Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The "You Look Soooo Great" Speech

4 years of exclusively working in obesity medicine later, I've learned a few things that certainly aren't taught by society, medical school or weight loss books.

One of those things was the, "You should stop losing weight phenomenon" which I blogged about in the past.

Today I'm going to share another.

It's the "You look soooo great" great speech and why you shouldn't deliver it.

Now I realize that on the surface going on about someone looking great doesn't sound insulting, but let me give you a different way to hear it.

Let's say that over the course of the past year you've lost a significant amount of weight - enough weight let's say that it makes folks you haven't seen in a long time's heads' turn and eyes bug out.

Let's say that they're then so inclined to come over to you and deliver an oration on how great you look now, how much better you must feel now, how wonderful it is you've finally done this, how much happier you must be now, and so on and so forth.

You might thing, "So what's wrong with that? Those are all compliments, no?"

Sure they are. But of course their effusive enthusiasm about how great you look now translates into you hearing how terrible you looked before.

My advice?

If someone's lost a great deal of weight and you're so inclined to say something, three simple words, "You look great" is much better received than a full-on speech.

Think I'm nuts?

Let's ask my readers. Can you relate to what I'm reporting here or are the folks who have mentioned this phenomenon to me overly sensitive?

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  1. I know it's really mean, but if I ever go through a weight loss of that proportion and people start pulling that schtick on me, I plan to tell them I've had cancer or some other serious disease. Just to make them shut up and think about how society puts more value on thin people than heavy ones.

  2. Totally totally agree. I lost over 100 lbs at one point (unfortunately gained it all back) and hated when people went on and on like that. All it did was reinforce my feelings that people found me repulsive before the weight loss. Guess I'd like to be appreciated more for the me on the inside rather than what I look like on the outside.

  3. It certainly does happen. I don't believe with malicious intent mind you. I have also experienced the "stop losing weight" issue too. Comments like "you are wasting away", "better stop before you blow away in the wind". I think it has to do with people's natural resistance to change. Sadly they can't get past their hang ups long enough to appreciate and applaud their loved one or friend for the accomplishment and elevated health status.

  4. How true. Those speaches sure do something to the self-esteem.

  5. yeah...'U look great' is totally sufficient..the whole speech can sometimes trigger body image issues especially for teenagers...!

  6. We know what we looked like before we lost weight. Don't need chapter and verse. I think it's a need for some to be retroactively insulting when they felt they couldn't be honest before. If it happens again I may have to come up with a scathing comeback. Or maybe not.

    No one has ever said to "stop," probably because I've only been really slim once - years ago. I hate starving.

  7. I've kept over 200 pounds (that I lost through diet and exercise, no surgery) off for 2 1/2 years now.

    The issues that led to my morbid obesity had everything to do with lack of self esteem; although I am much better now, the problem has not gone away.

    The fact of the matter is not only do I not want or need comparisons to where I used to dwell, but I don't necessarily believe the compliments even now.

    Having to continually discuss the differences between my "then" self and my "now" self on somebody elses terms makes me intensely uncomfortable and wonder if it wasn't a little easier to live back then.

  8. This exact thing crossed my mind many years ago, and I can only imagine what it would sound like "you look so great (now)!" Like what were they before?

    I always acknowledge the efforts that had to have gone into weight loss with a simple, "you must be very proud, I'm proud for you". And that comes with a very sincere smile because I sincerely am proud for them. It's an achievement like any other I would want to acknowldge. Well maybe this one is more personal... but I don't ask questions.

  9. You know, this is so true. I've had both sides of the spectrum myself... I think the greatest thing I heard was just that they knew how hard I had been working and that they can tell the difference (and they also meant my energy level, confidence and outlook)... it was great for someone to notice more my efforts and attitude, than my appearance.

    But, I too have struggled with the constant comments. Part of me thought maybe I should be happy for the comments, isn't this why I'm doing it? But that's not why I'm doing it... I am really doing this for myself now.

    I'm really glad you mentioned something about this, because a lot of people reading your blog perhaps are not people who have had to struggle with weight issues. And when you haven't been there, I can respect that it's hard to know what to say when you want to acknowledge someone's efforts in a positive way.

    Thanks Yoni.

  10. I prefer the simple "you look great" or just no comment at all.

  11. In my experience, the people who feel the need to go on and on about my weight loss are, themselves, extremely insecure. For example, I have a dear friend who, at one time, would gush about how great I looked every time she saw me but then implied to others behind my back that I must have an eating disorder. At first I was upset, but then I realized she was just afraid that I was somehow abandoning her. I had lost weight, but she was still quite heavy herself. I think she just didn't know what to make of my weight loss and didn't know how to not take it personally. So she became my loudest (and most unconvincing) cheerleader in an effort to conceal her own fears and perhaps even a teeny-tiny bit of jealousy.

    I just let it slide. After a few months, she finally cut it out, and we've settled back into our old, normal friendship again.

  12. it's definitely bad for your self-esteem to hear that speech. after some illness, i started to put on a fair bit of weight, and i cringed every time someone said "Lepht, you look... uh, healthy," or "Have you put on weight?"

    now, hearing the opposite just reminds me of how repulsed they must have been before. i can see how it could give people real problems. thanks Yoni.


  13. Anonymous12:34 pm

    People don't need to say anything for you to realise how repulsing you must have been when you were overweight...they treat you differently. Around 5 years ago I lost 75 lbs and I saw a dramatic change in how people treated me. Suddenly strangers made eye contact with me and kept doors open at the mall when I was behind them. I frankly found all this extra attention at first quite unerving. I was used to being invisible and all of a sudden I was being acknowledged from people around me. Yoni, have you ever talked to your clents about this issue?

  14. Ever since losing 180 pounds, I LOVE getting this comment from people because it allows me to ask them this: So, if I look so "great" now, then what did you think of me before? Oh, the look on their face and the deafening silence is worth the price of admission! GREAT TOPIC, Dr. Yoni!