What if someone comments on my weight?
What if someone comments on my weight?
Last week I had to put pants on for the first time since March 2020. I jumped, laid on the bed, and did awkward squats. I was finally able to close the button. “Okay, just don’t breathe or sit and you’re good” I prep talked myself.
I’m sure I’m not alone. It was the ‘Quarantine 15’ for me, but weight fluctuations happen to women all the time. Hormonal changes, chronological age, changes in sleep patterns, mental stress, and daily habits can lead to tipping the scale (literally). While weight gain is correlated to ‘consuming extra calories’, it’s helpful to approach the situation by asking, “Why am I consuming extra calories?”
The reasons we’ve gained weight are personal and more often not from the conventional methods. It goes well beyond dietary intake and/or lack of exercise.
Here are some common components that impact weight directly or influence our eating habits and physical activity:
- Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause
- Psychological stress: grief/bereavement, anxiety, and depression
- Stressful situations: unemployment, financial changes, or moving
- Changes to daily routines: physical movement/becoming more sedentary and changes to sleep patterns
These factors do not only influence our body weight, they also add weight to our minds and thoughts taking up real estate in our heads and stifling our self esteem. What’s worse? When others feel the need to point it out. Hearing comments regarding weight gain is unwarranted. Even casual remarks or passive comments are not okay. This should be obvious, but here we are. It’s as if we don’t own mirrors or notice our pants don’t zip. That we didn’t realize our clothes became a lil’ snug. Sometimes comments are made from genuine concern. Body weight in American culture is often correlated as a measurement of health. But other times comments are just made with pure cruelty.
It’s time we make a dent in this pervasive ignorance of body weight. We’re not a ‘one size fits all’ society. All too often women are judged by their physical attributes. While seemingly innocent, it can cause a lot of distress for the receiving person.
Here are some things to consider before commenting on someone’s body weight (both loss and gain).
- Weight gain or loss doesn’t directly correlate to “healthy”.
- Body weight is not a reflection of a person’s character.
- Gender does not exclude someone from the psychological impact of body critique.
- The root cause to weight gain or loss may be less obvious and more personal.
Think about this before commenting on someone’s weight. We may not know what someone is going through and it is likely running deeper than the surface. Having someone point out weight changes can feel embarrassing and humiliating, it comes off insensitive and rude and can be psychologically harmful.
So what happens when we’re receiving this commentary? Unfortunately, there’s no one resilient answer. Criticism hurts. While some suggest responding with politeness, humor, or sarcasm, these mechanisms buffer and suppress feelings of guilt and shame.
Okay…. So I should just take it??
While it might feel relieving to retaliate with an insult, in the long run you’ll be doing more psychological damage to yourself. In moments like these, it’s important to recognize your own reactions and behaviors. Do you find yourself in a vortex of self-blaming and shaming when you hear comments about your weight change?
It’s easy to spiral into a deep dark hole of self degradation. Bad feelings are triggered and our thoughts begin to run wild with creative ways to tell ourselves we are bad, worthless, and less than.
Then what do I do??!
Before responding take a moment, take a breath. Check in with yourself. Observe that monologue in your head. How are you talking to yourself? Is it with compassion or criticism? Identify and acknowledge the feelings that arise. Are they overwhelming? Or have you become a master of suppression? Gently remind yourself you are human and you are not a reflection of this person’s comments nor do they reflect your worth.
Bearing witness to your experience is bold and courageous. It feels terrible to be criticized and body shamed. It’s not right and never will be. Despite the thoughts we experience, we can ultimately loosen their hold. Be kind to your body and be kind towards yourself.