my new coworker is obsessed with other people’s weight

A reader writes:

I recently started a position at an organization working on a long-term project with two others (my boss and a colleague, “Brad,” who is in the same position as I am). Given the nature of our industry, the three of us will work closely together for a long time without much work-related interaction with others. So far I get along with both well, but I’ve recently noticed something about Brad that’s putting me off a bit. In nearly every conversation we’ve had so far (some not work-related, others tangentially related), Brad has brought up people being fat/overweight. For example, I might mention someone I know in our industry and he’ll say, “Oh, that big fat guy,” or we’re talking about a news story and he mentions how a public figure has gotten “really fat” or how a celebrity “looks like he won’t make it past 30” because of his weight.

I find this completely weird and inappropriate. These instances have taken place in a short period of time, so the weight of others seems to be a bit of an obsession for Brad. Not that it matters, but for context, none of the three of us are overweight and nor are many people in our department. But my partner (who Brad hasn’t met but will eventually) is a bit overweight and I find his comments bizarre and offensive.

How should I respond when he makes these comments? After one instance when it had happened a few times, I said something along the lines of “that’s an interesting thing to focus on.” But based on how frequently it’s happened so far, I expect he’ll make similar comments again. We will be working very closely together over the next several years so I’d like to maintain a good working relationship and not involve our supervisor if possible. But these comments have made me rethink the way I perceived Brad, made me feel uncomfortable, and I worry will impact my ability to have a collegial relationship with him.

Yeah, Brad is being rude.

It’s rude to comment on other people’s bodies, and it’s rude to keep bringing up weight to a captive audience (like in a workplace).

The approach you’ve tried so far — “that an interesting thing to focus on” — is the kind of hint someone more attuned to other people’s comfort might have picked up on. But apparently that’s not Brad, so it’s worth being more direct. Some examples:

  • “I don’t like commenting on other people’s bodies like that. I’d rather you not do it around me.”
  • “I don’t want to talk about other people’s weight.”
  • “That’s a rude thing to say about someone.”
  • “That’s such an awful way to speak about someone.”
  • “Wow, please don’t talk about other people’s bodies that way.”
  • “Can you lay off the weight talk?”

I’m guessing you might feel a little uneasy about being that direct or you would have done it already. But think of this as an investment in your working relationship with Brad: If you don’t spell it out clearly for him, he’s going to continue making the comments, and it’s going to keep affecting your working relationship and how you view him.

Moreover, what you’ll be asking for is a reasonable request, and if he takes issue with that, it’s a sign that he’s a boor who was going to cause problems sooner or later, so you might as well flush it out now if it’s the case. On the other hand, if he’s a reasonably decent person who just hasn’t thought very deeply on this topic, then it’s a favor to him to let him know how his comments are landing. A decent person would want the chance to modify their behavior if they were inadvertently offending a colleague.

You’re going to learn a lot more about Brad by how he responds. (Reserve judgment for a few days, though. Some people don’t respond well to being called out in the moment because they’re embarrassed but do end up changing their behavior afterwards.)

{ 370 comments… read them below }

          1. Doctor Fun!*

            There’s got to be a class action lawsuit we can get in on, we’re all entitled to compensation.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                I started with a new therapist a while ago and they asked if I had any history of disordered eating. I had to think about it, because being a teen girl in the 90s basically involved a sort of ambient restrictive eating disorder. My mom started trying to get me to do Weight Watchers when I was 10 and by high school no one ate lunch.

                It was a hell of a decade.

                1. Tired and Confused*

                  This happened to me too! I was like “I don’t know, I was a teenager in 90s…” and my therapist just gave me this sorry look. The other day my daughter came from a doctor’s appointment utterly fascinated by the fact that the doctor had the thing we use to measure stuff in the kitchen (we are in Europe so we use grams in recipes) but for PEOPLE!

                2. Same Old Same Old*

                  This was also the case in the 70s and 80s. I remember my grandmother asking me when I was 8-9 years old (so late 1970s early 1980s) when I was going to start dieting, because I clearly needed to. Looking back on pictures of myself as a child, this is absolutely bananapants…but 40+ years later here I am with those thoughts stuck in my head.

                3. Bitte Meddler*

                  High school in the 80’s, I ate sandwiches made with whole-grain bread (carbs weren’t “evil” yet), Dijon mustard, and iceberg lettuce.

                  Meats and cheese were too “fatty” and had too many calories.

                  In college, to ward of the Freshman Fifteen, I drank Metamucil for breakfast and lunch (gotta get that fiber!) and took a bunch of vitamin supplements in an attempt to give my body some nutrition.

                4. AKchic*

                  My mother was always on a fad diet in the 90’s. I was an underweight child and would constantly hear her complain about her weight. Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, “grape fruit diet”, “jello diet”, “liquid diet”, Amway diet (oh yeah, they had a diet program and my mom and first stepdad were peddlers of that filth). My mother didn’t lose any weight on any diet because she made no lifestyle changes while on her diets.
                  Everyone else in the house suffered because when one person was on a diet, EVERYONE had to be on a diet because “it has to be fair”. And people wonder about my disordered eating even as an adult.

