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Sexual Wellness

Dear Iris: Stop the Weight Talk

Dear Iris,

Chemo has affected my weight, and I’m uncomfortable when people comment on it. How do I deal with this?


Dear A,

Oftentimes when people comment on someone’s weight or appearance when they are going through cancer treatment, they intend for these comments to be “well-meaning.” It could be they think the weight loss or weight gain looks “good” on you or they might be expressing concerns to you about weight changes out of care and love for you. Depending on the relationship you have with the person there are a few ways you could choose to respond.

With a close friend/relative, you may choose to be open and vulnerable with them. Explain that right now comments about your weight and appearance are difficult to hear, that you are struggling with these issues. Ask them not to make comments related to how you look. You can even give them alternatives of things to say.

Instead of “You look so great,” “I’m happy to see you gained some weight back,” “You’ve lost a little weight and it looks good on you,” direct them to say things like, “I’m so happy to see you” or “I’m so glad we get to spend time together.”

For someone you aren’t close with, your best bet is to deflect the conversation to a different topic. Change the subject entirely (i.e., talk about current events, sports or entertainment news, or events related to family and kids). Or you can give a shortened explanation about how comments on your appearance are not helpful right now. Consider something like, “Thanks for your concerns but I really don’t want to talk about my weight today.”

Have a question?

Michelle Fingeret, PhD

Clinical Psychologist

Fingeret Psychology Services

Dr. Michelle Fingeret has spent the last 18 years providing body image counseling to adult cancer survivors. As a psychologist specializing in body image and cancer, she’s worked extensively in both outpatient and inpatient settings providing therapy to individuals, couples, and groups.

This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.