Rethinking the Dialogue on Weight, Size, and Shape

“To focus on (size) as the way we rate people or the facet of their being we comment on, is insanely random and a reflection of our society rather than any actual truth”

How often do we as a society use weight, shape, or size as a proxy for someone’s worth? Answer: Often. Comments about our bodies and other people’s bodies are so commonplace that they can be overheard in nearly every generation’s conversations. Teenagers admire each other for being thin or criticize themselves or others for being fat. Adults endlessly complement others on their successful weight loss. Dinner table conversations about how “so and so” has gained weight since the last class reunion are commonplace. Even pregnant and postpartum women’s bodies are prone to receiving “flattering” (or not so flattering) comments about their size. For many, these comments are so automatic or even well intentioned that their effect goes unquestioned. And yet, the damage is done. It’s time to address weight bias, rethinking the way we talk about these things or why we feel the need to comment on them at all, because:

  1. You may have no idea why the person looks the way they do. The girl you see as having the ideal body may have starved their way to it. The man who has lost so much weight may be exercising excessively or eating very restrictively (i.e. disordered eating). The woman who has gained weight might be dealing with the effects of a health condition or a necessary medication. Complementing or judging someone based on weight or size runs the risk of reinforcing unhealthy behavior or causing body shame.
  2. Others are listening. That lovely compliment on someone’s weight loss? Overheard by your daughter, sister, friend. That comment on how only people of a certain body type should wear that clothing item? Again, overheard by your loved ones. These comments systematically become ingrained in our minds, reinforcing the belief that size matters. Comment by comment, we are taught that “if you want to be liked, or at the very least not be the object of others’ judgements, you need to be small.”
  3. Weight, shape, and size are not accurate indicators of health. Contrary to popular belief, small does not equal healthy and large does not equal unhealthy. It’s time that our conversations caught up to science.
  4. Weight, shape, and size are not indicators of intelligence, work ethic, fitness, or even eating habits. To focus on this as the way we rate people, or the facet of their being we comment on, is insanely random and truly a reflection of our society rather than any actual truth. And, to focus on size alone, simultaneously does a huge disservice to someone’s far more meaningful qualities.

All of that being said, it’s time to take a good honest look at ourselves. If you are aware that you make comments about physical appearance (or think these things), it’s time to gently ask yourself why. Where and from whom did you receive messages about physical appearance? Who in your life do you need to find new ways of appreciating? Is there anyone you have put into a certain box unfairly?

When we know better, we can do better. Let’s create a world where our children aren’t afraid of their growing bodies, where people look forward to seeing longtime friends without fear of judgment, where people don’t dread riding on airplanes with judgmental strangers. Let’s create a world where we build each other up based on meaningful things. My clients deserve this, you deserve this, and I deserve this.