                5. Le Anon*

                  I feel compelled to shout out my mom, who somehow managed to not make this my experience (elder millennial), although I wish she had gotten help for herself. I never realized how deep her issues ran until I was visiting her as an adult and she burst into tears because I didn’t notice she’d lost weight. It takes a hell of a lot of very deliberate effort to not pass that on. Thanks, Mom.

      1. pandop*

        “You-haven’t-lost-any-weight-have-you-would-you-like-a-chocolate-biscuit” – my Nana. Usually all in one breath.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              I laughed out loud!

              Sometimes I think I love puns too much for my own good. X-p

      1. anonymous 5*

        talk about the workplace being “like a FAAAAAAAAAAAAAMILY!!!!!!!!!” equaling a toxic environment!

    1. Throwaway Account*

      Given my mother’s behavior at home and these comments, I now wonder what she was like at work and if you work with my mother!

    2. Essentially Cheesy*

      Or my mother. I think she wants me to lose weight more than she wants me to get married/have children.

          1. Bear Expert*

            I lost 20 lbs in my first trimester and never gained anything after that. Hyperemesis is brutal.

            Why yes, I did get a lot of personalized attention from a large and varied medical staff while I was pregnant.

    3. Ruby Soho*

      Or my father, who ironically has one skinny-ish daughter and one very overweight daughter. Funny how that worked out, huh?

    4. Barb*

      Or my deceased MIL. And as her dementia progressed, she’d be loud and vocal when out in public and I would just cringe. If we saw a larger person approaching us, she say (loudly) – “OH! That person has a PROBLEM!”

      At least before the dementia, she’d restrict her comments (as far as I know) to the people who she knew in real life. Including my larger SIL who once received an article in the mail from MIL with a comment she’d added (with a red marker so it couldn’t be missed), “Is your THYROID making you fat?”

      1. Frankie D.*

        I was surprised it took this many comments for a MIL to enter the chat. Definitely the worst offender in my life. At least it’s my MIL though – sympathy to all those whose moms and dads are the body police.

      2. Frieda*

        My (now former) MIL, still living, no dementia, used to tell stories where a common aside was “and were they FAT!” and finally I started acting puzzled, cocking my head to one side like a puppy and saying “But wait, what was the point of the part about their weight?” and she’d give me a dirty look.

        She could not then and cannot now out-stubborn me, so she eventually had to stop or just have me faux-confused every single time.

        It was great for her kids and grand kids, let me tell you what.

    5. Gmezzy*

      Yeah, I agree with this. I’ve had friends who would joke about people’s weight and talk about diet/eating habits a lot. I’ve been shutting it down in my circles with something like “oh I don’t like to talk about other people’s bodies” or “hearing about this makes it hard for me to have a healthy view of my body and eating.” Recently, I heard one of the previously worst offenders in my life use the same language to shut someone else down.

      I think it’s important to remember that this specific interaction, where you push back on it, may not be the thing that changed things (and might have a quick, initial backlash), but over time a lot of people do learn.

      I’d add another reason to say something – there’s a huge number of people who struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia, who could be triggered by this kind of a culture. You’re doing everyone a favor by pushing against it. Especially with him being new, you can set the expectation that this behavior is inappropriate so he can get himself sorted and acting right.

      1. Jiminy Cricket*

        I love hearing that this message sank in and helped other people!

        It really can be as simple as, “Nah. I don’t talk about people’s weight. Hand me that wrench.”

        1. JustaTech*

          I’m amazed how hard it has been to say this to my mom. She was commenting on one of the presenters of the Great British Baking Show and I just couldn’t shove the words out of my mouth – “Let’s not comment on other people’s bodies”.
          I feel terrible about it because it is important to me that she stop commenting on people’s bodies before my kiddo is old enough to understand (he’s one).
          I have no idea why it was so hard to say – I guess I need to practice in the mirror.

          1. Dawbs*

            it is HARD to push parents.

            They’re the amazing wonderful people who raised us, who we love. And it’s gonna hurt their feelings.
            but it’s also gonna protect our kids.

            and it is HARD when my kid calls me out in the things I do wrong, but sometimes she’s right, i screwed up (and i get to apologize and model the apology- which is harder now that she’s a teenager in some ways)

            i do find a “least said, soonest mended” approach works best with reasonable parents- say the words. pause a beat to let them sink in. If they sputter/verbally respond, only make non-committal mmm-hmmm noises.
            And after that pause, have a new topic in your back pocket- so you can restart a safe conversion (maybe about what monstrosity Pru is wwearing.)

          2. Le Anon*

            A lot of reasons, for sure. One of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to make myself have in my life was asking my mom not to smoke in my car when I started driving my own vehicle. She didn’t even push back! But I was mortified and terrified to even bring it up.

      2. Hot Flash Gordon*

        I struggled with anorexia for years and still have body image issues and really have a hard time listening to people discuss exercise and diet for weight loss. I don’t mind people talking about food and exercise, but when it involves Diet Culture, I get really uncomfy.

