How To Deal With Positive(?) Comments About Your Body

I’ve been promising to write this post for a while now.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about dealing with negative comments. You gave me some really positive feedback on it, but a number of you raised the question of how to deal with positive or seemingly-positive comments.

It’s a great question. How do you deal with stuff like:

“You look great. Did you lose weight?”

“You have a great ass!”

“You look gorgeous today.”

Now, these compliments may seem mostly positive or innocuous, particularly the last one. But so much will depend on this one big factor:

Caption: Dealing with positive comments. Image: Two babies with speech bubbles reading "You look great. Did you lose weight?" and "So inappropriate, dude."
Original image credit: fotomagique / 123RF Stock Photo | Text & additional photoshopping by Golda Poretsky

Context! Context is everything, right? By context I mean the relationship between the complimenter and the complimentee, and the complimentee’s current and past body image issues.

When Weight Loss Is Tied To A Compliment
I have a somewhat different take on this than you might expect.

I think people are, in some ways, nearly literally blinded by weight loss culture. So when they read something or someone as beautiful they make an automatic connection between beauty and weight loss. I really don’t blame people for that. I think that most of us who have woken up from weight loss culture have been truly hurt by it (or have great empathy for someone close to us who has been hurt by it), so people who haven’t been in had that experience just see our current weight loss culture as normal.

So the question becomes, what do you do in the moment? Depending on the context and your relationship to that person, you can handle the compliment of “You look great. Did you lose weight?” in many ways.

Probably Easiest: Say “thanks!” and move on to other things. It’s really not your job to educate anyone about weight bias nor answer any questions about weight loss.

Use Humor: I’m a big fan of using humor, but I’m usually one of those people who thinks of witty retorts when it’s way too late. If you feel comfortable, you can always say something like, “Thanks! But just so you know, I’m still the same gorgeous fatty I was yesterday!” (If you have some good retorts, let me know in the comments!)

Set Boundaries: Say something like, “Thanks for the compliment, but I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t comment on my weight or any perceived weight loss.”

Repeat As Desired
People who give inappropriate comments often fall into two camps: (a) they’re completely unaware that their compliments are inappropriate, backhanded, or just plain weird; or (b) they don’t really care if they’re being inappropriate.

These two groups are probably two of the hardest groups to set boundaries with. Seriously.

So it’s going to take some repetition if you really want them to change the way they talk to you. And it may actually be impossible. That’s why I’m a big fan of saying thank you and then thinking about other things. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to set boundaries. It may just take a ton of repetition and a great well of patience.

Just Saying Thank You Is Very Powerful
I’m of the opinion that most compliments are really that – someone notices something lovely about you and wants to let you know that they see it. Receiving real compliments can be a healing practice, especially when you haven’t felt consistently good about yourself and your appearance.

You don’t need confirmation from the outside world that you’re a gorgeous person inside and out, but it’s still nice to get it now and again. So I want to share a special practice for receiving compliments. It’s extremely simple but powerful!

How it works:

Complimenter: “You have a lovely smile!”
You: Pause and give yourself a second to receive the energy of that compliment. Then say, “Thank you.”
Complimenter: “You’re welcome.”

Why it’s lovely:

When you actually receive a compliment, both you and the complimenter feel good. It’s a wonderful exchange of positive energy. When you say, “Thank you,” you’re basically saying, “I’m receiving that compliment and agreeing with you.”

The complimenter feels good because they gave you a gift that you received and enjoyed, plus they had the pleasure of being agreed with. And you feel good because you received a gift and had the pleasure of feeling recognized and agreed with (since you already know you have a beautiful smile).

When you don’t feel great about yourself or your body, receiving compliments can be extremely difficult. If you’re in this boat, try this practice and let me know how it goes!

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Check out her upcoming events below!

Ongoing & Upcoming Events With Golda!

In Person
November 2-4, Zion, Illinois – I’ll be leading three workshops at The Abundia Retreat!
November 14, New York City – I’ll be reading my story, “The Fat Queen Of Speed Dating,” along with other contributors to Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion at Bluestockings Book Store. (Info is here.)

This Week – Free Web Training On Some Of My Most Unorthodox & Powerful Ways To Heal From Food & Body Image Issues

10 replies on “How To Deal With Positive(?) Comments About Your Body”

“When you don’t feel great about yourself or your body, receiving compliments can be extremely difficult.”

Yup. Like me today.

*me walking outside, walk past random guy*

Guy: Hi
Me: Hi
Guy: You lookin’ GOOD
Me: Thank you. *thinking* Like fuck I do.

I usually say thank you to the complimenter when I receive any compliment from my hair to my smile that is unless it’s the infamous “you look great today, have you lost weight?” (especially when it comes from someone I see everyday) because:
a) Know that I look great everyday even though you may not notice,
b) If I see you everyday there’s a great chance that I haven’t lost weight in the past 24 hours,
c) If I did lost weight in the past 24 hours, there’s an even higher chance that it’s not visible and if it is visible then I’m probably dying which is not a good thing, now is it?

To me these kind of supposedly positive compliments have a double meaning, sometimes a “you look great today,have you lost weight?” really means “I like that you put more effort into your outfit today because it makes you look less fat than yesterday”, which really don’t deserve a thanks on the other hand a simple “you look great” will get you a big thank you.

I hate when positive comments about appearance are wrapped up in weight. I’d like to say “yes I look fabulous, no I haven’t lost weight” but I’m always afraid that I’ll spark some kind of debate I have no patience for or just look picky and mean.

As a perpetually skinny person, I really, really dislike when people say, “Oh, you’re so lucky! You’re so skinny!” They mean it as a compliment, as if I must be eating lentils and running miles on a daily basis, when really I have very good genes (look at a picture of my family — all of us are thin as rakes!)

What REALLY pisses me off about it is the implication that I’m somehow a good person for being skinny, or the conflation of my personality with thinness.

I always just say thanks and smile, but sometimes it really bugs me. Especially when the person saying it is trying to make me feel better for not being able to look va-va-voom in a dress–seriously–sometimes I’d LOOOVE the curves. Because there are certain things I just cannot pull off.

I love this…all too often, we brush off positive things people say about our appearance, such as: “Your hair is gorgeous!” “Oh, *nervous laugh* it was just being cooperative today.” instead of actually receiving the comment.

And, of course, those are different to me than seemingly positive comments which have that weight-related charge to them. My stand by method is to try to accept the compliment about how I look nice, but to reject the part related to weight. It’s a tricky balancing act, and I do often default to the “easiest” method (a simple thank you) if I know that the educating will take me no where w/ them.

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