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How Does Weight Affect our Relationships?

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The first thing we typically notice about another person is their physical appearance. But we are also on the receiving end of the same level of scrutiny, and it can be uncomfortable.

The first thing we typically notice about another person is their physical appearance. We see their eyes, their smile, their height and, of course, their weight. Everyone does it — it’s hard not to! What that means, of course, is that we are also on the receiving end of the same level of scrutiny, and it can be very uncomfortable.

With family and close friends who we have know for a long time, appearances becomes less important because they know the person we are inside as well outside. But when meeting someone new, especially a potential partner, the outside view can blind them to anything beyond their immediate perception. For people who are overweight or have obesity, this can be a deal-breaker, no matter how smart, funny and amazing that person is.

To make matter worse, stereotypes, stigmas and discrimination associated with obesity can cause new acquaintances to judge others based exclusively on their appearance, with no knowledge of an individual whatsoever. This can make the person on the receiving end self-conscious and uncomfortable and also affect their ability to form relationships and develop social groups. In some cases it can even lead to depression and anxiety.

While there are those who have such confidence — regardless of body type — that they build healthy relationships of all types, for others with obesity, the sting of judgement can affect their self-esteem. A Gallup poll confirms this with the finding that people who were overweight or had obesity were more likely to describe themselves as “struggling” or “suffering” versus “thriving,” as compared to healthy weight people. Women specifically, are more likely to be lonely and feel socially excluded.

Employing Positive Affirmations

So what do we do? We can’t stop meeting new people, and we shouldn’t! Having social connections to others is important to both mental and physical health. We can’t change other people’s thoughts and behaviors, so we have to focus on how we react. For example, when you look in the mirror, what is your first thought? Do you appreciate your beautiful eyes? Do you compliment yourself for the way you’ve done your hair? Or, do you focus on what you don’t like, including your weight? If that’s all you see and feel, you’re probably showing that dissatisfaction to others who see you.

To change how others see you, you have to change how you see yourself. It’s easier said than done, for sure, but absolutely necessary. Everyone has multiple parts and you are unquestionably good at many, if not most of them, regardless of weight. You may be a great parent, a gifted artist of some type, an organized leader who creates calm from chaos, an incredible friend — whatever it is, embrace your gifts and talents and genuine goodness! Acknowledge these wonderful things about yourself by speaking positive affirmations to yourself, and say them aloud so you actually hear them somewhere besides inside your head.

This approach is easier for some than others, and certainly depression and other mental health issues would benefit from professional support. But it makes a lot of sense. Think about how others react when you are kind to them versus when you are confrontational. We get back what we put out, so why not put out your very best, kindest, most supportive words for someone who truly deserves them: YOU!

About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.

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