What to say to somebody who lost a lot of weight

Have you ever had a friend who was fat one day and thin the next? Okay, your friend didn’t exactly lose a lot of weight overnight, but it seemed that way.

Yes, she lost a lot of weight, but she may not want to talk about it, especially if you feel the need to tell her that "everybody I know always gains back more than they lose!"

Yes, she lost a lot of weight, but she may not want to talk about it, especially if you feel the need to tell her that “everybody I know always gains back more than they lose!”

Your friend lost weight over weeks, months, perhaps even years but you weren’t paying attention. You didn’t notice any changes in behavior and your friend wasn’t dominating every conversation with talk of her diet or how thin she was getting.

Then comes the day when you, for whatever reason, take a good look at your friend and see that she’s a lot smaller. Wow! You take a better look and see she looks, well, much thinner.

Whenever the realization dawns on you, there are things to say and things that are better not to say.

I remember the first time my cousin’s wife saw me after I’d reduced my body size by roughly 30%. The first words out of her mouth brought a smile to my face.

Her: Hi Jackie. WOW! You look great!

Me: Thanks! (a little uncomfortable with the attention and ready to change the subject)

Her: No! I mean you look reaaallllly good. You lost a lot of weight!”

Me: Yup (completely uncomfortable and wanting to escape)

Her: You’ve lost tons of weight! How much did you lose?

Me: (just went from uncomfortable to angry) Yes, I lost tons of weight – 2 tons, 4000 pounds to be exact. Now can we please change the subject?

Her: How did you do it? (this question could have switched my anger about the “tons” remark to eager to share how I lost weight, but then she went on to ask…) You probably gave up the junk food, right?

Me: Let’s just change the subject.

I realize that not everybody will feel the way I feel about the comments and questions that come with a significant weight loss. I am one for caution. I’ll assume that anybody who’s lost weight may be uncomfortable talking about it so I like to get a feel for what I might say that would be appreciated or if I should just say nothing.

One thing I experienced personally and professionally (with the hundreds of people I’ve helped to lose weight over my 20+ years with Weight Watchers meetings) is how weight loss inspires dressing different[y and new hairdos.

That makes it easy to compliment the person who’s recently lost a lot of weight without addressing the weight loss specifically.

You can say something like:

  • “Oh! That outfit looks great on you!”
  • “Your haircut is really cute!”
  • “You were born to be a blonde!” 

That allows the person to respond with a simple, “Thank you,” or maybe, “Thank you. I lost weight!” or even, “Thank you! I lost 57 pounds!”

Saying, “I lost weight,” or “I lost X pounds,” are two reliable indicators that it’s okay to give your congratulations and even ask, “how did you do it?”

If you’re going to ask, “how did you do it?” please only do so if you are going to ask because you care, not because you want to judge.

Somebody who’s just lost weight doesn’t want you to say:

  • “That’s so unhealthy.”
  • “Oh, you cheated!” (in reference to weight loss surgery)
  • “I know somebody who did it that way and gained it all back inside of a year.”
  • “You look good, but I hope you’re not going to lose more. You will look sick!”

Before you say anything to somebody who’s lost or is losing weight think before you speak. Make sure what you say is going to come out of your mouth in a way that the person will hear it in the way you intended.

Make sure it’s positive and supportive. Avoid making judgmental, or moralistic comments.

If it’s too hard for you to know what to say, then just don’t say anything at all!



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.