Didn't Emily Post or some Manners and Etiquette person ever establish rules about polite society when it comes to compliments on appearance, and on weight specifically? Why are we such a weight-obsessed society anyway?
An exception might be crediting a person has had a surgical procedure for health reasons and lost half of their body weight. I am certain these types of people enjoy being complimented on their success. Or perhaps a contestant on the Biggest Loser might desire to be complimented on huge weight loss, but aside from that, don't do it.
My son Brett, smart and successful and single, has certain rules that he lives by when it comes to the opposite sex: NEVER comment on weight, not even as a compliment. This includes joking.
Didn't I tell you he was smart?
My husband hasn't learned this rule. I recently had this conversation with him:
Me: I looked less whale-ish in the mirrors at (my exercise studio) this week. I think I've lost some weight.
Husband: That's great, you are down to being a porpoise!
Me: (with If Looks Could Kill Expression) Is that your idea of a compliment?
Husband: I was joking!
Me: (searching for a weapon)
Let me clue all of you in on something. Skinny people know they are skinny. They probably are genetically blessed and/or work very hard at it. They know they look good. It is much better to give a general compliment on their appearance rather than focusing on their weight.
Heavy people know they are heavy. It is never polite to comment on that, and if they are healthy, it is nobody's business but their own. If they look good, just say that and leave it there.
Normal women, like me, fluctuate up and down, up and down. Middle age is a time of rampant hormonal bodily changes and weight gain. Sometimes it is a bloating situation. Sometimes it is winter and that extra layer of fat helps keep us warmer. (Okay, I live in the warm climate of Houston, but my middle age body doesn't seem to know that.)
People listen: I am trying to be discreet about gaining weight. I try to hide these weight fluctuations by wearing a lot of black, and lots of skinny jeans. I guess no amount of black is going to hide that spare tire I have in the middle though, darn it.
Me at a Tire Store: I would like to return this spare tire. I don't need it and I don't want it.
Man at Counter: Lady, for the last time, we don't take back belly tires!
My mother calls me "puffy" during my upper weight fluctuations, and her questioning what size I am wearing these days follows this. Her expectation of a svelte daughter is not about to be compromised. Others politely do not mention my weight gain, but as soon as I lose it in the spring, I hear comments disguised as compliments.
"You've lost weight! You look great!"
Or some variation of the above.
STOP. Just STOP.
Did I not look great before I lost weight? Is that what they are saying, because it sure seems so?
It is not a compliment for an average-sized person to hear because we don't want you noticing our weight fluctuations. This is a private matter between me and my hormones, me and my wardrobe that includes several sizes, and me and my sometimes-insatiable appetite.
What ever happened to the time honored compliment stately simply as "You Look Great?"
One time I had interviewed an elderly gentleman for a story I was writing for the newspaper. I met him in a winter jacket as it was a cold day and I sat with it on the entire time in a coffee house.
The next time I saw this same elderly gentleman, it was in the spring and I was dressed for an event with much more skin showing.
Elderly gentleman (no, make that CAD): I see you've lost some weight, it is very flattering.
Me: (Seething) How crass of you to notice. What business do you have commenting on my weight?
(I didn't really say that - that's what I wanted to say to him. I just gave him a very surprised expression but I should have spoken up, right?)
To give you an idea how crazy it can be, here's a photo of my weight fluctuations. Now that you have had a look, note that ironically BOTH of these photos of me were taken on the EXACT SAME WEEKEND!!
So please, I beseech you, the next time you are tempted to say something about weight: Don't. The ego you spare by doing this may be your own someday.