The taste of your foot in your mouth never improves, so I’m here to help. The next time you bump into someone who’s on a dieting regime, bite your tongue and don’t say these lines:

“You look amazing.”

Believe it or not, these words can have a negative effect on their progress. According to Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, it causes people to loosen the reins and sometimes give up. “Even though they may have much more to lose,” he explains, “those words make them feel as if they’ve already arrived.”

On the other side, offering praise based on appearance can prompt some dieters to become obsessed with losing weight, potentially leading to eating/exercise disorders.

Well-intentioned comments can also backfire. A client of mine, was doing really well and was on his way to losing 3 stone, a friend of his remarked, “Wow you are really starting to look good.” As he said the words “thank you” his gut was churning as all he was thinking was “Are you saying I looked awful before?”. It was even worse when colleagues of his starting telling him that he was “actually quite hot now”. Rather than focusing on the great achievement he had made he was spending time worrying over the perception he thought people must have had of him before.

So what should you say? Steer the conversation away from weight by focusing on other positive changes, like their increased vitality and positive mood. It is of course ok to acknowledge their effort, with words such as “I really do admire you; weight loss is hard.”

“Let me tell you about this diet that worked for me.”

We need to keep reminding ourselves that there is no one diet that fits all, just because you felt fantastic on a particular diet, do not let your experience dictate how they should expect to feel. They need to be their own judge when it comes to figuring out the most appropriate diet for them. Also most people do not appreciate unsolicited dieting advice. They will think, “I don’t need you to tell me how to eat”. Instead just wish them well, and keep your opinion out of it.

“Just cut down your portion sizes.”

If you mutter those words you will be hit back with, “Oh REALLY…do you seriously think I haven’t thought of that?” If losing weight was as easy as cutting down portion sizes, many more people would have successfully slimmed down. Plus, comments that include the word “just” tend to make people feel like failures, as if they’re the only ones who are struggling.

“Oh come one, one bite won’t hurt.”

It’s extremely difficult for anyone to stop eating something delicious after tasting it. Even worse it could lead them into a binge. Its your birthday and you want them to enjoy a slice of cake with you, I get it but don’t do it to them respect their diet, don’t use food as a tease. Likewise, don’t meet your friend who loves pizza at a pizza restaurant if they have just gone gluten free. Be respectful of their diet and suggest somewhere that is healthy.

“Really, are you sure you can eat that? I thought you were on a diet!”

Sorry, I don’t recall you being a member of food police. What someone else’s weight-loss plan allows or doesn’t allow isn’t your concern. Even if you witnessing them tucking into a big cream cake, mentioning the overindulging will only make matters worse. You pointing it out can cause them to become upset and even worse it could lead them to pack in the diet altogether.

So please think before you talk when you are talking to someone who is trying to lose weight.

Work with Emma-Louise

Interested in receiving one-on-one support? I currently work with a select number of clients each month interested in nutritional therapy.