    6. LW*

      Seeing all these comments about people’s mothers & grandmothers is so interesting. I have also experienced this with my mother, but I’m realizing that part of why Brad’s comments are so bizarre to me is that we are both part of a younger generation that is by and large very “body positive,” as opposed to our parents’ generation, which is portrayed as having diet culture really thrown at them through magazines/fashion/commercials.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, but even younger folks were raised by those parents, and some people internalize those messages more than others.

        1. House On The Rock*

          This is me. I’m a solid Gen-Xer, grew up with all kinds of diet and exercise culture thrown at me along with fat shaming relatives and a mom whose weight yo-yo’d due to constant calorie restriction. It’s taken decades for me to (mostly) come to terms with my own body and have a (mostly) healthy relationship with diet and exercise, but it’s been a journey. Now I feel like the least I can do is speak up so others don’t have to get quite so much of this poison.

    7. LifeBeforeCorona*

      My late mother, weight is the first things she notices and comments on. As soon as she finished visiting or talking with anyone she comments on their weight. About 2 months after I had my daughter and weighed about 10lbs more than before pregnancy she called me fat. So…she had issues.

    8. Bitte Meddler*

      Not my mom, but my dad. And throw in a side of misogyny because he only applies his fat-shaming to women (because women’s main function in life is to be pleasing to het men).

      I was visiting him one time and we went to a local diner. I ordered a turkey burger and fries. As I took the first bit of fries my dad said, “You know that eating food like that is why you’re fat, right?”

      I stood up so fast that I knocked my chair over, looked down and patted myself wildly, and exclaimed — very loudly — “I’m *FAT*?? Oh my god, why didn’t anyone ever tell me?! I am SO embarrassed!!”

      And then I righted my chair and went back to eating my fries as everyone in the restaurant pretended to not be paying attention.

      Later that day, I had a serious / non-snarky conversation with my dad about how his comments about my weight provided zero positive value to me but a ton of negative value.

      To his credit, he shut up about my weight. Still bad-mouths other women, though.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        I love this! If I figured out what was going on I would have been applauding you!

        And I’m going to do it the next time my snarky SiL makes a public comment about my weight.

    9. AKchic*

      or the majority of my family! Even though all of them are overweight, they are very fatphobic and act as if they are as svelte as the models on the cover of Victoria Secret catalogs, while ignoring their own rotund figures.

  1. Lilo*

    So the problem with the Brads of the world is they absolutely know what they’re doing. So I think if you engage directly it will go badly. So of you really don’t want to engage your supervisor I’d go with more of the “wow” and disgust response, not something that gives him purchase to be defensive. I realize that’s a needle to thread. But this day and age, I don’t see how Brad isn’t doing this deliberately.

    1. OtterB*

      I’m not sure this is true. I think your awareness (generic you) of it as a problem depends on who you socialize with and what media you consume. There are enough people who treat this as a normal form of conversation that Brad isn’t necessarily intending to be offensive. He may think he’s just making small talk. Which is why being direct might fix it.

      BTW, not saying this is *right*, of course. Just that it’s common.

      1. Yoyoyo*

        Agreed, this kind of thinking and commentary is so entrenched that I would wager many, many people have no awareness of the problematic nature of these types of comments.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yes! Others below mentioned Aubrey Gordon and Maintenance Phase, but I also heard her speak to this more broadly (and with fewer swears) on a recent Sporkful episode. I hope Sporkful listeners who are not Maintenance Phase listeners were paying attention to what she was saying about how extremely entrenched anti-fatness is and how people equate being fat with being unhealthy and they use that as their excuse for why they care about other people’s weights when in fact they’re really doing it because they don’t like to see fat people living their lives. But this still can be subconscious; people might not be aware of the real reason for their anti-fatness, they just buy into the fat = unhealthy nonsense.

          Some of that she might actually have said on a recent episode of the Allusionist and not Sporkful, I don’t recall…but anyway, I’m loving the podcast crossover that I’m getting because of Aubrey’s press junket.

          And for the record, being fat is not unhealthy. Research in that area is pretty flimsy or has even been messed around with so that it shows that fat does equal unhealthy, because if it didn’t it would mean the theories are incorrect. Because they are.

              1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                Wait, there’s a documentary coming?!
                (I wear my bright yellow CITATION NEEDED shirt with pride)

            1. The Rural Juror*

              Same. I love it so much and it’s opened my eyes and mind tremendously. I’ve recommended it to many friends.

            2. Lizzo*

              Same – I consider myself to be very open minded but golly I’ve learned a lot and have reexamined a LOT of my thought processes as a result of what they’ve had to say. One of the best podcasts of all time, IMO.

          1. NCA*

            And also, being unhealthy isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’d much rather be unhealthy than unkind, for example. (Mind you, I have a number of chronic conditions that /do/ make living an active lifestyle painful, so my view may be biased)

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Ah, yes, there’s that other issue that some people just are unhealthy through no fault of their own (hello, chronic conditions) so when someone says they don’t like fat people because they are unhealthy, are they also saying that they don’t like people who are just unhealthy even if they’re not fat? Anti-fat people would say, “Oh, no, of course not!” So when you point out to them that, if the reason they’re saying they’re anti-fat is just “concern for the fat person’s health,” that’s *exactly* what they’re doing with fat people, they get really defensive and/or angry. Because they realize that what you’re saying is that they, the anti-fat person, is either a terrible person for being anti-unhealthy people or because they are, in fact, just anti-fat.

