Instagram @lenadunham
Instagram @lenadunham

OPINION

When is it OK to compliment someone's weight loss? 

Lena Dunham was celebrated for her slim body, but pointed out on Instagram that she's lost weight due to stress, mental health problems and health conditions. We have to remember that not all weight loss is good weight loss

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By Amy Jones on

Pop quiz: You bump into someone you are firm friends with but haven’t seen in a few months and they have lost a very noticeable amount of weight. Be honest – what do you say to them about it? 

I’m willing to bet that a fair amount of people would automatically say “You look fantastic!” or “You’ve lost so much weight! How did you do it?”. I’m not judging; I’d probably do exactly the same thing. The general mood is that slim is better and losing weight is a good thing, and you want to congratulate your friends on doing good things. If being slimmer is better then pointing out that someone has lost weight is a compliment, right? A nice thing to do. So if we’re being very optimistic, we could say that a US magazine was just trying to be nice when it put a photo of Lena Dunham on its cover next to the text “20 slimdown diet tips stars are using”.

Complimenting someone on dropping a few dress sizes could be congratulating them on feeling so sad they can’t eat or so stressed they’re burning with nervous energy

But it is very hard to be optimistic in the face of so much unrelenting crap, so I’m inclined to think that what the magazine was actually trying to do was to make loads of people buy it so they too can be slim like Lena. For those of us who don’t want to spend money on something designed to make us feel bad about ourselves, though, Dunham has also helpfully posted her personal 20 tips on Instagram.

 

20 slimdown diet tips! 1. anxiety disorder * 2. resultant constant nausea 3. an election that reveals the true depths of American misogyny 4. constant sweaty dreams of dystopian future 5. abdominal adhesions pinning ovary below uterus * 6. baseless but still harrowing threats to physical safety online and through smail mail 7. watching institutions you love from Planned Parenthood to PBS be threatened by cartoon mustache-twirling villains 8. finally realizing superheroes aren't real (specifically the X-Factor, really thought they'd handle this) 9. marching your ass off 10. a quiet rage that replaces need for food with need for revenge 11. sleeping 19 hours a day 12. realizing that even the liberal media wants dem clicks no matter whut 13. worrying ceaselessly about the health and safety of women you know and women you don't 14. realizing who ya real friends are 15. having to switch from Uber to Lyft (lots of calories burned trying to understand a new app, then even more trying to understand if the conflict was resolved) 16. bladder spasms, urinary frequency and urgency * 17. having your phone number leaked and violent images texted to your phone by randos under names like VERYFATCHUCKYBOY@creepz.com 18. keeping your back arched against the wind 19. um, who the fuck cares? 20. I have no tips I give no tips I don't want to be on this cover cuz it's diametrically opposed to everything I've fought my whole career for and it's not a compliment to me because it's not an achievement thanx * Star indicates a pre-existing condition

A post shared by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

 

Here, Dunham has given us so many great new things to try in order to shift those extra pounds before summer. Have you tried anxiety disorder? How about exhaustion which leaves you trapped in your bed for 19 hours a day? Health problems affecting your uterus, ovaries and bladder? Emotional distress caused by both political turmoil and personal issues? Death threats and violent images sent directly to you by strangers? All a small price to pay to be slim though, right? Right?

Obviously not. Society tells us that being slim is better and so any weight loss is a good thing, but sometimes it really isn't. Complimenting someone on dropping a few dress sizes could be congratulating them on feeling so sad they can’t eat or so stressed they’re burning with nervous energy. While it’s great to support people in whatever they’re trying to do, it’s important to remember that someone’s weight can change for all sorts of reasons and they’re not necessarily the kind of things you want to be celebrating or congratulating them for.

It’s also important to remember that we don’t actually have to talk about another person’s changing body at all. Dunham seemingly wasn’t approached or interviewed for this feature and does not want to be involved in the diet conversation – she ends her post with “I have no tips I give no tips I don't want to be on this cover cuz it's diametrically opposed to everything I've fought my whole career for and it's not a compliment to me because it's not an achievement thanx”. If someone has worked hard to change their body and they want to talk about it and celebrate that achievement, great. Compliment and question away. Otherwise, it’s probably best that we all just mind our own damn business.

@jimsyjampots

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Lena Dunham
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women in the media

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