Let’s chat: how we should communicate about weight, diets & fitness

In 2016, I launched a post: ‘The Wong Diet‘ & received incredible messages on my Instagram.

I called BS on fad diets and revealed the lifestyle secrets derived from East Asian culture. If you want to know how to manage food guilt & healthy fitness mentality, read it here and let me know what you think.

I’ve wanted to chat about how we should communicate with each other about weight, diets & fitness for a while. I know it’s a sensitive subject, and I may get a backlash, but I want to encourage open dialogue in this post.

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My objective is for us to understand each other, so here are my tips:

Don’t comment on weight

Don’t spontaneously comment on a person’s lost or gained weight. If you like the way they look, say these instead:

1. ‘You look amazing.’

2. ‘You’re glowing’.

3. ‘I love how happy you are.’

Unless asked for, none of this unsolicited ‘you’re looking too skinny’ or ‘I’ve noticed you’ve gained weight’.

In the instance that you’re worried that friend may be suffering from anorexia, bulimia or obesity, encourage them to seek medical help and do not comment on appearance.

Talk about kindness towards others, but also compassion towards yourself.

Please, please never talk about how much you hate your body, how ‘fat’ you are, or about your new diet. Share your recipes: discuss how to cook healthy food, but also how to bake a cake made with lots of butter. Don’t say things like, ‘I’m not eating fats right now’. Don’t make out that fats are evil because shame over what you eat will lead to degradation about how you feel about yourself.

Encourage your loved ones to be active because it makes them feel less stressed.

I wrote about how I unwind here. Pass on your love of being outside. Go for long walks with your mates. Encourage adventure. Discuss taking up scary physical activities like abseiling, or rock climbing, because this helps them deal with fear. Inspire those to take up a sport that they can fall in love with, at the same time, understand that not everyone wants to discover the benefits of fitness, so don’t overwhelm your not-so-active friends, encourage & support, but do not gloat.

When discussing the body, present facts (science) and not opinions (how you think a person looks).

Talk about how the body works. Legs are for running, and a ribcage is a carrying case for lungs.

Don’t compare yourself.

I wrote a whole post about why we shouldn’t compare ourselves here. Remember that weight isn’t up for comparison, your body is incredible and it’s all yours.

The Interview

To be unbiased, I’ve asked bloggers from slim, athletic to plus-sized, to give me their discouraging statements they’ve received about their bodies.

How not to talk to the ‘slim’ lady

“You’re just skin and bones” – Olivia: Olivia Mulhearn.

“I find it’s so rude, and disrespectful. People have no idea how comments like that can affect you; they have no idea if you have any health issues before making flippant statements. And for ‘you barely eat’, you must have seen me eat a handful of times how you would know how much I eat in a day? I don’t comment on how much you eat?!”.

“Your body type is unrealistic” – Emily: Ace and Boogie.

“I hate the fact that it’s socially acceptable to pass comment and judgement on women’s bodies. I’m slim, very petite but I relate to everyone else’s comments in this thread. People close to me, family, friends and strangers have always critiqued my body. I’ve struggled with disordered eating in the past, and now, despite the fact that I’m comfortable with my size and I love my body, I find it upsetting when people shame me for being slim. It’s so hard for women and girls to like and even accept their bodies – thanks Monica for starting this thread!”.

“You’re not allowed to complain about being skinny-shamed because it’s not the same as being fat-shamed” – Rachel: Word of Rachel.

“Said by a girl who skinny shamed me daily. I was suffering from bad depression & anxiety at the time and was critically underweight. I never compared it to fat shaming or suggest it was worse, both are awful!”.

“Eat a cheeseburger” – Sky – Sky Phoenix Rayne.

“People all through my life have shamed me for being slim, told me that I’d look so much better if I just put on a couple of pounds, called me anorexic, told me I need to eat a cheeseburger and that guys don’t like bones. Aside from the fact that I’m healthy, I’ve beaten several people in food eating comps, and I don’t give a damn what guys like… It’s insulting, thoughtless, hurtful and cruel.”

“Were you anorexic?” Janeen: Janeen Harding.

“The most common comments I get from everybody. I’m petite, and I’m slim, I’ve never had an eating disorder. To be told these things doesn’t make me feel good about myself at all! Shaming thinner people like myself is quite a big deal, and it does happen, it’s annoying that when we do speak up, we just get shot down or told that we shouldn’t complain about anything because we’re slim.”

“Real women have curves” – Elisha: Elisha Blogs.

“It’s funny that people think it’s acceptable to comment on other people’s weight when everybody has their self-confidence issues. As much as being naturally slim is easy, it comes with its prejudices all the same.”

“Skinny Minnie” or “Beanpole” – Alice Soule: Living with a Jude.

“I can’t help my body shape and hate it a lot of the time. This comment drives me mad as people assume they’re complimenting me. I’d rather no-one commented on my body and rather ME as a person”.

“Everyone wants to be skinny” – Anonymous.

“Do they?! Last time I checked, I was anorexic, and it was the last thing I wanted to be. Personally, I don’t think being called skinny is a compliment”.