              And also there’s a misconception that being fat is the fault of the person who is fat and that if only they had self-control they would lose all the weight and therefore they must be lazy. But y’all know that old yarn by now. (We’ve a whole thread on it later in this thread, even!)

              1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                Yeah, many people really do not feel comfortable with the idea that a lot of what happens to us is random and totally outside of our control. If health and weight are actually not in their control, they might get sick or have their bodies be bigger than the socially-accepted ideal. It’s a scary thought and they can’t handle it, so they act like jerks as a psychological defence mechanism. (An explanation, not an excuse / justification).

              1. daffodil*

                not everybody actually can be healthy in all senses. The point is maybe health is morally neutral.

              2. Dawbs*

                the problem with that being what we “should” be is that it sounds like it’s something we should aspire to.

                Tomorrow morning, regardless of what i do tonight, I’m going to wake up in pain. And tomorrow, regardless of what i do, I’m going to struggle to do some stuff because of how my body is.

                It’s but that I”should” be anything- it’s that our ableist world ‘should’ accept me where I’m at.

          2. Tall one*

            >And for the record, being fat is not unhealthy.
            I am all in favour of body positivity but this statement is equally as true and as untrue as a statement that not being fat is or is not unhealthy and pretty nonsensical as an argument in any debate unless you are a medical professional.

            – whether someone is unhealthy because of bodyweight both high or low is heavily dependant on the individual. Extreme high or low weight does not need to cause health problems but it definitely can and to deny that is unkind and unhelpful, because none of that is any of anyone problem if it is not your body. But you get to decide how big of a problem you want it to be for yourself and if you yourself do consider it a problem toxic positivity about body image or denial of facts about ones health situation is not ok.
            Any discussion focussing on whether someone is healthy or not is inappropriate, that is what you should focus on, not countering unsupported claims with equally unsupported claims.

            1. Nicole Maria*

              All of what you said still doesn’t change the fact that being fat isn’t unhealthy though

              Poor nutrition and not exercising can cause health issues at any size, but the correlation between weight and health is very low

              1. Tall One*

                Once again, if you feel good with how you look, good for you. Everyone deserves that. But the correlation between over/underweight and heart and vascular disease is plenty strong. Is it the only cause? No. Is it always the cause? No. Will you get it if you are not ideal weight? You might or might not. Will you not get it if you live perfectly healthy? Chances are not zero. That is the truth with statistics, they seldom say a lot about any single individual.
                But saying that there is no correlation is flat out wrong. People should be informed about health risks. Not too judge them on it, but because people deserve to know the truth, and not to be lied to out of some false sense of positivity.

                1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                  The thing about correlation is that it doesn’t establish causation. And much of the research that shows these correlations are poorly designed and reported. Like, they don’t control for other variables that could be important. Or they emphasize the couple correlations that are statistically significant and brush under the rug the majority that are not statistically significant, while not adjusting for the familywise error rates. (Basically, each analysis comes with a risk of saying there was an effect when there actually wasn’t. When you do a bunch of analyses, that error risk goes up. If you do enough analyses and don’t correct for this, the odds of finding a spurious correlation are extremely high). And that’s not even including things like people manipulating their data to get the results they expected publication bias, where things that confirm previously held beliefs are much more likely to be published than things that contradict them.

                  The Maintenance Phase podcast goes into a lot of detail on these issues.

            2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              I think there’s some misunderstanding here. What we’re saying is that being fat isn’t *inherently* unhealthy, unlike what much of society would have you believe.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Especially as he isn’t calling anybody he is speaking to or their immediate family or friends fat. I am not saying that makes it in any way OK; it doesn’t, but a lot of people feel that insulting celebrities and so on doesn’t matter as they won’t know and it doesn’t occur to them that they are, by implication, also insulting anybody else with the same body type.

        Plus a lot of people assume that everybody who is not in the group being targetted agrees with their biases and because the people he is talking to are either slim or of average weight, he may well assume they share his biases on this.

        Again, I’m not defending Brad here. What he is saying is not OK, but I suspect he may well be oblivious to the fact that his audience might not agree with him.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Yup, or anyone with a body type / size that is considered less desirable than the one being criticized. Like, if Brad says that about [celebrity], he must think my body is even worse.

      3. Sloanicota*

        I think I would agree. I have a friend like this, who seems to view almost everybody through the lens of weight. He is on the heftier side himself and I think puts a lot of energy into trying not to be more so, so he’s just … preoccupied with weight all the time, 24/7. I have tried different approaches to coax him into not interacting with me this way, and just generally not commenting on people’s bodies big or small. Mixed results. But I wouldn’t say it’s because he’s deliberately trying to be obnoxious. It’s more like he’s fixated and can’t stop bringing it up.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          He’s probably unconsciously portraying The Good Fattie – he knows how “bad” his weight is and he proves it to everyone else by judging all the fat people around him. It’s a way of fitting in with the thin folks.

