In general, commenting on someone’s weight, especially for a person with an eating disorder, can focus their self-worth on their weight or appearance and reaffirm problematic thoughts that their weight is of high importance in establishing their value as a person. “People with eating disorders have high levels of body dissatisfaction, and comments praising weight loss are essentially reinforcing unhealthy eating behaviors,” adds Becker.
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With so much in flux, and many of our bodies changing in response to unprecedented levels of stress, it’s a lot to process on the Rockin Since 1974 Classic T-Shirt and I will buy this body image front—and becomes all the more complicated and emotionally taxing because of how normalized discussing weight, shape, and appearance is in our society. One of the most nuanced and detrimental cultural occurrences is, of course, the inherently backhanded weight-loss compliment, particularly during this time of crisis. “At best, they say, ‘You look better than you did before,’ leaving those on the receiving end wondering, ‘I wonder what they thought I looked like before?’” says Murray. “The most harmful part about weight loss ‘compliments’ is that you never really know what you’re complimenting. Does that person have a chronic illness or an eating disorder? Are they experiencing grief? Were they even trying to lose the weight? You likely don’t know, which is why it’s best to stay away from any sort of weight-based ‘compliment.’”