In a recent workshop, members had a lively discussion about what to do when people comment—positively or negatively—on their weight. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are a number of winning responses, depending on the situation. The first step is to identify what bothers you about the comment: Is it a throwback to how some relative in your childhood used to chide you for being too fat or thin? Does it make you feel uncomfortable because it’s tinged with sexuality or a come on? Does it feel fake, competitive, downright hostile, or as if the person envies how you look? Has it been said thoughtlessly, with love, or with obvious mal intent? Is it from a stranger or an intimate? Your response needs to grow from what you’re feeling—angry, embarrassed, sort of pleased and sort of not, violated, scared, devalued, sexualized, self-conscious—and from the context of the situation.
For many people with eating problems, comments on their weight or size are a trigger for eating or obsessing about food. You may manage your unconscious discomfort by abuse food or, aware of your reaction, distract yourself from upsetting emotions by with food. If you allow yourself to bear the feeling and then reflect on it and why you feel triggered, you’ll get some valuable information, I promise. You need to know how you feel about your body and people’s response to it. If you don’t, when get to a healthy weight, you may not be ready emotionally or mentally for the change and may end up sabotaging yourself with food. So consider that your reaction to weight comments is a great tool for learning. If you can understand why comments bother you, you may be able to prevent a food trigger response or even self-sabotage down the line.
That said, here’s a list of appropriate responses to comments about your weight or size—depending on the situation: Thanks…I’m uncomfortable when people make comments about my weight/size…I know you mean well, but I’d like to ask that you don’t make comments about my weight/size…I’ve asked you before not to remark on my weight/size, so I wonder why you do…Why do you ask/say that?...I like my body at whatever weight/size it is…In my book, talking about my body/size is off limits...Let’s talk about something else. You can also say nothing, even if someone asks what you weigh. Who says you have to answer every question? Pat answers are often fine, but try to consider the person you’re dealing with. Some people need education or forgiveness, for they know not what they say. Other people require a firm talking to. Still others need to be ignored because they’re trying to be provocative. Just remember, it’s your body and you can use the opportunity to learn how you feel about it.