• Fri, Oct 11 - 11:00 am ET

8 Things Not To Say To A Mom Who Just Lost Weight

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I struggled with an eating disorder for many years, which is always fun. Things got even more fun a few years ago when I needed to go on a particular medication, one that had the unfortunate side effect of making me gain quite a bit of weight (among other shitastic things). FUN.

Of course, the moment I was allowed to go off this demon medication, the weight started falling off. This may sound great, but there there is a flip side; when you lose a bunch of weight people think it’s their right…nay DUTY to inform you of their opinion. I see it as just another symptom of society’s belief that a woman’s body is public property. It’s right up there with randos touching your belly when you’re pregnant and US Weekly‘s Beach Bodies edition.

This has become such an annoyance that I’ve made a little tally of all of inappropriateness I’ve been told in the last few months. The worst part is, it’s usually in front of my kids and the comments are NOT what I am trying to teach them about body image.

1. “You must be so proud that you’re finally losing weight!” 

Actually, I was pretty proud of myself before. Do I feel better now that I am closer to my original weight? Yes. Did I feel like a complete failure at life six months ago? NO.

2. “You look so great now!

Thanks for gracing me with your compliment. I know, I was SO gross before.

3. “Don’t get too skinny now!”

How about you don’t tell me what to do with my body and we’ll be good, m’kay?

4. “You’re looking too skinny! You look best at size (insert random size)”

cartman gif

See above.

5. “So, are you going to try for another baby now?”

There is a small minority of women (typically other mothers) who think that if I lost weight, it must somehow be baby related. I don’t get it. And this isn’t an isolated incident. It happened three times in the last six weeks.

6. “Hey, just think! You’re one bad flu away from your goal!”

Yes, because nothing is more important than being skinny, even my health! Hell, ESPECIALLY my health! Seriously though, this is the kind of unhealthy thought process that led to my eating disorder and it’s shocking how prevalent it is.

7. “At least now you can be a good role model for your kids.”

This one makes me feel stabby. Plus sized people can’t be good role models? I am a better role model because I inadvertently lost 50 pounds? NOPE. I eat way too much pizza for that shiz.

8. “It’s great that you’re eating better now!”

A lot of the time, the person saying this has no idea why I gained weight and how I lost it, but that is kinda my point. You DON’T know. Weight issues should be like pregnancy; if you’re not sure what’s going on, don’t mention it at all.

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  • alice

    Your last sentence kinda sums it up: “Weight issues should be like pregnancy; if you’re not sure what’s going on, don’t mention it at all”

    The flip side to that is: If you do know that someone has been working very hard to get in better shape, then it can be really encouraging to comment positively on their results. A simple “you look fantastic” can be very motivating. (“You look so much better *now*” still deserves a throat punch)

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      Very true! I have a friend that has been struggling with her weight and has been extremely insecure about her body. She posted a random pic on instagram the other day and the word “skinny” was in every comment. They could say “you look great!” or “I love your outfit!” Not, wow you look great now that you lost weight.

    • LiteBrite

      I have a friend who is a decent person but just really thoughtless at times. A few years before I had my son I had lost 30lbs, down from a size 16 to a size 10. I wasn’t super skinny, but I also didn’t want to be. My friend lives out of state so hadn’t seen me in awhile.

      Friend: “Oh my God! You look so good!”
      Me: “Thanks!”
      Friends: “How much more do you have to lose?”
      Me: “Actually, I think I’m done now. I’m pretty happy with this.”
      Friend: “Why?! You’re starting to look so good!”

      Yeah. Like I said, she’s kind of thoughtless sometimes. :)

    • alice

      oh, that’s awful. but at least it sounds like you weren’t hurt by it.

    • LiteBrite

      If it was anyone else, I might’ve been offended, but like I said, she’s a decent person except for the fact that there always seems be a glitch in the filter between her head and her mouth. :)

      In fact, my best friend and I were laughing about that convo just the other day.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      My GOD, the exact same thing used to happen to me all the time when I first lost weight. People kept making small talk asking how much more was my plan, and I’d be like….none. They would be open mouthed, just COULD NOT fathom the concept of not wanting to see how stick thin I could possibly be. I only wanted to be a healthy weight. I didn’t want to be “skinny” because I can’t maintain skinny; it’s not possible for me. I didn’t want to set some super high bar for myself, then gain a little back, then be sad that I gained a little back, then eat a ton because I’m sad, then gain everything back…..

