This was me in my 20’s, where through a combination of drugs, eating disorders and diets, I finally had the thin body I had always dreamed of. Not that I saw it at the time as my self-esteem and body image was so messed up.
One of the saddest parts of this was I would get compliments,’ wow, you look great, you’ve lost so much weight, well done you’ as if my value as a human being had suddenly increased along with the decreasing size of my body!
Not only that, at the weekly weigh in I would be applauded by the group and get this, they gave us certificates!
All this just fed into the belief that the size of my body was the most important thing about me and that the only way to be loved and accepted was to shrink it in whatever way I could.
So of course, I continued the cycle of drugs, dieting, bingeing and purging.
This is the harsh reality of diet culture that places thinness above all else.
There was nothing healthy about my body or my behaviour but nobody seemed to care about that as I was thin!
When I stopped all these harmful behaviours and inevitably gained back the weight what did I hear? All those compliments reminding me that thin is the ideal, that my weight was important, that my bigger body wasn’t good enough and those ‘compliments’ became my inner body critic.
Yes, this is just my story but…
You or I will never really know the lengths that that person has gone to to shrink their body. Maybe like me they battled with an eating disorder, maybe they are ill or maybe they just lost someone they love and can’t bear the thought of food. None of which need congratulating or a certificate.
We must also consider that not only do the majority of people who lose weight intentionally regain all of the weight if not more in the long term, our bodies will inevitably change throughout our lives.
So, if we set someone up to believe their worth is dictated by something so fragile and transient as their weight, not only we are putting their physical, mental and emotional health at risk we are setting them up to fail.
And, we might just become their inner body critic.
This is why I won’t be complimenting you on your weight loss!
However, I will remind you that you are loved at whatever size or shape you are.
I may congratulate you on passing a tricky exam or test or just getting through a difficult day.
I might thank you for being an amazing friend and compliment you on your kindness, your compassion or your ability to listen.
I may tell you how much I enjoy your company and value your time.
I might even tell you that you give the best hugs.
There are 100’s of ways to compliment someone without mentioning their body and I hope that next time you compliment a friend or loved one you will think back to this and find a different way to tell them how much they mean to you.
I hope you enjoyed my little read.
Sending love to you, ALL of you, exactly as you are as you were and as you will be.