Singer Demi Lovato, who came out as nonbinary last week and uses they/them pronouns, posted an important reminder for their followers about why it’s generally not okay to comment on other people’s bodies—even if you think you’re giving a compliment.
“Idk who needs to hear this but complimenting someone on their weight loss can be just as harmful as complimenting someone on their weight gain in regards to talking to someone in recovery from an eating disorder,” Lovato wrote in their Instagram Story this weekend, per Glamour. “If you don’t know someone’s history with food, please don’t comment on their body. Because even if your intention is pure, it might leave that person awake at 2 a.m. overthinking that statement.”
Although it sometimes does feel good to hear a compliment like that, Lovato wrote, it only feels good to “the loud ass eating disorder voice inside my head that says, ‘See, people like a thinner you,’ or ‘If you eat less you’ll lose more weight.’” (Lovato has been open previously about their history with bulimia, dieting, and food shaming.)
Lovato went on to say that, other times, it doesn’t feel so great to hear those comments because it can cause them to think, “Well damn. What did they think of my body before?” The moral of the story, they said, is that “I am more than the shell for my soul that is my body and every day I fight to remind myself of that, so I’m asking you to please not remind me that is all people see of me sometimes.”
The truth is there are a ton of reasons why someone’s body might change unintentionally, including as the result of eating disorders or eating disorder recovery as well as other mental health and chronic health conditions. If you don’t know why someone is losing weight, complimenting that person’s body may trigger troubling thoughts and feelings like those Lovato describes. But even if you know someone is losing weight intentionally, complimenting them on weight loss may not be welcome.
Above all, there’s really no reason to comment on someone else’s body if they aren’t talking about it themselves. And even if they are talking about it, recognize that you may not know what’s happening behind the scenes for them. It’s generally better and kinder to simply not offer unsolicited comments on another person’s body, even if you think you’re being helpful or complimentary.
As Lovato explained in another recent Instagram post, eating disorder recovery is an ongoing process that can require continuous work—and comments about weight loss may derail that progress. “I still struggle. Daily. There are periods of time where I forget about my food struggles and other times it’s all I think about. Still,” Lovato wrote. “But that is what ED recovery looks like for some people and I still have hope that someday I won’t think about it anymore.”