    • LiteBrite

      People believe the only goal when someone loses weight is to get super skinny because we live in a culture that holds up thinness as the ideal. That’s what I think anyways. I have a friend who went from 250lbs to 200lbs, and people were flabbergasted that she was stopping there. She looks great, lengthened her life expectancy, and is much healthier, yet people still wonder when she’s going to “get back to losing weight again.”

      I can’t maintain skinny either. My genetics don’t support that. Plus I like to eat, and if skinny was my goal I wouldn’t be able to do that.

    • JulesInFL

      Exactly. Is there anything wrong with just a, “So good to see you. You look great!”? Period. No exclamations of surprise, no qualifiers or comparisons to times past or future.

    • Bianca

      I’d go that one step further and say what’s wrong with a ‘So good to see you!’. After losing a bunch of weight I’m pretty over the constant comments of how good I look now, I just don’t get the obsession with needing to comment on someone’s appearance every time you see them. Especially since I’m not happy with how I am yet, so hearing you look great, just makes me think deep down ‘I don’t think so.’ And I don’t need that!

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      You’re totally right, it’s great to hear someone say that you look great (even if you haven’t made any changes). What I hate are the qualifiers like “now” or “finally.” Drives me nuts! LOL

  • Tinyfaeri

    Ugh. If I ever lose the last 20 lbs of pregnancy weight (I gained 45 while pregnant, and my daughter is 1.5 so I’m not holding my breath) (side note: anyone that says breastfeeding is a magic bullet for weight loss may get a spoon chucked at them), I “look forward” to hearing some of these.

    Congrats on the weight loss, and I bet you’re still beautiful!

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I think my problem with a lot of these is that I’m not trying to lose weight, and have struggled with eating disorders since I was a pre-teen. Of course, I give people who don’t know that a lot of leeway, but many of these have come from people who know very well what my issues are. They just think being skinny is the end all and be all.

  • ChopChick

    I’m going to go ahead and say, all these things should be avoided for moms and non-moms alike.

    I’ve been overweight my entire life. I have also never been pregnant. A few years ago I lost a bunch of weight and it was amazing the number of compliments and comments I got about how great I look. It was enraging. Yes, I get it, I look better now. I like looking at myself in the mirror now too. However, it’s like nothing else matters–getting accepted into great law schools, doing well in school. having a great career, being happy, having great friends–none of THAT is ever commented on, but my weight, oh now THAT’S something on congratulate me on. Sorry people, i’d rather be congratulated for all the awesome things I do with my brain and my heart than for the fact that I had the ability to not eat as much for a while.

    • Fleezie

      I get so irritated when people comment when I’ve lost weight, too. Whenever my mom says anything, I always remind her that she taught me that it’s impolite to discuss a lady’s weight. I’ve been a yo-yo dieter my entire life and I’m fully aware of every pound I gain or lose, I don’t feel it’s necessary to point it out.
      I also HATE when someone tells me that I’m starting to look great, keep it up. Infuriating.

    • Katia

      That does sound back handed!

    • Tinyfaeri

      No one congratulated you when you got into law school? That’s weird.

      As far as the rest of it…I get what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t say to someone that I’ve known for years “You’ve got such a great job!” when meeting them for coffee or running into them at the mall. If they just got the job/degree/acceptance letter/had a happy life event, then congratulations are in order. Otherwise, their appearance is different every time I see them, so I’m more likely to say they look great, or compliment their hair/clothing/shoes, etc.

    • ChopChick

      This is a fair comment and of course that’s different–but I’m talking more about people who don’t see you often. ie: most of my family lives in another country so I see them once every year or two. It’s frustrating when that happens to not be congratulated or commented on your less tangible achievements and instead have every conversation be about your weight.