          1. Erin*

            Standard marginalised-group behaviour: “I’m not like all those other [literally anything]”

            inherently self-hating :-(

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I think they’ve said on Maintenance Phase that the people who used to be “overweight” but lost weight can be just as harsh – or harsher than – others about people’s bodies.

      4. LW*

        I think in my case you’re right that he’s unaware that what he’s doing is inappropriate. For some context, I am American but working in another country. This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone in this country talk this way, and I’m certain it’s not considered appropriate here especially in a work context. But like you said some people consider this normal wherever they are, and my guess is that Brad speaks this way with his friends and has a pretty awful social media algorithm.

      5. kiki*

        Yeah. While it’s hard for me to think about saying anything like this in a post-Maintenance Phase world, sometimes I look back to media published from the aughts to early 2010s and remember how normalized commentary like this was. And honestly a lot of even meaner, nastier stuff was said about the weights of people who I’d consider quite slender today in major publications, sometimes even by people I’d otherwise consider respectable journalists.

        Some people are definitely being intentionally terrible about weight in the year 2024, but I think there are a number of people whom, for whatever reason, never got the update that we don’t say things like that anymore. I recently had a discussion about this with my Grandma, who was definitely judgmental about weight. She got with the program surprisingly quickly after that. I honestly think she found the conversation freeing– she was judgmental about it with others because she had internalized those judgments about her own body as well. She was able to let go that criticism she had for others AND herself.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I wish this freedom for my mother. She hates her body and I have gotten caught in the crossfire of that.

      6. aebhel*

        Yeah, and in either case, a blunt ‘that’s rude and I don’t want to hear it’ may work – if nothing else, it strips away the plausible deniability of ‘just making conversation!’

        Once you tell him out loud in words that what he’s doing is offensive, he no longer gets to pretend that he doesn’t realize it’ll offend you.

    2. Weight, What?*

      I disagree (at least slightly) that everyone who does this knows what they’re doing. I find my “inside” voice having thoughts like that sometimes about celebrities and realize I don’t want my thoughts learning to entrain on age, weight or appearance issues.
      But Brad may not realize using an “outside” voice is inappropriate. He may have the sort of toddler brain that thinks it’s an ok topic (since everyone should want to be “healthy”, right?). Definitely time to introduce him to the adult workplace filter.

      1. Weight, What?*

        And fwiw, I didn’t like it in. my younger years when people complimented my lean body “because I deserved recognition for the work I put in on my health”, when it was nothing but metabolism and genetics. It was still intrusive assumptions about me.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          (CW: mention of eating disorder)

          Same. I don’t know that this is why I don’t judge people on their weight (or I try not to, at least), but I have lived experience that my weight had absolutely nothing to do with anything I was doing or not doing; I ate fine, including a lot of junk food, and didn’t do any regular exercise until a few years after I finished grad school and suddenly had time for non-academic hobbies. When I started taking meds in my 30s that caused me to gain a bit of weight so that I was no longer a skinny beanpole, my doc told me that I should lose weight because I was heading into the “overweight” category. I would just roll my eyes at him because even then I knew that “overweight” was BS and also that I had spent my entire teen years so skinny that I was asked if I was eating (yes) so it was total nonsense that a small amount of weight gain tipped me from the “possibly anorexic” category into the “overweight” category. Apparently there’s an approximately five pound range of correct weight for women, I guess?

          1. Ruby Soho*

            This might be true! I had a doctor tell me to lose weight because I gained 6 lbs in 1 year. I mean, what?!?!

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Weighing more has actually been proven to be helpful to older people, too. I know of several people in their 70s and 80s who get excited when they lose weight but, like, that’s NOT what they should be focusing on at their age. If…sorry, WHEN…they have any medical issues they will have better outcomes if they have a bit of weight on their frame and aren’t whatever “healthy” weight some random person decided on. But it’s so engrained in our society and especially in the heads of these people (and a lot of their doctors, argh) that losing weight is always good that they don’t stop to look at the evidence that being skinny is NOT predictive of good health outcomes for older people.

              Argh. Makes me want to hulk smash.

              1. Texan in exile on her phone*

                My mom is almost 81 and she still tells me how much weight she’s lost or gained when we talk.

                1. Jezebella*

                  Mine too. It’s so sad that my mom lives or dies by that damn bathroom scale, her whole worth is STILL wrapped up in her weight.

              2. NotJane*

                So infuriating! I remember going to visit my grandma (who was in her mid-90s) in the nursing home and she would say she had to skip dessert because she’d gained a couple of pounds.

                1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                  Argh! Towards the end of my grandma’s life she wasn’t eating a whole lot and my mother would make her coffee with lots of milk and sugar and then mentioned to her own eye doctor what utter junk food she was giving to my grandmother. The doc said, “She’s 98 years old and you’re concerned about the quality of her diet when she is hardly eating anything? Just be happy she’s getting some calories at all!” Mom was like, oh, yeah, right, good point. (My mother has a lot of ingrained anti-fatness and weight hang-ups but she is at least trying to learn how to overcome them so I try to be patient with her about them.)

