“Have you lost weight? You look great! You look so skinny!”
Can we agree that this is not a compliment?
You might be thinking that I’m a bit crazy. You might be thinking I live on another planet (or maybe should) or that I’m not up with times or that losing weight is a bad thing.
Some of the above may be true. Yes, some people would be much healthier if they lost some weight. But some people wouldn’t. Some people might be happier for milisecond after such a comment.
Can I share a truth with you, though?
It’s a loaded compliment. It’s a compliment that comes with pressure. Pressure to lose more weight. Pressure to keep it off. Pressure to start losing. Pressure to fit into those old clothes you finally gave up on. Pressure to buy a scale. Pressure to see if it’s true. Pressure to see if others noticed. Pressure to diet. Pressure to restrict what you eat. Pressure to be more miserable. It’s a compliment that, at the end of the day, isn’t really one at all.
Because what if you haven’t actually lost weight? What if you’ve GAINED weight? What happens if you’ve lost weight, but then you gain it back? What if you’ve just been enjoying a healthier lifestyle and weight loss is a barely noticed (by you) side effect? What if you’ve worked really hard at managing a healthier diet and incorporating exercise into your life?
And yet, weight is all that matters. It’s the only thing noticed.
A few years ago, after I had my first baby, I was training for a marathon. Like as soon as I could run after having her because I only had five months to train. Obviously my baby weight melted off. I was running hours every week, I was doing some personal training sessions, I was working my tail off for the goal of the marathon (which I completed, by the way, with the help and support of great friends and family).
I got a LOT of “you’ve lost weight!” comments that I didn’t know how to handle. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a scale, I couldn’t confirm it. I was back in pre-pregnancy clothes pretty fast, though. I’m sure I slimmed down, but I didn’t really notice. They were super awkward comments for me. Losing weight has never been a priority for me after having kids, so to have that be the sole compliment was a little disheartening.
Because I was working toward a goal bigger than weight loss and all that extra work went unacknowledged.
Until someone at church said “Wow, Cari, you look so STRONG!”
“Thanks. I’ve been training for a marathon.”
In that moment, in that sentence, in that conversation that lasted probably 12 seconds, my life changed. My outlook changed. I had been seen. My work had been acknowledged. Now when I looked in the mirror, I looked for strength and not a slimmer belly. I looked for muscles, not less fat.
Two years later, even though she has moved on and I haven’t seen her in some time, I still hear her words when I look in the mirror. When all I can see is my baby belly, her words float to the surface, “You look strong”.
What if we tried compliments like that?
You look strong.
You look vibrant.
You look healthy.
You look _____.
What about if you KNOW they are working toward a goal? Why are we so collectively afraid to give a specific comment about something we KNOW is happening?
I saw your design on Instagram. It looks awesome.
Your kids really love you. I love watching them light up when you get back.
I saw you running. You looked like you’re ready to tackle your next race.
If we complain about how society only focuses on looks, we need to step back and ask what we are doing about it? Do you talk to our friends about skinny or strong? Do you work toward skinny or healthy? Do you look in the mirror for fat?
We can change things. YOU can change things. I can change things. A simply comment, two years ago, changed my life and my outlook. I have never made a weight loss “compliment” since. If I can’t think of something else to say, I don’t say anything.
The people around us deserve better than “skinny”. They deserve strong, vibrant, overcomer, healthy, glowing, happy, content – any other positive word. Watch someone light up when you give that compliment. Watch their world change.
I want to challenge you to give someone a non-skinny compliment when you have the chance and share it here or on facebook. Let’s change the world, friends!
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7