“When ‘You’re So Skinny!’ isn’t quite a compliment”

Have you ever felt like you’ve had foot in mouth disease after complimenting someone about their weight?  Or maybe you’ve paid what you thought was a compliment to someone about your perception of their body.  I, as a dietitian who deals with weight issues and eating disorders, am usually very careful about not falling into that trap.

When I counsel individuals about weight management, I always take some time to talk about how inappropriate it is for people to comment on other people’s weight or body shapes. I go out of my way to never compliment someone about their weight loss.  I will, though, talk about how great they look as they seem to feel good.

But I, too, have made mistakes.

The one time  that stands out was when I broke my own rule and  asked a young woman who looked to me as though she was very obviously pregnant about when the baby was due. But no, she wasn’t pregnant. She told me of her gastrointestinal difficulties and I couldn’t believe I had actually done this.  I knew better.

This week’s New York Times Sunday Style section  Social Q’s by Philip Galanes  deals with the subject through an anonymous question from a reader. She writes,

“I am a very skinny woman. I have always been thin, but over the last few years, I have lost a great deal of weight because of depression and stress. I am now on the mend and slowly putting weight back on, but I am frightfully self-conscious about my appearance. The problem: When I run into people I know, they say, “You’re so skinny!” Even people I don’t know make remarks like, “I hate skinny women.” What can I do?”

The columnist first laments of his experience in dealing with  the issue. “I had a steep learning curve on this one. Years ago, after congratulating an acquaintance on her weight loss, I asked how she pulled it off. “The chemo and radiation diet,” she replied, with a steady gaze that did not let me off the hook. It (mostly) cured me.”, writes Mr. Galanes.

He goes on to say, “The fact is, we are a nation of fat people, and many of us envy those who are thin.” He goes on to say that we should steer clear of commenting on people’s size.”

I couldn’t agree more.


Have you fallen into this trap? What’s the worst thing you’ve heard back? Please share in the comment section.

Another post you might like:

© Kitch | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock PhotosIt’s not OK to comment on a person’s weight – overweight or thin

Here we go again. Fat bashing is alive and well. Read more …

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Categories: Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on ““When ‘You’re So Skinny!’ isn’t quite a compliment””

  1. Marie Gouin
    July 6, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    I thought you might enjoy this article written by my daughter:


  2. July 6, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    Marie, that is quite a powerful piece! I will definitely share it as people need to hear this – for many reasons. Thanks!

    • Marie Gouin
      July 6, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

      Thank you. I will let her know that you shared it. Even though it was written for an Australian audience, I’m sure it will also resonate with your readers here in Canada and elsewhere.

  3. July 6, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    Absolutely, Marie. Your daughter’s post echoes what happens in too many places!

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