What Not To Say To Someone Who's Trying To Lose Weight

Messages about weight and weight loss are all around us, from social media to product advertisements. That might be why nearly half of all American adults try to shed pounds each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and chances are, you know at least one person who is trying to lose weight now.

Generally, it's best to not comment on a loved one's weight at all, even if you notice that they're already slimming down. After all, not all weight loss is intentional, and comments about others' figures may only make them feel self-conscious about their body. But if a friend is openly sharing that they're trying to lose weight, you may wonder how you can best show your support. Here's what not to say to someone who's trying to lose weight, as well as a few things you can say to show that you're rooting them on.

Don't criticize or lecture even if you have good intentions

Some people prefer showing their support through tough love, acting as a coach to their friends and family. But when it comes to something as personal as weight loss, it's often better to choose a gentler approach when supporting a loved one. Judging their choices or lecturing them about diet and fitness likely won't help, as nutritionist Keri Gans told Fox News. Even if you mean well, saying things like, "You don't need to lose weight," or, "A few pounds won't make a difference," may make them feel like you're dismissing their personal motivations for losing weight.

It's also important to abstain from making pessimistic comments, such as saying how hard it is to lose weight or how likely it is that they'll fail (per U.S. News). Even if your loved one has tried losing weight before and fallen short of their goals, pointing that out certainly won't help them stay on track now — and they may avoid sharing their goals with you again in the future.

Avoid giving advice

Because so many people have tried to lose weight, many have strong opinions about which fitness plans work or what diet fads to skip. You, too, may have thoughts on what your friend should or shouldn't do to reach their ideal weight. But as psychologist Sari Chait told Prevention, advice shouldn't be dished out unless the other person explicitly requested it. Many people want to make weight loss decisions on their own and may become defensive when given unsolicited advice. Plus, the meal or workout regimen that worked for one person may not work for another — a 2019 study (via Time) showed that even twins have different dietary needs.

It's also important to remember that there are a lot of weight loss myths floating around, and even the most well-educated can get the facts wrong sometimes. It's best to leave the advice to your loved one's doctor or nutritionist, who may have the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Leave vanity out of it

While weight loss culture often promotes looks above all else, a 2007 study showed that the majority of people who want to lose weight are motivated by health and mood, not their appearance. Still, many who want to show their support for a friend looking to trim down might make comments like, "If you lose the weight, you'll look so good!"

But as EatingWell explains, praising someone's post-weight-loss body can imply that they don't already look good or that people have to lose weight to be beautiful (which, friendly reminder, isn't true). And if they weren't focused on their appearance to begin with, these kinds of comments may make them feel self-conscious.

U.S. News also advises against discussing vanity metrics, like the number of pounds someone is trying to lose. While some people may have a specific goal weight in mind, focusing on the digits on a scale can be counterproductive and may even demotivate people from following their health plans.

Here's what to say to someone who's trying to lose weight

So is it best to not say anything to a friend who's trying to lose weight? Not exactly. While there are a few faux pas you may want to avoid if the conversation turns to weight loss, there are also a few helpful things you can say.

First, psychologist Kasey Goodpaster tells Everyday Health that it's best to ask for a friend's permission before discussing their plans to lose weight. Your loved one may just want you to listen, or they might welcome your feedback — but be sure to ask before proceeding. If they're okay with discussing their weight loss goals, U.S. News suggests asking broadly how things are going, without questioning the specifics like how much they want to lose or how long they're trying (unless they volunteer that information).

Above all else, keep your feedback positive and friendly. WebMD says that it's A-okay to show your support by saying things like, "That's great that you're caring for your health," or asking how you can help them stay on track.