We've all known or know (or may be) someone who has lost weight and then found it again, plus a few extras.
Weight gain is not always about self-indulgence or laziness. Some people gain weight because of certain medications, inactivity due to an injury, or as a result of medical conditions. Before saying something you might regret, step back and rely on your empathic, rather than your judgmental side.
Here are some remarks which may seem harmless to you, but can sting someone whose body frame has increased in size:
1. "Have you put on a few pounds?"
Whether you want to believe it or not, it's probably not necessary for you to tell someone they've gained weight. They have the same access to mirrors and scales that you do. If they're not making a change, they may not want to focus on their weight status.
Breaking the news to them could create conflict in your relationship and, most likely, it will not have the intended effect.
2. "I find it so easy to gain weight this time of year...don't you?"
Although this may seem like a confessional observation, the other person may assume you're trying to get them to agree with you — and recognize that they, too, put on a few pounds. They may use holiday, birthday, and special events as excuses for over-indulging, but that doesn't mean that the subject is up for discussion.
3. "I heard the new XYZ diet is easy to follow... have you tried it?"
Even if you think your comments are innocuous, don't offer opinions about diets, nutritionists, or workout regimens unless asked. A subtle statement to you could be like a sledge hammer to them. Wait for the person to come to you to ask for assistance.
"Don’t throw in the kitchen sink and overwhelm them," said Long Island psychologist, Adina Korn.
If you personally have had success with living a healthy lifestyle, don't preach.
Instead, "share dieting difficulties and strategies you've relied upon to overcome them," said Korn.
Encouragement can be a powerful tool to offer someone who may not have even realized that you were available for support.
4. "That shirt would look better if it weren't tucked in."
Even if someone asks, don't say it. I've heard parents make innocent comments like this to their children. Parents, and sometime spouses, feel they have the right to watch someone else's weight as a way of showing that they care. That's not usually how that message gets translated.
Similarly inappropriate: "Do you think you need another roll?" when at the dinner table.
Instead, choose the right time to have a delicate conversation about the importance of having a healthy weight. The focus of the exchange should be welcomed as a two-way exchange and not a lecture.
5. "Did you know weight gain could raise your blood pressure (or some other health issue)?"
Just because studies show that being overweight could bring legitimate health risks, health is not always a motivating factor for weight loss.
For some of my clients, unless they are currently feeling pain from poor eating habits, like indigestion, or they are seeing roller-coaster numbers when they are testing their blood glucose levels, they feel health issues are kind of hypothetical... or not worth worrying about now.
What should you say?
Their weight is their business. Some people are confident and secure, no matter what the scale reads or how their clothing fits, while others wear a poor self image under their clothes. If THEY bring up the subject and you feel that you are well equipped to offer advice and support, by all means, enter this important conversation. But unless the weight card is drawn, don't play it.
Otherwise try not to react or show any facial expression displaying surprise about the person's weight gain. It's best to ignore the change in body size. Whatever you do, don't be insincere with compliments; there's a good chance this person will see right through your disingenuous remarks.
Simply say: "It's so good to see you."
Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, is author of "Read It Before You Eat It." You can follow her at BetterThanDieting.com and on twitter: @eatsmartbd