Etiquette expert Judy Bowman says to use tact when complimenting someone's weight loss
I came across this Salem (MA) News advice column today which inquired about the best way to acknowledge someone who has lost a tremendous amount of weight.
The columnist is Judy Bowman from Protocol Consultants International, which has been in business for over 12 years offering training and consultation services to help people strengthen interpersonal skills and effectiveness in both their business and social relationships.
The specific question posed to Bowman wanted to know about the best approach to someone who has changed so dramatically since losing weight that they no longer look like they used to.
"If someone loses weight so noticeably that they are almost unrecognizable, how do you tell them they look great without risking insulting them by inferring that they used to look like a completely different person?"
When I read that question, I just had to laugh out loud. As someone who has lost 180+ pounds thanks to livin' la vida low-carb, I could not wait to read what Bowman's answer to that question because I guess it can be a touchy subject for some people.
Bowman said people who have lost a major amount of weight "are acutely aware of the difference between their former versus present selves and will most likely be thrilled if someone acknowledges the difference."
You got that right! My biggest thing was how long it took before people even noticed ANY weight loss. For me, the compliments didn't start happening until I had lost 100 pounds. Going from 410 down to 310 was finally getting people's attention. It was slow at first with people making comments like, "Are you losing weight?" When I responded that I had lost 100 pounds, most of them were shocked probably because that first 100 pounds came off in just a matter of 4 months or so. Those reactions to my weight loss pumped me up and motivated me to keep it going.
Recommending that people share "more positive energy focused on the initial greeting," Bowman said people should keep their comments brief until the person who lost the weight makes it abundantly clear that they welcome more praise from you.
"For example, if the person says, 'My wife looks at pictures of me when she fell in love and married me and photos now, and she begs me to continue my new regime,' you know you have an open invitation. Otherwise, 'Fred, you look great and really happy. Everything seems to be agreeing with you' is never wrong.
I personally got stoked whenever anybody mentioned ANYTHING positive about my weight. I write about this in my upcoming book (available in mid-October) that I even started getting comments from people I knew of but didn't really know that well at work, at church, and in the community. It was really weird because these people talked with me like I was an old buddy since I had lost weight. I still get that to this day from people who knew the "fat" Jimmy Moore and now know the "skinny" Jimmy Moore. Losing weight to the point that you change how you look completely will definitely have an affect on your social life.
But Bowman rightfully warns people that "weight is an extremely delicate topic for many individuals" whether they are overweight or even underweight. You may not know the reasons why someone is in that condition and you must be "sensitive to be aware of reacting" to differences in weight, Bowman added.
That's some pretty sage advice that I agree with for the most part. However, I think it is the responsibility of close friends and family members to be an encouragement and accountability partner for people who have a weight issue. That doesn't mean to nag them about their weight, but to lovingly agree to help them overcome it.
My wife used to gripe and even resort to emotional crying to get me to lose weight, but she finally stopped doing that for a year or so before I began my low-carb lifestyle change. She was thrilled when I finally took the step on my own without any coersion on her part to do something about my weight beginning on January 1, 2004 and she instantly took on the role of my accountability partner. And the rest, they say, is history! Christine said she stopped nagging and started praying for me. It worked!
You can e-mail Judy Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org.