                2. Hannah Lee*

                  A very good friend of mine was recovering from a bad car accident, and complications and after over nearly 2 months in the hospital was finally cleared to eat solid food, vs just sucking ice chips, water, clear tea etc.

                  An older relative came to visit that week, and brought her a small container of low fat cottage cheese and diet ginger ale, making some comment about how since she was in bed all day, not getting exercise, she should probably watch what she eats.

                  Friend tells that story with the world’s biggest eye roll: she’d nearly died several times, was extremely lucky to be able to speak and have all her limbs and the use of them, was physically a shadow of her previous self, and this person though THE most important thing was for her was to be reminded to watch her weight.

              3. Panhandlerann*

                Yes, my mom worried about her weight (and was somewhat larger) and dieted a lot for years.Now, at 91, she is in the early stages of dementia. She is also very frail and underweight. She hardly eats and seems to be operating as if she still were larger and needed to “watch her weight.”

                1. allathian*

                  Oh, dear, I’m so sorry for your mom.

                  My paternal grandma died from the effects of dementia just before her 80th birthday. She basically stopped eating and drinking, and her veins were so bad that she couldn’t be fed intravenously (even if she could’ve been, she might’ve ripped out the IV), and I remember her doctor telling my parents that many dementia patients die because they lose their sense of hunger, stop eating, and essentially starve themselves to death. My grandma was 5 ft 5 in tall and she weighed less than 90 lbs when she died. She had been overweight in her 40s, but she was on the thin side of normal weight when I knew her.

              4. Jaydee*

                My mom was still dieting on purpose to lose weight in her early 70s. Then she just wasn’t eating well because she’s not much of a cook anyway and her Alzheimer’s made it harder to make coherent meals. This past summer she moved into assisted living and within a few months of having access to a varied menu of tasty things for 3 meals a day, she had plumped up nicely. I was thrilled – but of course said nothing to her. I have mentioned to her that actually having a few extra pounds is healthier in older adults because you have some actual stores to help you get through an illness or recovery from an injury, and she seemed to accept that as a legitimate science thing. So baby steps.

          2. Chirpy*

            I once worked a very physical job where I lost most of my fat and replaced it with muscle over a few months…absolutely no weight loss, but I had visible abs! Best shape of my life, and I was still 40 lbs over what I was “supposed to be” for BMI because that crap doesn’t actually measure fitness or health.

            1. JustaTech*

              *Bangs head in Public Health* BMI is for measuring populations, not individuals. And not small populations, either! Like, whole cities! It is supposed to be one of many tools used to look for trends that need further, detailed investigation.

              (And why does it exist? Because it’s easier/cheaper/less invasive to measure people’s height and weight than most everything else, and BMI is more meaningful than just plain weight. When you’re using a measuring tool you have to ask why you picked that tool over others, and sometimes the answer is “this is the only one I have, or the only one I can afford”.)

          3. Lizzo*

            I was *SHOCKED* when I, after spending all of my teens, 20s, and 30s being VERY thin (genetics + active life + mostly good choices about food quantity and quality), and gaining 5 pounds with every new decade I put on about 5 pounds in a year (hello middle age), and I thought, “Well, I guess I’m about average for my height now…”

            Reader, my medical records now say that I am OVERWEIGHT.

            The BMI is bullsh*t.

            1. Nicole Maria*

              I’m pretty short so the “healthy weight” range for someone at my height is less than 30 lbs. The idea that every woman my height, with every natural variation of musculature, breast size, etc. “should” weigh within 30 lbs is wild

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          I’m now imagining how hurtful it could be if that was said to somebody who was thin as a result of ill health (anorexia, cancer, depression, a condition that made them too nauseous to eat…).

          Not that it’s not weird and invasive in any case, but if somebody had say lost weight due to cancer, I’d imagine being told they deserved recognition for working so hard on their health and losing weight” would be even worse.

          1. Quantum Possum*

            Yeah…as someone whose hormones have apparently decided that my body doesn’t need any fat on these old(ish) bones, I don’t appreciate it when people assume that being thinner means you’re healthy and awesome.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              I have an under active thyroid and my close friend has an over active one. We’ve had some interesting conversations sharing experiences from opposite sides of that spectrum.

              1. Quantum Possum*

                Yeah, my thyroid and I are no longer on friendly terms, lol.

                Invisible hug – thyroid issues suuuuuck.

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I mean, I think this is part of the myriad of reasons that people can develop chronic eating disorders, because other people who don’t know of the disorder compliment them on losing weight, because losing weight is so virtuous, dontcha know? (That last part is totally sarcasm.) So the disorder perpetuates. And even if the person is in remission and is eating healthily, they must be mighty strong to combat all that “losing weight is virtuous” talk coming at them from everywhere. It’s so frustrating that in the US at least, food is seen as the enemy and there’s so much judgement about all of it all the time. I imagine that eating disorders are harder to deal with if you’re in remission than a lot of substance abuse disorders, because you can’t just completely cut out food the way you can drugs or alcohol, and people comment on food choices and weight WRT “virtue” ALL the time.

