Why is it so hard to NOT talk about weight?

Last evening as I was walking across the parking lot, I ran into a woman who works in my office. “I didn’t recognize you,” she said, “have you lost weight? You look thin!”

My weight hasn’t changed since starting my job last year, for the record. I am never sure how to respond to comments (whether meant to be positive or negative) regarding my weight or another person’s weight. Knowing that a person means to be complimentary makes me feel inclined to say “Thank you!” but I resisted in this case.

Comments on a person looking thin or thinner than usual are often meant to be positive. However, weight loss can be caused by a variety of factors that may not be so positive, like stress, illness, or disordered eating. Even with healthy or desirable weight loss, these comments may not have the intended affect. These comments could make a person feel more self-conscious about their weight or shape.

In my case yesterday, I resisted saying “thank you” and changed the subject – I didn’t have much else to say about it since my weight hasn’t changed and I don’t have a desire to change my weight. But today in conversation with another colleague, I noticed weight talk sprang up again. A casual discussion about weekend plans turned into a chat about how disinhibited eating on the weekends can cause some weight creep. The conversation didn’t delve too much more into weight or shape, but it got me thinking – why is it so hard to avoid talking about weight?

Sure, we probably have cause to be concerned about obesity rates in the US. However, talk about weight is no longer limited to medical management with one’s healthcare provider. Many of us know that fat talk has a negative effect, yet thinness is still culturally accepted as desirable, and “positive” comments on weight seem acceptable.

Should this be accepted as a normal part of our weight-focused culture, or is it time to change the subject? BeautyRedefined has some good ideas if you prefer to change the subject!

What do you think about the prevalence of weight talk? Why is it so hard to not talk about weight socially?