How not to talk to the ‘plus size’ lady

Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed

“But you have such a pretty face” – Lauren: Dilian and Me.

“This one always stings, and I think most ‘bigger girls’ have heard it in one way or another. It’s like ‘well your body is disgusting, but at least your face is ok!’. Kind of like ‘if you were slimmer, you’d be the full package’, guess what; I’m the full package whatever weight. And there are far more important things about me than my weight OR my face. Like how kind, strong and intelligent I am, or what a brilliant mother, partner and person I am”.

“I like you, but can we date in secret? My friends will give me stick about like a big girl” – Kirsty: The Bus Girl Belfast.

“Pass thanks, but I’m looking for a man who would be proud to date me!”

“You’re fit for a bigger girl.” Amber: Amber Nicole Writes.

“Backhanded compliments are gross. It’s very insulting/demeaning because it suggests fat girls aren’t beautiful and treating me like an exception isn’t a compliment”.

“I did 50 hours at the gym and you should too” – Sophie: 

“One thing I hate is when people make a comment about exercise, and just because they’ve done 50 hours at the gym, it means you should have done it too. I felt so attacked by my sporty peers – it gets to you, especially in today’s airbrushed & photoshopped world. Everyone expects you to be skinny & to have the perfect body with zero fat or stretch-marks – surprise, we all have them!”.

“You carry the extra weight because you’re tall & it must be nice to be confident enough not to worry about how you look” – Pamela: Pams Bake And Baby Blog.

“Eh, thanks. Backhanded compliments are the pits”.

“If you weren’t so big you would probably make it” – Saffron Baker: Pixie Bow UK.

I keep being told recently to “stop promoting obesity” I never mention my weight on posts. The worst is when people say stuff like I bet you loved all the food over Christmas. Also when other people are eating, and you don’t want to, they say “oh you not hungry Saff?”, like they expect me to eat everything in sight.

“Oh, you had an eating disorder?” – Francesca: Francesca Sophia

My personal favourite: *a quick check of my figure* – ‘oh, you mean you used to be obese!’.

“You did a 5k run?” – Emma.

“One that happened to me last year was and said in a tone of disbelief. Ummm yes, just cause I’m big doesn’t mean I don’t exercise or can’t take part in fun runs”.

“She’s fat” – Stephanie: Stephanie Djl.

“Hate when people are slagging off fat people to my face & then go ‘oh not you, you’re not fat you’re tall”.

How not to talk to the ‘athletic’ ladies

‘You’re only fit & skinny because you were born with good genes’ – (me): The Wong Blog.

Look, I am aware that genes do play a role, but eurgh, this is not the way not to talk to the person who does sport. It’s not supportive or encouraging. I know this statement is not intended to be malicious but is more of a case of ignorance. The reality is that I train; I probably did push-ups & planks the night before you decided to say that. Mate, do you think I just woke up one day & could do the splits? Get out of here!

“You’re like one of that gym **** s; all you do is spend your life in there” – Hannah.

‘For me, fitness is about taking responsibility for yourself, having that independence to explore your incredible body & what it can do. Pushing your limits. It’s about developing a strong mind. You set goals, and you achieve them. I’ve met incredibly ambitious & like-minded people from the fitness industry”.

“How do you stay so slim when you eat out so much?” – Seetal from Savla Faire.

“What people don’t want to hear is how much time I spend working out as reality is less sexy than saying something about genetics”.

“Big legs” – Sophie: Sophies Choice.

“I’ve always had big legs from being a dancer and trained hard when I was younger. I’ve learned to love my legs, and I work hard to keep them muscly and toned. It does make me feel awful because other girls legs don’t touch when mine do, taking photos of myself can be a challenge for my self-esteem. I have to think to myself, it’s not that bad, I’m a strong, curvy woman and if I ever had to lift a car off anyone I probably could!”.

“How do you stay so slim when you eat like that!” – Chloe Martin: Pretty Magpie.

“Makes you feel ridiculously uncomfortable if you eat around others and you feel bad if you want to eat something naughty! I don’t think people understand that you have to exercise to counterbalance the naughty stuff!”

*Shows before & after photo from fitness transformation* “you looked better before, now you look unhealthy” – Anonymous.

“This comment completely disregards the hard work that I’ve put into my body, which is my choice. There are only two options with the body: fall in love with the way it is or through goals & seeing the beauty of your progression. I would recommend the latter because it gives much more than physical benefits regarding confidence & motivation”.

“If I ate like you, I’d be a horse” – Jo.

“This comment came from someone who is fully able-bodied, yet chooses not to exercise but tries to make a statement from what they think they know. Those who exercise regularly can eat more than those who do not. Believe it or not, if we ate what we wanted and didn’t work out, we’d be a horse too”.

Closing

I’ve written this post because I’m seeing too many of us put each other down. I want us to encourage each other. We’re all wonderfully different, and some of us find it challenging to relate to others. A BIG thank you to all that contributed to this post. I had so much fun to put it together because of you lot. I hope that we can communicate with each other in a healthy & encouraging way.

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