Dealing with Unwanted Weight Loss Compliments

By Amy Dickinson | November 24th, 2023

Another good old Southern comeback besides ‘bless her heart’

female cancer survivor on her sofa at home, for article on managing unwanted weight loss compliments. Image by Wichayada Sunwannachun

A woman lost weight from her cancer battle. She resents the random weight loss compliments and wonders how to react. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson recommends.

Dear Amy:

During the pandemic, I was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

After my treatment was completed, my doctor prescribed medication that may reduce the recurrence of this cancer.

These drugs have many different side effects. One of the side effects I am experiencing is weight loss.

What do I say when someone says, “Oh, you’ve lost weight … looking great!”

I consider my health very personal information. If it is someone I know fairly well and am comfortable with them knowing about my health, I may tell them I have cancer. But when my mechanic mentioned my weight loss, I did not know at all what to say.

I think I just smiled (weakly).

Maybe I am handling this situation in an OK way, but it unsettles me when this happens.

How would you reply in my situation?

– Recovering

Dear Recovering:

Honestly, I’d probably reply as you have done – because the comment, which is meant as a compliment, is actually loaded with subtext, leading you to wonder, for instance, if you didn’t look so “great” before you became ill.

This has been discussed at other times in this space, but the overall assumption that someone who is thin (or has become thinner) “looks great” is one that is increasingly challenged by people who don’t necessarily want for their bodies – even their thin bodies – to be scrutinized and commented upon.

You might honestly respond, “Well, I’ve been dealing with some health problems,” but this would probably invite more inquiries and discussion about your health.

This could be an opportunity to use the traditional Southern comeback. This works in many different contexts, delivering a weird sort of polite-seeming passive-aggressive satisfaction to the person uttering it.

Here’s how to deploy this nugget: You simply make eye contact and say, “Well, aren’t you sweet.”

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from unwanted weight loss compliments to dark family secrets and DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2023 by Amy Dickinson

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