What if we all spoke our minds?
I have a question for you. What if we all spoke our minds? What if we all said the things that are going round in our heads. I mean, we all do that thing don’t we. We’re all annoyed by somebody and we all think bad things about that person but we don’t dare say it out loud.
There are people though in life that will go ahead and say whatever they feel like saying, without a second thought for how the other person will feel. Sometimes they don’t say the right thing and without meaning to offend us they have done.
Sometimes it’s seen as a compliment, but I guess it depends what stage of your life you’re at, what you’re trying to achieve at that time, what the compliment is aimed at, you know, that sort of thing. Once upon a time, I was at a barbecue and I’d lost quite a significant amount of weight. I was probably at the lowest I’ve ever been and I saw somebody at this barbecue that I hadn’t seen for a very long time and he said “All right Terri, how are you? Oh, oh, You look ummm, you look, you look great”, and then somebody said, “what it means is you’ve lost a lot of weight and you look fit”.
He was trying to acknowledge that I’d lost this weight and he didn’t really know what to say about it. So he just ended up saying, you look great, which is fine. That genuinely is a fine compliment. Perfectly acceptable. But, there are other people who can’t quite manage that.
When you’re not expecting it you don’t know what to say in return. When somebody just quite openly, out of nowhere, says about your weight that’s quite something to try and digest in the moment and to try and come up with a response for.
Compliments that aren't really compliments
To comment on somone’s body is not okay, let’s just start by saying that. Nobody should have to be prepared for that. Even if the person would never have intended to mean any harm by it, would never have intended to upset anybody, but clearly didn’t know where the line was, that is not an acceptable thing to comment on.
It’s about time we started raising awareness of this. It’s about time that people started talking about what it is and what isn’t acceptable. There are so many compliments that are flung around as well that aren’t really compliments.
Things like, she’s such a bubbly person, don’t you have a beautiful face, you’re so funny, you’ve got such a pretty smile. All these things that on the face of it, they seem like just nice positive comments but when you look at the person that’s receiving these comments is it a bit of a backhanded compliment?
For example, would you call somebody who was thin bubbly. You might just say they were funny or lively or something like that, but bubbly tends to be attributed it to larger people. Tthen you get comments like, you have such a pretty face. Giving a compliment, but detracting away from the body. That wouldn’t necessarily be given to somebody who is thinner. It’s not impossible of course. Somebody might say that somebody who was thinner has a pretty face. On the whole, when you compliment somebody on their pretty face or their smile or something like that, you’re trying to give a compliment and move it away from the body.
Then there’s direct body compliments. Things like, you carry your weight so well, I would never have guessed you were that weight, or complimenting womanly curves. Also, “I could never do that if I was your shape/size/weight.”
What about when people comment on the amount of food that somebody can eat? “I can’t believe how much you can put away. Look how much food you can eat”. I don’t even know why that seemed to be a compliment. I don’t get it. Is it a compliment? Is it a joke? Is it a jibe? I don’t know. But again, if you comment like that to towards a larger body person, if you say to them “look how much food you can eat” that’s bound to be interpreted differently to say a thin person who can put away a whole pack of donuts in one sitting. You wouldn’t think anything of it? It would just be a joke if it was the thinner person.
Here’s another one. You know, when you’re walking down the street and you see somebody that you haven’t seen for years and years, maybe it’s an old school friend, maybe it’s somebody you just know from an old job, maybe it’s somebody you’ve seen from an old diet club. Your thought is, “oh, hasn’t she changed? Doesn’t she look different? She’s put weight on. Oh, she’s lost a lot of weight”.
Especially when it’s somebody you know from a diet club group. Somebody, that was always that person that was there week in week out for the whole length of time you were there. You see them and your first thought is, “she’s put on all the weight that she lost”.
Or the other way round. “She’s lost so much weight since the last time I saw her”. I know it’s natural. I know it’s human nature to discuss things like that and to think about things like that but isn’t it mad that that’s one of the first things that comes to mind. One of the first things we see. One of the first things we think about when we see a friend or an old acquaintance is we consider what their body looks like.
We have to reframe these things
The food police! We have got too much of our own pressure to be adding this pressure. We have too much pressure from sources around us, from advertising, from friends, from family, from all these different sources that are putting the pressure on us to look better to look different, to lose weight, to look more beautiful. We don’t need that pressure and it’s time that we start talking to people and putting them straight when they say these things.
We have our own internal food police. This is an Intuitive Eating term and it’s all the chatter in your mind. It’s all that criticism that you give yourself based on what you’ve eaten, what you’re thinking about eating. It’s all the voices around in the advertising, in the people in the office in your family. It’s all the people around that are giving you negative feedback on your body and your food that you’re eating. We’ve got enough of that so we need to start putting people straight on this stuff.
I think the way we also have to think about this is to consider whether or not you would say it’s your nearest and dearest. Would you walk up to one of your children or your partner and make some really derogatory comments to them about their weight, their size, or the way they look? I don’t think hand on heart you would do that if you really loved them and cared for them.
I know we joke about things sometimes, but you wouldn’t intentionally set out to hurt people with your words, would you. Indirectly that’s what’s happening when you’re commenting on people’s bodies. They might not hear what you say but you’re still passing that judgment on them. If you wouldn’t say it to your nearest and dearest It’s not an acceptable thing to say.
be an advocate
The underlying message. In all of this is that all bodies are good bodies. Now that doesn’t mean that all bodies function as they should but all bodies are worthy of being treated equally. There may be disabilities. There may be illness. There may be allergies, intolerances things that we have to work around. But that doesn’t mean that that body is any less good. It just means it functions differently.
We need to be representatives for body diversity. It does not matter what shape you are, what size you are, what you weigh, what you look like. We should all be representatives for our body types and body diversity. If you are in a bigger body then you need to be a spokesperson for people in bigger bodies.
Disabilities are seen as socially acceptable because these people can’t help it. It’s something they have to live with. We make adaptations for them. But people in bigger bodies don’t get that tolerance from the public. They’re often looked down on or criticized for what is perceived to be their lifestyle. So we need to start sticking up for ourselves. We need to start speaking out being advocates for our body types.
If you’re not in a marginalized body type then I would ask you to start speaking out for those people. The more people that have an understanding of weight, stigma and fat phobia the better. Start speaking up and talking more positively about the subject and before you know it it has snowballed, more people are talking positively and more people know that it’s not okay to make these negative comments anymore.
My blog post on this goes into much more detail, but I didn’t think the length of text would be appropriate for the blog post. Listen to hear more about why we shouldn’t compliment people for losing weight, and what you can say to people to compliment them without referring to their body.
The Intuitive Eating and Body Positivity Podcast is available on most streaming services, or you can listen here on the website. The full list of episodes can also be found here on the Podcast page.