      And yes, odd as it is, I had far fewer people compliment me on getting into law school or doing well in law school, or great outcomes for clients than those who comment on weight loss, and at least for me, that sucks.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Ouch. Well…

      Congratulations on getting into law school, and doing well in it! That’s hard to do, probably took an insane amount of work, and you should be very proud!

    • ChopChick

      Thank you. It’s really not all bad and it comes from a good place, it just sometimes gets difficult when you’re like, cut me some slack and let’s focus on non-weight issues for once!

      Recently I was told by a family member as a compliment “I just dont understand why you can’t seem to get your weight under control. You’ve stopped biting your nails, quit smoking, you’re getting married to a great guy, doing great in school. Why can’t you also lose weight and keep it off!?!” And I remember thinking, wait, are you for real? Can we talk for one second about how hard all those other things are to do too and how this is the first time you’ve “complimented” me on most of those things?

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Please tell me how you’ve stopped biting your nails. I have been trying for like…um, how old am I? I quit for 5 years when I was 12 but somehow got back into the habit in high school and haven’t stopped since. it’s soooooo gross and I hate it but don’t even notice i’m doing it most of the time.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I finally kicked the habit by always painting them super pretty. On the way to my mouth, I get distracted like, “oooooh, shiny” and once I see it, I can’t ruin the paint job. I bit them for like 25 years, that was the only thing that worked. Or buy those fake nails and glue them on; you can’t chew them and it gives you the week or so you need to get started.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Maybe I should try fake nails. I’ve tried painting them many times but then they always end up chipping anyway (even if I don’t bite…just the usual reasons nails chip) and once they start chipping a little bit, my brain goes all “well no point in trying to keep them nice now!”. But fake nails would drive me crazy so maybe that’s actually worth a shot.

    • Bianca

      Oh god, just made a comment similar to this but you say it much better. I agree with you ENTIRELY!

    • Alicia

      To be fair the first thing you ever notice about a person is what they look like, even when you see the for the first time in a while. People don’t know from looking at you that you got into law school or have good friends (I actually find it a bit weird if my family commented on how happy they are that I have friends). I get what you’re saying and perhaps these people are being ignorant but humans are visual creatures.

      I LOVED the compliments I received when I lost weight.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      You’re absolutely right, most of these are not parenting related at all. This is a parenting site, so of course it’s gonna be parenting angled (and as a mother I get a lot of parenting-related comments from people) but I don’t think anyone should be made to feel awkward or bad about themselves.

  • Katia

    Yea stupid people have said these things to me. actually im ok with it- whether they are saying basically that im fat or that i used to be. i write them off as having bad mannerS /nothing interesting to say and thats it. Here’s something you can always say: “hi! How aRe you? You look GOOD!” If they’re annoyed that you didn’t say specifically that they lost 20 pounds they have their own issues. Keep it simple .
    The only time I got angry was in a Chinese bakery. I understand Chinese and a teenager working there commented to another lady, in Chinese, that I “was slimmer before and fatter now” (the Chinese buns can’t be helping, right?!) so I asked her in English if she was talking about me and she denyed it. So I complained to the manager and first he said that actually she said that I was getting slimmer now. Then I said its still not nice and he’s like “ok ok we don’t talk about you [in the future]” like I was the crazy person for not wanting them to talk to each other about me when im not there. So anyways, I’m pretty easy going if friends say something awkward, i have bigger things to worry about, unless its a pattern, but people serving you are being paid so I won’t put up with that. Unless they were fitting me for clothing those comments or compliments aren’t welcome!

    • Katia

      * talk about me when I am right there, i meant to say!

    • R Zhao

      This is a cultural thing. Many Chinese people think it’s acceptable to comment on weight, like you’d comment on someone who got a haircut or new glasses or something. It is also acceptable (and even sometimes a form of greeting) to tell someone they’ve gotten fatter. I have Chinese in-laws and this is something I will probably always struggle with. It just seems so rude! Anyways, try not to take it personally.

