It sort of stinks that friends, family and strangers feel they have a right or responsibility to help an overweight woman lose weight who hasn’t specifically asked for their help or even indicated weight loss is a consideration. The justification is, “I’m doing it for her own good.” The reality is we don’t know what is really good for somebody else. It’s hard enough to even know what’s good for ourselves.
There are certain things people say to overweight women. Maybe they’re said out of concern or with good intentions, but we can’t be sure. Maybe they’re backhanded compliments or meddling into affairs that are none of their business. It’s because of the potential to hurt or do damage, regardless of the righteous intention, that it’s best not to say them at all.
1. “You have a pretty face.”
I dislike this more than anything that could be said to an overweight woman. Yeah, I dislike it even more than undisguised insults. Better to call her “fatty” than say, “you have such a beautiful face.” Specifying it’s the face that’s beautiful isn’t the same as saying, “you’re beautiful.” It’s saying, “pretty face, too bad about the rest of you.” If she’s beautiful, say “you’re beautiful,” just don’t cut off your compliment at the head.
2. “I shouldn’t eat this…” or “I feel so guilty eating this”
You are sharing a meal or snack with your overweight friend and you’re both eating the same food. Talking about the food you’re eating in moralistic terms is a thinly disguised way of saying it’s okay for me to have this, but you shouldn’t eat it because you’re fat. Squelch the urge to moralize about food choices.
3. “Good job, ordering the baked fish.”
Who are you talking to, a child? It’s not necessary to congratulate an adult on her food choice. Food choices are moral issues. Choosing baked fish is no more praiseworthy than ordering fish that battered, fried, and served with coleslaw and French fries on the side. Besides being unnecessary, one meal doesn’t make or break a healthy way of eating. She doesn’t care if you approve of what she’s eating, so stop with the cheerleading.
4. Really? You ski (or any sport or physically active hobby)?
It’s not the words in this case as much as the surprise or the tone of disbelief that she’s physically active. There are plenty of very big women who are strong, active, and have endurance that would put a lot of skinny people to shame. Don’t be so surprised to discover a larger woman is physically active. It’s not all that uncommon. Making a big deal out of her athleticism puts your prejudice about fat people on display.
5. “I think curves look more attractive than angles as long as we’re not talking about somebody who weighs 500 pounds.”
What are you really saying? Are you being kind or maybe saying, “it’s all right to be a little overweight”? Overweight women may hear those words as a warning. “You’re okay as you are now, but don’t get any fatter.” It’s really not necessary share with an overweight woman your opinion about how fat is okay and what isn’t.
It all comes down to this. Think before you speak. Don’t offer help or advice when you haven’t been asked for either. The overweight women in your life will ask if they want it and if they don’t ask, they’ll appreciate your not giving it.