Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever seen somebody who has lost a lot of weight?

Have you wanted to say something but felt unsure of what to say in English?

Do you want to compliment them without offending them?

Weight loss is a touchy and complex issue in American culture. Today we’re going to show you what the right things are to say and how to work through this cultural situation.

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Here’s a letter from a listener that talks about this situation firsthand.

Hi Lindsay and Michelle

My name is Moonhee, and I live in Texas. I love your podcast because it keeps me motivated! Thanks to you guys! I have a question.

I met a person I know a few days ago and it was so obvious that she lost lots of weight. It was such a big change so I couldn’t resist asking her a question. “Did you work out? You lost a lot of weight!”

She didn’t seem to feel bad about my remark, but I started wondering if I did hurt her feelings by pointing out her new look. She is American by the way. I heard that American people usually don’t mention anything about others’ looks. Is it inappropriate to say something about someone’s looks even if it’s a good thing? Or is there a better way to say something like that?

It was such an big change so I thought that I couldn’t just ignore it. I just thought that ignoring such a big change would not be good manners, but is it the same with Americans? Can you give me some advice on this?

Thank you!!

– Moonhee

Knowing How To Navigate This Situation

This is a tough situation, but an important one to know how to handle.

It’s so personal and cultural as well, and so you want to be prepared.

Generally, people tend to be happy when others recognize their weight loss, especially if it’s a lot of weight.

If it’s very little or if you feel unsure, then the person may be embarrassed if you say something.

They may feel that others didn’t know that they had put weight on in the first place.

If the weight loss is significant then it’s probably something that they worked hard for–and they would love the acknowledgment and positive reinforcement.

Assess the situation and then say something if you feel comfortable or if they weight loss is significant just to be sure.

So How Do You Say It?

So if you recognize that the weight loss is significant, how do you say it?

What Moonhee said is good but maybe asking “Did you work out?” as the first thing is a bit direct in some situations.

Saying something like “you lost lots of weight” is also slightly direct.

There are other positive ways to convey your thoughts and make the person feel good, such as:

  1. You look incredible! Did you lose weight?** (optional)- saying how good the person looks first will put a smile on their face.
  2. Wow you look great–what’s your secret?
  3. You’ve been working really hard, and it shows! Great job!

Now, how could you answer these questions.

On the other side of this, how can you talk about your own weight loss?

  1. Yeah I took off about ____ pounds!
  2. I shed a ton of weight by….
  3. I’ve been working out a lot and watching my diet, so I have lost weight. Thanks for noticing!
  4. Thanks for noticing, I feel great!

Follow the lead of the person and then you will know what you feel comfortable saying.


It’s important to be careful in these situations.

How well do you know the person?

How much weight does it look like they lost? Did you know they were on a diet or trying to lose weight?

I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference as much as a personal comfort in the situation.

It may very well be cultural, and so it’s interesting to consider how this is handled in other cultures as well.

Above all, read the situation and be as complimentary as possible to make the person feel good.

That’s what it’s all about and ensuring that you feel comfortable in the situation itself.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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