“You’ve gotten so big!” “You look like you’re getting curvy.” “ How do you get those skinny jeans off?” “You look so much healthier.” Yes, it’s that time again. Thanksgiving is the time where relatives are reunited and grandparents, aunts and uncles often give unsolicited comments about appearance.
I’m sure that these comments are well intentioned and are meant to be compliments. However, to the sensitive, appearance conscious young person (btw, is 90% of all young people), these comments ferment and often are misinterpreted. “You’ve gotten so big” means you’ve gained so much weight. “You look like you’re getting curvy” means you look hippy and wide. “How do you get those jeans off” means you are fat and you don’t know it. And “healthy” for most of my clients is code for fat. Even complimenting weight loss can be interpreted as you are valued more when you are smaller.
One of the most unappreciated comments that my clients talk about is “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder!” Remember, just because someone is weight restored does not mean that they are not struggling with intrusive food thoughts, unhealthy behaviors and negative body image.
What do young people want to hear? “You look happier.” Or “you seem to have more energy.” Better still, most of my clients would prefer no comments about appearance at all; instead a sincere “How are you?” may be the best way to reconnect.
Pam Chin-Lai, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD specializes in the nutritional rehabilitation of eating disorders in children, adolescents and adults.