  • Momma425

    I used to make these kind of stupid comments all the time. Until I ran into an old friend from high school. She was heavy then, and had lost a ton of weight. I thought I was being so nice, complimenting her on how great she looked. Except when I told her how awesome she looked now that she lost all this weight and asked what diet she had used…she informed me that she was fighting cancer.
    Hello mouth, insert foot. I have never BEEN so embarrassed!
    Now. I just don’t comment until they bring it up.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Exactly. I’ve been having some health problems since I started writing this piece and I’ve lost an additional 15 pounds, and people keep telling me how wonderful I look. If only they knew how shitty I feel all the time lately. I think it’s really cool that you can acknowledge that you might have been insensitive (not on purpose, of course). You sound like a great friend.

  • Blueathena623

    Unless you specifically know a person is trying to get in shape using a healthy manner, I think its best not to ever mention weight (and even then a “you look fabulous!” works just as well as “you’ve lost so much weight!”)
    Honestly, you never know who has an illness, or lost weight out of grief, or who has an eating disorder.
    I think people tend to fix on weight and ignore all the other physical attributes of a person. When I was in college and my mental illness decided to kick in and create and eating disorder, I lost half my body weight in less than a year. I remember people who hadn’t seen me in a while talk about the weight I lost and how great I looked. I can’t even look at pictures from that time period because I look awful in every one — bony, crappy skin, lank hair, and even when I’m smiling I look sad. But apparently because I was thin, I looked great.

    • Chrissy

      I completely agree with you. I’m sort of the opposite in that I GAIN weight at a really unhealthy rate. I’ve always been at least a little overweight, but it fluctuates as much as 2 sizes in a few months sometimes. People are always commenting on it and how great I look, and I thank them but at the same time I sort of want to just tell them “Yeah, I got my depression and anxiety under control for a while” since that’s the only time I seem to lose, even when I really try.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Exactly. The funny thing is, it’s the people who know very well that I’ve battled eating disorders before who will say this shit to me. Especially the “don’t get too skinny” and “you look better heavier” ones.

  • My2bits

    I struggle with my weight and it has fluctuated in the past. I gained too much when I was pregnant and it took me about 18 months to get the weight off. Maybe it’s just me, but I found it very encouraging when people noticed that the weight was coming off. I’ve been working out like crazy! It’s nice to get a little recognition. Of course, no one ever said, “Wow. You look so much better now.” That would be a little offensive. My personal favorite is, “Have you lost weight?” Uh…duh.

  • Tinalouise

    I recently lost 75 pounds and have not heard any of these comments. I only get “congratulations”. Some ask how I did it. Everyone who notices (which is pretty much everyone) is positive.

  • Zoe Lansing

    As someone who has been underweight her entire life,I actually relate to many of the judgments that overweight women face.I meet the weight criteria for anorexia (and always have) even though I eat more than pretty much every one I know.People accuse me of being anorexic simply due to my weight or occasionally will decide since I eat a lot and am skinny I must be bulimic .I’ve been told I wouldn’t get sick so often if I weren’t so “shallow” and obsessed with being thin,which is not only frustrating for me but also shows they lack an understanding about eating disorders .I have friends with eating disorders and they are far from shallow and the causes of eating disorders are far more complex than being obsessed with being thin!

    #3 &#4 are ones I empathize with.Even when I’m at what is for me a normal,healthy weight (I drop weight quickly any time I get sick and it usually takes at least 3 times as long to put it back on),I’m constantly told I’d look better if I’d gain some weight,that I’m a pretty girl but would be a lot prettier if I had some meat of my bones,etc.Well,just like some people can diet and diet and still never be a size 00, I can eat and eat and still have some 00 clothes be too baggy on me.I’m not bragging when I say this because,trust me,having to look shop for jeans surrounded by a bunch of 11- year-olds is nothing to brag about.

    #5 is another one that struck a nerve.I recently overheard my fiance’s aunt ask him if he was worried that I’m “too skinny to give him children”.Fortunately my fiance’s awesome (hence why I’m marrying him) and shut that talk down immediately.He told her he was marrying me because of who I am,not because of my body’s ability to bear children.Meanwhile a friend recently told me that her mother-in-law suggested that her being overweight might be why she’s having trouble conceiving a second child.She’s the exact same weight she was when she got pregnant with her first child!

