ask what’s going on. Compliment them for being a good listener or having a great sense of humor. The list of what people can talk about and make each other feel good about—without ever bringing physical appearance into the conversation—is endless.”

Trish Lieberman, a registered dietitian, licensed dietitian-nutritionist, and diabetes educator who runs her own practice in Ardmore

“There is an assumption that weight loss is a golden ticket of some sort to ‘living your best life,’ when in reality, weight loss tells you nothing about a person’s health, happiness, or situation. Weight loss could be the result of an eating disorder, cancer, depression, loss of a loved one, or other difficult experiences going on in someone’s life.

  • Instead of commenting on someone’s weight, try: ‘It’s so great to see you! I can’t wait to catch up with you!’
  • Instead of ‘You eat so healthily, how do you do it?,’ try: ‘I love how passionate you are’ or ‘You’re such a great friend.’
  • Instead of ‘You look so healthy,’ try: ‘You light up the room.’
  • Instead of ‘I love your curves!,’ try: ‘You have the best laugh!’”

Another non-compliment worth mentioning is, ‘You don’t look like you have an eating disorder.’ This type of comment can be extremely dangerous and triggering to someone who is or was struggling with an eating disorder. It reinforces the idea that you have to fit into a certain body category to be considered ‘sick’ or worthy of care and support. Another way to approach this is to say, ‘How are things going for you lately? I’m here to talk if you need a friend.’

Brittany Pizio, the campus dietitian at Swarthmore College

“The problem with appearance-related feedback is that maybe that person is grappling with food and exercise. Or maybe they aren’t, and this sets off a lightbulb like, ‘If I look great now, what was going on with me before?’ I think that sets us up for equating our worth with what we look like, which can really convolute those relationships with others and then with food and body image and exercise within ourselves. I would encourage people to ask someone how they could provide support because we can’t know. And focusing more on non-appearance-related compliments if we feel the need to compliment someone — are they a good friend, do they make you feel comfortable in the person you are, do they inspire you, do they encourage you to want to be a better person?”

Emily Pierce, registered dietitian and licensed dietitian-nutritionist at OnPoint Nutrition, a Philly-based virtual nutrition counseling service

“Keeping it simple:

‘You look really healthy.’

‘Your skin is glowing.’

‘You seem to have really great energy lately!

Specifically for a workout buddy: ‘You’ve been killing it with workouts lately!’ Or: ‘You’ve gotten so strong!'”

Nicole Nicastro, nutritionist at OnPoint

“These types of non-compliment conversations are more common than you would think. I experienced an example of it during my pregnancy.  I frequently heard from others, ‘Wow, you are so small.’ I heard this enough that I eventually convinced myself there was a problem — when, in fact, my son was measuring to term perfectly! When I think back now, I allowed others’ perception and view of my body to shake my own confidence and cause me unnecessary stress. On the other side of this, how often have you overheard someone commenting at a baby shower, ‘Oh, you are so big! Are you sure your due date is correct?’? Same concept with same feelings that tag along, no matter the size.

Some better phrases to use with a friend could look like the following: ‘You seem to be comfortable with your weight and health. How do you do it?’ or if you know a friend who struggles with their weight as much as you do: “I understand the feeling. I know it can be frustrating. What do you find to be the hardest part of losing weight?’ Validating the struggle and encouraging a positive conversation about body image could be all the support that friend needs.”

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