There are a few major obstacles those on a weight-loss journey will face such as hunger pangs if they’re not on a nutrient-dense diet, muscle aches due to a rapid increase in exercise, and sugar cravings because they’re just used to having more of the stuff. But there is one challenge to weight loss that nobody really talks about and it’s this: other people. If those on a weight-loss journey could do so in a vacuum—in some protected and isolated realm that existed away from their friends, colleagues, and family—they’d probably reach their goals faster. The comments and questions from other people can really derail someone who was, up until that moment, feeling pretty motivated. If you know and love someone who is trying to lose weight, be aware of your comments. Some are helpful but some are harmful.
Helpful: Your work is definitely paying off
Everybody loves to hear that their hard work is paying off. They’ve been dieting, exercising, and working their butts off since the last time they saw you. Having you say that you can see the results drives them to keep at it, since they don’t necessarily see the little changes every day.
Harmful: How far are you from your goal?
Why bring up how far they have to go? If you’re one-quarter of the way up a mountain, do you feel inspired by looking up and realizing you still have three-quarters of the way to go? No way. You feel motivated by focusing on how far you’ve come.
Helpful: You inspire me
Even if you don’t need to lose weight, your friend’s dedication to her weight loss probably inspires you to be more dedicated to your goals. So, tell her as much. Sometimes, people who are losing weight don’t even realize they could positively influence others in another way. They’re just so focused on getting rid of the negative thing they don’t want (excess weight) that they don’t realize the positive influence they have on others.
Harmful: You’re practically thin now
This, like the “How far are you from your goal?” question does not exactly energize a person. This comment focuses on where they aren’t, rather than how far they’ve come. Also, your friend may feel that she is already in the “thin” category, and let her think it! She needs that confidence boost to keep up the good work.
Helpful: How did you do it?
Talking about one’s progress and journey actually boosts their confidence, and motivates them to keep going. So, ask your friend how she’s lost the weight. It’s good for her to talk about it. And she deserves the recognition.
Harmful: You know what my friend did?
Don’t give this friend advice unless she asks for it. Giving unsolicited advice implies the person really needs that advice. In other words, it’s like you saying, “You still have a long way to go. I better give you some tips.”
Helpful: You must feel amazing
She probably does! This weight loss has likely made your friend feel so much better. She likely feels energized. Her moods may have stabilized. Her confidence has increased. So, giver her the chance to focus on that and be thankful for that.
Harmful: This is SO much better for your health
You don’t need to be all doomsday about it and remind your friend that her previous lifestyle was shaving years off of her life. She knows that. That’s why she’s doing all of this hard work.
Helpful: That guy’s checking you out
Your friend may not even realize all the new attention she’s getting in her new, slimmer body. So, point it out. Give her an ego boost. Noticing that men are checking her out more may motivate her to keep up the good work.
Harmful: I’ve got competition now
This comment implies that before, when she was heavier, she was no competition at all. That’s not nice and that’s not even necessarily true. Don’t just assume that all men like thin women. And, either way, don’t look at a friend as competition.
Helpful: Privately telling others she’s losing weight
If you’re going to introduce someone who is, let’s say, not always PC in their comments, to your friend losing weight, prepare them. Let this person know that she’s about to meet someone who is in the middle of a weight loss journey, so she doesn’t say anything insensitive.
Harmful: Publicly telling others she’s losing weight
Don’t tell someone, in front of the friend losing weight, “She’s been trying to lose weight” or “She’s in the middle of losing a lot of weight.” Your friend may not want the focus of the conversation to be on her weight.
Helpful: You must need all new clothes!
This is a fun and playful way to say you’ve lost THAT much weight. So, suggest you two go shopping! Your friend will probably love shopping more now that she’s feeling better in her skin.
Harmful: Finally, we can share clothes
Don’t say anything about “finally” being able to share clothes, or to buy her clothes without feeling uncomfortable. Don’t make her feel like she was in some way holding you back before.
Helpful: I knew you could do this
She knows she can do it, too, but it never hurts to receive a confidence boost from loved ones. Tell her you always knew she could do it, and she’ll feel the motivation she needs to keep doing it.
Harmful: I can’t believe you did it
Saying, “I can’t believe you did this” or “Wow, you really did this” implies you didn’t believe in your friend. That’s probably not what you meant, but it comes off that way.