When you hear that someone you know is looking to shed some pounds, your immediate reaction might be, “Why?” or “But you look great.” Whether it comes from a place of not understanding, competitiveness, or even genuine thought that they look great as is, those types of responses offer an unwanted opinion and lack of support for their journey.
And it can be super annoying to hear these types of reactions! If someone is trying to lose weight, it’s their desire to do so—and they are not asking for your advice or judgment. The best you can do is be encouraging towards them and help in any way you can. And if they do lose weight, you should be happy for their progress, too!
Plus, you don’t know the reason for losing weight. You might instantly assume it’s for materialistic reasons—to look skinnier and feel more confident. Yet, it could be related to health issues, too, and you wouldn’t want to deter someone trying to lose weight from doing something beneficial towards their wellbeing.
“If someone is trying to lose weight, there could be a variety of reasons, they could be under the impression that losing weight will automatically improve their health or have been told by a doctor to lose weight in an attempt to reduce blood sugar or cholesterol,” says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.
“Before you say something, always keep in mind that what you see on the outside doesn’t always tell the whole story of what’s going on inside,” she adds.
If you’re speaking to someone on a weight loss journey, here are a few things to avoid saying, as they will only make that person feel worse.
“Isn’t that bad for you?”
If someone is trying to lose weight but wants to let loose and enjoy a plate of pasta or a donut around you, don’t make them feel bad for their choices. You don’t know how they are attempting to lose weight, what they’ve eaten that week or earlier in the day, or how they plan on going about changes in lifestyle.
Plus, people are human and have to enjoy life, too—even on a diet! “No matter what your health and wellness goals are, so long as you aren’t allergic or have a health condition making a food deadly to you, no food needs to be off limits,” she says.
“When all foods fit, mindful indulgences are able to bring about joy and satisfaction, which can actually reduce cravings and the tendency to binge,” she adds. Labeling a food someone enjoys as bad can associate guilt and shame with something that used to be joyful—and it can make them feel less motivated to stick with it or lead to unhealthy habits towards their weight loss to make up for their splurge.
“You look great. How much weight have you lost?”
If you say this, you’re assuming that they’ve been losing weight—and you don’t actually know the number they’ve lost (if they have even lost any pounds) or the goal they have in mind. You also don’t know how they feel about their own bodies in this moment, too.
“This implies the person didn’t look great before and if their weight loss attempts aren’t successful, they’ll feel even worse about themselves thinking that others won’t find them attractive anymore,” she says. Think of other ways to compliment them, such as “You seem so happy and confident lately” without mentioning weight or their diet.
“You’re being silly. You don’t need to lose weight.”
Sometimes your intentions might be kind—you might really think they look good and don’t need to restrict themselves. Yet, often times this response comes from competitiveness and jealousy, where you don’t want them to be thinner than you or feel bad about yourself for not having the same willpower and dedication to shed a few pounds too.
You don’t know their reason for losing weight—it could be medical—and whether they want to or not is not your concern. And it doesn’t change how you look or your own goals. If you want to turn it positive, use this as a way to get healthier yourself—even if it’s not for weight loss, maybe it’s to increase veggie intake in the week or work on getting more sleep.
And if it’s unrelated to your own lifestyle, simply be happy for them and supportive! If you care about them, you should want them to succeed and feel more confident in their skin.
“Here’s what I would do.”
Unless they ask you for advice on what to eat, any new recipes you are enjoying, or tips on getting into a type of workout, for example, keep your own opinions on how you stay trim to yourself. What works for you does not work for everyone—there is not a one size fits all type of diet and exercise plan. And they might not thrive with your choices as you do. Instead, support whatever methods they are choosing—listen to them and encourage them without offering your own unsolicited advice.