Your unnecessary comments are hurting those around you


Illustration by Lucia Granja

As the weather is getting warmer, everyone is breaking out their shorts and summer clothing.  With people wearing less clothing due to this warm weather, it’s more important now to remember that you shouldn’t make comments about other people’s bodies.  Many people who make these types of remarks have good intentions and are just trying to make sure the person is healthy. However, making offhand comments about someone’s health or body has the opposite effect: It’s very damaging to receive feedback about something that you can’t change.

Feedback can include, but is not limited to, comments about weight, eating habits, physical characteristics, and what people are wearing. They are so damaging because they are about things that people cannot quickly, change.  

Physical characteristics are permanent, short of plastic surgery, so commenting on them only creates new insecurities or reinforces insecurities they may have already had.  This applies to weight, but also specific characteristics, such as nose, eyes, cellulite, scars, and height.

Remarks about things that take more than five minutes to change, such as bad skin or body shape, are unnecessary, uncalled for, and rude.”

Commenting on someone’s weight is toxic because you can’t tell anything about someone from their weight.  Complimenting someone for losing weight or shaming them for gaining weight can reinforce their insecurities.  They may have lost weight for any number of reasons, including an eating disorder, grief, or depression. Complimenting someone on losing weight in these circumstances can be triggering to someone with an eating disorder as it reinforces their insecurities. Shaming someone’s weight does the same thing.  Someone who has gained weight can be happy and healthy or recovering from an eating disorder and commenting on their weight in this way could discount their happiness or could trigger a relapse in recovery from an eating disorder. A study published in the US National Library of Medicine shows that body shaming leads to depression.

Making remarks on someone’s eating habits is equally triggering to those in recovery, and just as you can’t tell anything about someone’s life from their weight, you can’t assume anything about someone’s eating habits. They may not have a large appetite due to depression or anxiety.  They may have just worked out or forgotten to eat breakfast, making them very hungry. Especially now, during Ramadan, people may be fasting.

Commenting on someone’s appearance isn’t always bad, but commenting on characteristics that a person has no control over is always damaging. Telling someone about something that they can change quickly, like food in their teeth, is fine, and most people want to know if they have food in their teeth so that they can change it. However, remarks about things that take more than five minutes to change, such as bad skin or body shape, are unnecessary, uncalled for, and rude.  This is especially important to remember for high schoolers, as many teenager’s bodies are still changing and growing, so teenagers are more likely to be insecure about their bodies. According to a Yahoo survey, 94% of female teens and 64% of male teens have experienced body shame, showing a significant cultural problem. We need to work to change this by taking time to think about how our comments affect people. Even well-intentioned offhand comments are damaging, so care for your friends and family by being supportive, rather than damaging.