    #7 is something I actually worry about a bit as someone who wants to have kids.Chances are, not all of my children will inherit my ridiculous metabolism and small frame (particularly since my fiance hope to adopt at least one child,possibly more,out of foster care) and while I don’t want them to deal with the issues I’ve dealt with being naturally skinny,I fear there will be other issues if they’re not.I don’t want them to see my body as the ideal or feel like they’re fat when they are in sixth grade and wear a bigger size than their mother (something that could likely happen).I don’t want them to think I’m promoting staying at an unhealthy weight by being this size or that their father (a doctor!) is by having chosen to marry an underweight woman.I plan to only focus on health,not weight,when talking about food choices and making sure they know that people come in all sizes and that all sizes can be beautiful.I still worry, though.I dare anyone to tell me,however,that I can’t be a good role model for my kids because of my body or that my friend who happens to be plus-sized isn’t a good role model for hers.Being a good role model isn’t synonymous with being a certain size.

    As for #6?It reminds me of the idiot who told me I looked like a chemo patient when I had just had a stomach bug and was even skinnier than usual.She must have seen from the look on my face that I was insulted (and that surprised her?) because she quickly added that it was a good thing!She wouldn’t mind getting cancer just for the weight loss!Ha!!!

    • Muggle

      When I was 17 I came down with a case of viral meningitis. I got down to 95 lbs. When I went back to school EVERYONE wanted to comment on how thin I was. Later they were all telling me to see a doctor, because I just didn’t look “healthy.” When I got a job at Subway a few months later I had perfect strangers telling me how my body would react to pregnancy, and if they thought I could get pregnant at all. I was a senior in high school by then and a few months shy of 18. I honestly didn’t give a shit whether or not I was fertile then!

      It took me a year to get that weight back that I lost when I was sick. Now, I’m still only 105 lbs. It’s so hard hearing one minute that I’m SO SKINNY OMG HOW DO YOU DO IT (answer: genetics) and the next hearing OMG YOU’RE ANOREXIC YOU WILL NEVER HAVE CHILDREN.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Ugh. Anyone who would even joke about getting cancer to get skinny is an ass. Thank you for your comment. Just goes to show that we all hear stupid shit about our bodies.

  • kris

    I met my fiance online in a game, and at this point we have been together officially a year on the 17th, but if we went by when we started talking, it would have been a year in July. Anyhow, he was set to come see me for the first time, he lives in England, and we were talking, and he was really upset about something, and I was trying to comfort him, and without thinking, I told him I loved him. He was startled, and the first thing out of his mouth was, you know that picture you showed me, of you with all your family, do you think you could get back to that weight again? That is what I find attractive. I about died. Here I said I love you, and his response was, can you lose weight? That is also something you should never say to someone, haha. I know, this doesn’t completely go with the article, but it was one of the worst things someone has said about my weight. What is funny is he ended up liking me anyhow, though told me I was the heaviest person he had ever been with, but here we are a year later, and engaged, with him having made 2 trips here, and spent well over 3 months here, and me and my kids over in England for three weeks, even with me being fat. Though he keeps telling me I need to lose weight. What is funny is that I am losing weight, without even trying to right now, because I have something wrong with my insides and am having lots of dr’s appointments.

    • Ukmummy

      Kris it’s none of my business really but your fiancé should not be talking to you in such a way, it’s not loving behaviour, putting you down is the opposite of loving.
      I hope he is actually positive and encouraging to you and values you as you are and NOTICES when you say you love him….

    • kris

      Oh he is positive, and is even positive when he tells me to lose weight. And he tells me he loves me all the time, even without me having to say it now. That was just in the beginning of the relationship.

    • tammy14

      That is a sign of an abusive partner, almost narcissistic. be careful.

  • Sara

    My aunt has a tendency to open mouth, insert foot. This past summer she told me “You’re getting too skinny, you need to stop running.” Umm.. a) I like running and b) I’m losing weight because I have a job that has me on my feet all day moving (I work in a lab). All in all though I’m just glad she didn’t say it in front of my cousin who had just gotten back from treatment for an eating disorder.