Fitness Magazine

Compliment Minefield

By Danceswithfat @danceswithfat

complimentEvery time I see someone being complimented for “looking so great” after their recent weight loss, I cringe a little.  People who undertake weight loss attempts are often encouraged to motivate themselves by hating their current bodies.  When they are successful at short term weight loss, they are encouraged to look back at their “old body” with shame, scorn, and hatred.  And that’s a big problem.

Not just because at some point the person will probably start to think “if everyone is talking about how great I look now, how did they think I looked before?” but also because the vast majority of people gain back their weight in two to five years.  Then they are living in a body that they taught themselves to hate and be ashamed of, remembering all of those compliments. Yikes.

I’ve also had friends and blog readers who’ve lost weight because they were sick, or stressed, or in some other unintentional way, who’ve said that this kind of compliment was horrible  It made them wonder what these people thought of their bodies before, it created friction when they regained the weight, and it created an incredibly awkward situation when the person said “You look great, what’s your weight loss secret?” and their answer was “chemotherapy.”

So compliments can be a minefield.  But they can also be awesome.  Here are some guidelines that might help.  Of course, your mileage may vary and these are just suggestions:

Avoid Body Comparisons

Bodies are beautiful all the time.  People’s body size changes over their lives, sometimes on purpose, sometimes through extraneous, even undesired, circumstances.  Either way, it’s impossible to tell people that they look better without telling them that they looked worse, and that’s no good.  So, maybe don’t do it. Try this:

  • You’ve always been beautiful and I’m glad that you are happy.
  • You are beautiful at every size

No backhanded compliments

Some of these might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. A compliment should probably never include:

  • “For a” as in “You’re really pretty for a fat girl”
  • “I guess”  as in “If you like that dress I guess I like it”
  • “such…but” as in “You have such a pretty face, but you need to do something about your weight.”
  • “brave” as in “You’re so brave to wear a sleeveless shirt”.

Drop the “for a” and “I guess”. Drop “such”, “but” and everything after, consider adding an adjective.

  • You look very pretty.
  • I like that dress too.

Any mention of “brave” that is not followed by “for fighting off those wild animals” is a bad call.  Try “You look great in that shirt.”

Complimenting the clothes

  • Those jeans make your butt look great.
  • That dress is very flattering.
  • That shirt is so cute.

Compliment the person not the clothes

  • Your butt makes those jeans look great (maybe save this for people who are not co-workers and are close friends)
  • That dress really compliments your rocking body
  • You have fantastic taste in clothes

Ah, that’s better.

No putting yourself down as part of a compliment

  • You look great, I wish I had legs like that
  • Wow, great job, I could never press that much weight
  • I love your hair, I could never pull off that look

It tends to ruin the compliment the person feels like they have to make you feel better at the end of it. This fix is easy, just drop the part about you:

  • You look great.
  • Wow, great job.
  • I love your hair.

Easy peasy.

So go forth and compliment fearlessly!

Meet me in Chicago!

The Abundia Conference is coming up November 1-3rd in the Chicago area.  There will be amazing women, lots of fun and fatty fellowship, plus I’m the speaker this year and we’ll be talking about everything from being our own medical advocate, to improving our relationships with our bodies, food, and movement, and of course we can dance if we want to (which is to say that we will have an optional dance workshop!)  They have a sliding scale, lots of options, and an empowerment fund to help with finances.  You can get info and register here!

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

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