I was watching The View today when a topic was brought up about commenting on someone who has lost weight. One expert says it is common and nice to say, “You look like you have lost weight. You look good.” Another expert for mental health has recently said you should not comment on someone losing weight because you don’t know why or how they lost the weight. It could be related to an eating disorder or mental illness.
Let me first give you some of the facts. Body image and self confidence are often connected. If a person feels good about their appearance, they often feel confident in their life and abilities. About 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting in some way. Many college girls, about 58 percent, feel pressure to lose weight. Many people with eating disorders range between the ages of 12 and 25 years old. These are just SOME of the facts.
It’s clear we have a body image problem here in America. It starts in the media, with unrealistic expectations. Only 5 percent of women actually have the natural figures portrayed most often in the media. Woman absorb these images, declaring they must match these sames looks. However, it’s nearly impossible. It puts pressure on women to starve themselves in hopes of losing the amount of weight they think they need to in order to achieve perfection. They carry this attitude on to their children as well. And even men see this and think it must be normal.
Obviously there is a link between eating disorders and mental health. Most women hear “Have you lost weight?” and see it as a compliment. Often, at the same time they think, “Was I fat before?”. As a former dancer and gymnast, I dealt a lot with body image issues. I first remember being told I had a ‘six-pack’ when I was only 6 years old. And that’s when I first time I noticed my body. When I quit gymnastics, my mother made sure to tell me I was getting fat since all I did was sit at home and “eat bon bons” according to her. In college, my first year away, I picked up a blueberry muffin and large frozen coffee drink every morning before school. At the end of my first semester as a dance major, my professor left me a note on my evaluations to “lose weight.”
(These are images in my life during times where I was sure I needed to lose more weight to be happy or validated. Though I believe, now and then , that I looked good in the photos. At the time I thought I looked inadequate in some way because of my weight.)
I had actually gained some weight that year, but it was hard for me to see it and believe it. It wasn’t hard for me to equate my weight with my value as a person though. I see now that isn’t true, but it’s been incredibly hard over the years to separate my weight and value as a person.
I am just one girl and this is a story of most girls. I was luckier than most and found a passion for food and nutrition through my tribulations with food. I still struggle with it as I am now 18 months postpartum and still not at an ideal weight. However, I am happy with my body because it’s the body that helped my son grow for ten incredible months and gave birth to him. It also gave him nourishment and comfort there after.
Though we have a long ways to go when it comes to approaching weight, women and mental health, I believe that in this argument brought forward I think it is always going to be best to just say, “Wow, you look happy.” Right? That’s all most people want anyways, to be happy. That is ultimately the search through weight, figure, food and everything else is happiness. When you see someone who has worked hard to lose weight or change their life in some way they usually do look happier and healthier. So, I think it eases the mind and validates their experience to just say these words, ” You look happy.”