            I actually had a friend who I stopped communicating with in part because she brought this stuff up all the time and even when I tried to explain some of why she was wrong she wouldn’t stop talking that way. I also think she was insulted that I dare question her views, so it was kind of a mutual break-up, I guess.

            As to your second paragraph, Irish Teacher, wasn’t there a letter last year from someone who lost a lot of weight for an unhealthy reason and was trying to figure out before returning to work how to head weight comments off at the pass? Yes, I think it’s ridiculous that weight loss has become so virtuous that no one stops to think that it’s not necessarily (or ever?) a good thing.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                The first one. I’d forgotten about that second one but that’s also apropos. And let’s not forget the one with the full-on banana suit update about the colleague who wouldn’t stop harassing the LW about her unplanned and medically-caused weight loss. (I saw other comments about it below, so I do know it hasn’t been forgotten.)

                1. Hlao-roo*

                  Yeah, I was sadly not surprised to find there were multiple letters that fit your description :(

                  I will never forget the “HR won’t do anything about a coworker who’s angry about my weight loss” letter and update! That one was a wild ride!

          3. MigraineMonth*

            The most stressful year of my life, I was grieving, lonely and nauseated all the time. I drank those Ensure shakes with extra calories because I couldn’t eat enough solid food.

            People telling me I looked great and complimenting me on my weight loss made me want to punch them and/or curl up in a ball and cry. So glad my misery gives you aesthetic pleasure, a-hole.

          4. kiki*

            I had a friend with anorexia who said it was like having all the people of the world applaud while she was slowly killing herself. She would get so many compliments when she was the least healthy she has ever been.

          5. Lily Rowan*

            My mother absolutely said “She looks great!” to me about someone who had just gotten out of the hospital. I was like, “No, she looks like shit — she’s really sick — but she is thinner, yes.”

            1. Jezebella*

              I’ve literally seen people comment on pictures of a few friends of mine who had cancer about how at least they got to lose weight, what a great silver lining! Puke.

              1. AKchic*

                That’s how it was for me. I lost 30lbs when I was precancerous and dealt with everything. I didn’t tell people what was going on because it was the plague, I was busy working, and I didn’t want to worry my adult children. I knew I was going to be fine, so why worry anybody.
                Everyone was raving about how “great” I looked after losing weight and all I could do was think “but I just lost an ovary…”.

                I did finally start talking about it a year afterward, but I’d gained some of the weight back.

          6. Chirpy*

            I once had a friend’s mom who just would not drop how “great” I looked after losing weight. I’d merely gotten back down to the weight she’d met me at (before gaining a bunch) but I was veering into disordered eating on Noom and was just beginning to realize how badly.
            I didn’t know how to tell her how unhealthy it was. (they say it’s supposed to improve your eating via psychology and that you’re not cutting food groups, but it set my goals at such a low calorie amount that I was eating even less so I could “save” calories for an occasional piece of cheese…)

        3. RC*

          (Is your handle a Dara Ó Briain Taskmaster reference? Because that’s how I’m hearing it)

          Yeah my money’s on he’s just internalized it and doesn’t really realize he’s using his “outside voice,” but LW will know for sure when she sees how he responds.

          Btw, I’d be interested if anyone has come up with any good ally responses when people comment on my thinness (I really didn’t do anything! It’s basically entirely genetic, look at my mom’s whole passel of sisters! I actually should probably work out more cause my knees aren’t getting any younger, you just can’t tell that at first glance!). It’s always awkward and especially if it’s older people who I’m trying to maintain a good relationship with I don’t want to say something that would be calling them out for something that I realize is most likely just them projecting their own internalized worries onto me. “Thanks, but it’s entirely genetics” is what I usually go with, but it often feels inadequate.

          1. Jiminy Cricket*

            Would you feel comfortable saying, “Oh, my body isn’t up for discussion.” Or, “Oh, now, come on, I don’t talk about other people’s bodies.” Or, “It’s just how my body is. Let’s talk about something else.”

          2. Csethiro Ceredin*

            I shrug and make a kind of meh sound, then say something like “this is just the body I got. I’m not really here for weight talk, though, it’s pretty fraught for a lot of people.”

            Not sure if it’s a good response but it’s polite enough that I manage to get it out even to older folks (fighting years of conditioning to respect my elders) or at work.

          3. Nicole Maria*

            I’m not in any way saying you have to do this every time, but since you were asking for suggestions: I think if it’s someone you know well enough to have a conversation with I would make the comment about “it’s entirely genetics” and then expand on that a bit. I am not an Allison-level script writer but maybe something along the lines of “people tend to assume I eat a certain way work out a lot because of my appearance, but I actually don’t, you really can never tell based on what someone looks like”

        4. iglwif*

          I think I’ve said this before, but when I was 20-21 I lost a LOT of weight over a pretty brief period for absolutely no apparent reason. This should have been a DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! kind of moment, right? But it wasn’t, because … people kept telling me how great I looked and cheering me on for losing weight. And it was the mid-1990s, and I had never been given any encouragement not to buy into the fat = unhealthy, skinny = healthy paradigm.

