The Downside of Complimenting

Compliments are tricky. Hard to take, and often hard to give. When you give a compliment you can’t be sure that what you want to express is what is heard. When you receive a compliment, you hear the words but can mistake the meaning.

I lost weight. It was actually quite a bit of weight and when I looked in the mirror I was happy. When I put on my clothes they felt good. They no longer felt binding and constricting and the cool thing was, these comfortable clothes were smaller sizes. Yes! Smaller sizes were fitting comfortably.

I was completely happy and satisfied with my weight loss efforts. I lost a lot of pounds, went down several sizes of clothing, and my chin and jawline had reemerged from a collar of jiggly chins. When I walked my shorts stayed where they belonged instead of getting wedged higher and higher between my thighs with each step.

I didn’t need compliments or anybody’s approval to make me satisfied with what I did for myself.

When I ran into a distant family member whom I last saw at my heaviest weight ever, and whom in fact, never knew me before I got fat, things got awkward. She exclaimed over me appearance.

I was only the littlest bit uncomfortable when she said loudly and in a public place, “Wow! You’ve lost a lot of weight! You look great!”

People turned to look at me. Oh well, I could handle their stares, but then she shouted part two of her “compliment!”

“You really lost tons of weight! How much did you lose?”

First there was the “tons of weight” remark which was a gross exaggeration. Then there was the way she emphasized the words, “how much did you lose.” It reinforced that I must have lost many hundreds of pounds. I was not embarrassed by her suggesting I lost hundreds of pounds. It was, however, very awkward when she stood there waiting for me to tell her how many pounds I lost. I didn’t want to answer.

Really? Is that anybody’s business? It felt as rude to me as though she just said, “You used to be so fat. How much did you weigh anyway?”

If that compliment was supposed to make me feel good, call it an epic fail. So there’s that about compliments and weight loss.

They can also give you a feeling of being judged. Weight loss compliments are sometimes given with an element of “fat shaming” implied.

“You lost weight! You look so healthy!” How does one take that compliment without hearing the unspoken part? “Now your, and more importantly my, health insurance premiums might go down.

Based on how compliments about my weight made me feel, I tend to avoid weight-based compliments. When I do make a compliment about weight loss, I don’t do it until the compliment is invited.

If somebody says, “I lost weight,” then I feel okay saying, “I noticed, congratulations, and you must be very happy!”



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.