Why It's Not OK to Comment on Someone's Weight...in Either Direction

If you saw a person who looked like they had gained weight, would you say, “You look so fat”?

Let’s hope you wouldn’t. So why do some people think it’s OK if a person has lost weight, to say “You look so thin”?

You look so...thin

I thought about this the other day when I walked into the house of an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen in a while. “You look so thin!” she said. “You were always thin, but…” her voice trailed off.

I said I had worried about it, but my doctor had looked into it and I seem to be OK. I said that I had talked to my nurse practitioner, who said that for my level of activity, I might not get enough calories. And I also probably don’t get enough protein.

Weight comments are a trigger

Being told they are thin can be a trigger for blood cancer survivors like myself who associate weight loss with illness. It can also be a trigger for those with eating disorders.

My concerns about my weight are not rational. I lost about 20 pounds each time I got chemo. The weight loss had an obvious specific cause. I know that weight loss can also be a sign of serious disease. But that is rapid weight loss, while mine (of approximately 20 pounds) has been over a period of a couple of years.

I have a model for this: My six-foot-four-inch-tall father got so thin that we were afraid he would topple over. I’m a little over five-eight and weigh around 120 pounds. My BMI is on the low end of normal.

You can be too rich or too thin

It’s not really true that you can never be too rich or too thin. At my first newspaper job, I wrote about lottery winners whose winnings destroyed their lives. I imagine there are plenty of other unhappy rich people. And as for being too thin, it can be dangerous to your health or a sign of poor health. So scratch both of those.

The “you’re so thin” comment was one part of an overall annoying day, in a First-World-Problem kind of way. I had gone with a friend to an open house where the acquaintance would be selling jewelry. Number one, I have enough jewelry. Number two, I don’t like this person’s jewelry.

Home jewelry party maneuvering

Well, backtracking a little on number one. My mother, a jewelry designer, said, “A girl can never have too many pairs of earrings.” It’s true, I do buy more earrings than I need, especially since I wear the same pair over and over. But I don’t want to be forced into buying jewelry.

When I was sick, by the way, I thought earrings were a nice gift that perked me up.

My friend had said we could just go for lunch and wouldn’t have to buy anything.

Just going for the food

We went after tennis. I was hungry. I ate a lot. Salami and cheese on crackers. Quiche. Peanut-butter filled pretzels. Danish. Chocolate. Fruit salad. A little of this, a little of that.

People wandered in, picking jewelry to buy. Someone asked the hostess if I had bought anything.

“Not yet,” she said.

I whispered to my friend that I couldn’t sit there and eat the hostess’s food and not buy anything. I settled on a pair of inexpensive earrings, and when it was time to go, I took a mini black-and-white cookie for the car.

Unsolicited comments

“Someone who eats as much as you do and doesn’t gain weight should see a doctor,” the hostess said. Maybe she was being solicitous. But since I already told her I had recently been to the doctor, her parting comment was the icing on the cake … as though the milk in the mix had gone bad and the icing was sour.

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