A person’s weight can fluctuate. It’s normal, and it’s OK.
What’s not OK, mental health professionals tell USA TODAY, is commenting on it – especially when you don’t know what’s driving the change or what someone is dealing with.
Bebe Rexha became the latest celebrity to speak out against body scrutiny, reacting to the apparent fascination over her weight on Twitter Sunday.
“Seeing that search bar is so upsetting,” Rexha wrote, along with a screenshot of the search result on TikTok “bebe rexha weight.”
“I’m not mad cause it’s true,” she continued. “I did gain weight. But it just sucks. Thank you to all the people who love me no matter what.”
Rexha added in a follow-up tweet: “I’ve always struggled with my weight,” noting she “likes to eat.”
Rexha’s not the only celebrity to call out inappropriate comments about her body. Earlier this month, Ariana Grande took to TikTok to encourage her fans not to comment on others’ bodies after people scrutinized her weight loss online. In October 2021, Adele told Vogue she was “disappointed” over the “brutal conversations” about her weight loss, and, that same month, Jonah Hill urged his Instagram followers to refrain from commenting on his body after his weight loss.
Here’s why experts say body comments, even well-intentioned ones, are more likely to do harm than good.
Commenting on weight can reinforce stigma
Dr. Elizabeth Wassenaar, regional medical director at the Eating Recovery Center, previously told USA TODAY that commenting on someone’s weight reinforces the belief that someone’s appearance is the most important thing about them.
“These comments about how your body is acceptable or unacceptable, it reinforces again that you are not worth more than your body… and that you have to present yourself a certain way for the world to find you acceptable,” she said. “It just reinforces that sort of superficial, body-focused idea that we know is so painful and harmful for every single one of us because we are so much more than this vessel that carries us.”
Wassenaar added that comments about someone’s body don’t just impact that person. They impact “every single person that lives in a body.”
Alexis Conason, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Diet-Free Revolution,” previously told USA TODAY that anyone can struggle with negative body image, no matter their size. Because of this, she says it’s best to avoid commenting on people’s bodies, no matter if they’re skinny, fat or anywhere in between.
“Your body is no one else’s business, and if someone comments on your body, it’s more a reflection of them,” she said.
You don’t know why someone’s body changed
Another problem with commenting on someone’s looks is you “don’t know what anyone’s going through,” Chelsea Kronengold, communications lead at the National Eating Disorders Association, previously told USA TODAY.
“Commenting on people’s bodies and weights is completely inappropriate – you don’t even know the intention behind it and what else is going on,” she said.
Instead of complimenting someone’s physique, Kronengold suggests focusing on somebody’s character, values and what they contribute to the world.
By making this shift, you’re moving from a “judgment, external sort of (comment)… to engaging with them in the environment that they’re in and making a connection around wanting to be in relationship with them,” she explains. “It doesn’t have a thing to do with whether their body is acceptable to society or not.
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