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What to Say to Someone Trying to Lose Weight

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 08, 2021

When your friend or loved one announces they are trying to lose weight, how should you respond? What you say can make a difference in their success.

Supportive Things You Can Say to Someone Trying to Lose Weight

“It’s wonderful that you’re focusing on your health.” Shift the focus away from weight. Instead, compliment their efforts towards better health and wellness. This shows that you see the bigger picture and you want to support them as they create a healthier lifestyle

“How can I support you?” The best way to know how to support someone with their weight loss goals is to simply ask. They may want a workout buddy, or they might just want someone to talk to when they face challenges. Some people even prefer it if you don’t mention diet or weight at all.  ‌

‌‌“Let’s get salads tonight.” Be sensitive to their new dietary needs. Don’t suggest pizza when you know they are trying to avoid it. Instead, suggest a restaurant with ample healthy options, or better yet, let them pick. 

“You look great!” It’s better to give a general compliment that they are looking terrific rather than specifically saying they look skinny or that you can tell they’ve lost weight. Encouraging words that are not about body size can help people lose more weight. Choose words that show you think your friend or loved one is amazing, no matter their size. 

“Do you want to go on a walk with me?” Suggest things you can do together that aren’t focused on food. Invite them to join you in any fitness activities you enjoy, such as going for a walk, joining a group exercise class, or playing tennis. Sharing time to exercise together will increase the intensity and duration of both your workouts.

Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Trying to Lose Weight

“You look great now. You don’t need to lose weight.” You might think this is a compliment, but you shouldn’t assume someone is trying to lose weight because they want to look better. Many people are perfectly happy with the way they look at any weight. ‌‌

“Let’s grab some fast food!” People often eat similar amounts and types of foods as the people they’re eating with, so try to make healthy choices and keep your portion sizes reasonable when snacking or dining with your friend. Better yet, remove food as the focus of your time together and invite them to join you for other activities.

“I know someone that lost 50 pounds on a special diet.” Don’t offer anecdotes about people you know who succeeded or failed on popular or fad diet plans. First, this invites comparison which isn’t helpful for someone embarking on a weight loss journey. Second, you should leave any diet advice to the experts. Many popular diets have contradictory guidelines, which can be confusing to someone trying a new eating plan. Some diets can even be dangerous for people with certain medical histories. 

“Should you really be eating that?” Unless this person has specifically asked you to hold them accountable for everything they put in their mouth, don’t take on the role of food police. This can be embarrassing and discouraging to someone trying to change their eating habits. Playing food police can even lead to worse dietary choices rather than better ones. Negative messages about foods and food choices can lead dieters to eat significantly more unhealthy snacks.

“One bite won’t hurt.”  On the other end of the spectrum, don’t try to entice the person to have food that isn’t healthy or on their plan. One little bite can hurt them, especially if they are trying to overcome binge eating disorder or have other medical conditions. One little bite often leads to more, and having an unplanned “cheat meal” can undo a lot of hard work.

“How much do you weigh?” Some people are more sensitive about disclosing their weight than others, so it’s always best not to ask someone their weight. If they want to share it, they will volunteer it themselves. Remember that the number on the scale isn’t always the best measure of progress towards better health. 

Support Makes a Difference in Weight Loss Success

Your support can make a big difference to someone who is trying to lose weight. People who have support find it easier to stick to a weight loss plan and are more likely to meet their weight loss goals.

If you know someone who is trying to lose weight, you can support them by:

  • ‌choosing your words carefully, focusing on positivity and encouragement.  
  • ‌listening without judgement. 
  • ‌modeling healthy behaviors in your own life.
  • ‌letting them know you think they are amazing no matter their weight.
  • ‌offering to support them in any way they need. 

‌No matter what weight loss program your friend or loved one is following, your support and encouragement will make a difference in their long-term success.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

‌American Psychological Association: “How social support can help you lose weight.”

Appetite: “Social modeling of eating: A review of when and why social influence affects food intake and choice.”

‌Cleveland Clinic: “Do ‘Cheat Meals’ Help or Hurt Your Diet?”

‌Heart Matters: “Weight loss: how the people around you can help.”

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research: “Messages from the Food Police: How Food-Related Warnings Backfire among Dieters.”

Nature Communications: “Exercise contagion in global social network.”

Personal Relationships: “A little acceptance is good for your health: Interpersonal messages and weight change over time.”‌

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