          So it wasn’t until something else apparently unrelated (but actually FULLY related) happened that I took myself to the doctor, and by that time the ovarian tumour that had caused the diminished appetite, weight loss, and a bunch of other symptoms was the size of a grapefruit and adhering to a bunch of other organs.

          I’m not saying fatphobia delayed my cancer diagnosis by a year, but I’m not not saying that.

            1. iglwif*

              Aww thank you!

              The good news is that this was a long long time ago and I am fine (and significantly fatter) now :)

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        “He may have the sort of toddler brain that thinks it’s an ok topic”
        Because he’s commenting on overweight people. He does think that is OK.
        He is not commenting on every notable physical characteristic.
        He’s not saying, “man, her nose got here on the earlier bus.” or “that guy’s forehead is a fivehead” (which is about his level, “oh, the fat guy!”)
        and he definitely is not saying, “she is SO skinny!” or “That guy needs a steak sandwich with a side of steak sandwich.”
        He thinks it is totally fine to comment on overweight people.

      3. Retired Accountant*

        Or he’s one of those people who just vocalizes everything they are thinking, regardless of whether it is appropriate or even interesting. (Friend, if I buy a Coke I don’t need to hear about your brother-in-law who used to work for Pepsi.)

        I would just say I don’t monitor people’s weights and grey rock.

    3. Beth*

      The Brads of the world are perfectly aware that they’re being judgmental and rude. But they often feel justified when talking like this to other thin people, because they assume other thin people share their opinions. (See also: men talking to men about women, straight people talking to straight people about gay people, etc etc etc.) A person who they expect to be on ‘their side’ reacting with disgust or alarm to their rude comments can actually shut them up sometimes, because it’s news to them that even people they perceive as ‘like them’ don’t agree with their biases. (It probably won’t change their minds, but it can change what they say out loud.)

      1. Portia*

        Brad may also believe that a lot of fat people share his opinions. He may have said similar things to or in the presence of fat people and gotten a neutral or even positive response.

        Some fat people genuinely believe they are weak and lazy and would be thin if they were “better,” or hate their bodies and resent other fat people who don’t seem to hate themselves (and are going around being fat and happy in public!), and/or are holding onto a dream of being thin and are terrified that any peace with fatness means they’ll be fat forever.

        This is not as true as it once was, thankfully, but fat people are about the only group you can insult to our faces and be reasonably sure we’ll agree with you.

        1. eater of hotdish*

          Your last sentence–oof. That hits very close to home.

          I learned self-loathing early. If insults could make me a socially desirable size/shape, I’d be on magazine covers by now, just from what I’ve spent a few decades telling myself.

      2. Le Sigh*

        “(It probably won’t change their minds, but it can change what they say out loud.)”

        I have done this with a few people in my life. I don’t necessarily believe they’ll change their minds (I tried, ain’t happening), but the very least they can learn to keep their mouth shut and not share their unnecessary and hurtful thoughts with the world. Or the very least, stop saying it around me. They need to know that everyone doesn’t necessarily agree with them.

      3. Critical Rolls*

        There’s a bit from a book where one character says, “Our kind of people don’t–” and the other cuts her off and says “There is no kind of people that includes you and me.” That’s the energy I try to bring when someone assumes that I, as part of In-Group, agree with and will participate in talking sh*t about Out-Group. I do my best to use my WASP powers to make that person feel like a bad smell I have previously been too polite to address.

    4. Ex-Teacher*

      See, I’d say let him be defensive. If he’s spending that much time and effort defending his “right” or ability to be a jerk about others’ bodies, the supervisor will absolutely notice. And that will either lead to the supervisor dealing with this, or LW realizing that this is a bad workplace and moving on.

      The challenge with dealing with a person acting like this is that the only way to stop it is for someone to directly confront it. Passive responses that show disapproval will either fly over their head, or prompt them to be passive-aggressive about it. the only way to cut to the chase is to face the issue head-on, even though that’s uncomfortable.

    5. urguncle*

      This is really the perfect time to use the “what a bizarre thing to say” type of response. Brad wants a response so he can tell you how you’re wrong.

      1. LW*

        Yeah, I think my use of “interesting” (even if I think I said it in a very deadpan yet puzzled way) is where I’ve gone wrong so far. Alison’s advice and using a word like “bizarre,” “weird” or “odd” will make it clear that this is not okay.

    6. Rose*

      I think a surprising number of thin people are shocked when other thin people have issues with these kinds of comments. When I have asked my mom to stop with this stuff she basically she didn’t mean me, I’m make curvy not fat, and I shouldn’t worry because I look great and am healthy. The fact that I just find this talk really mean and upsetting as a straight sized person honestly didn’t seem to register.

      I’m not saying it makes the behavior more ok! In this day and age we all have the internet and brains and “I didn’t know being awful wasn’t ok!” is not an excuse. But I think intent might shape the best way to shut this down.

    7. Ari*

      I have a relative fixated on his own weight and it’s warped his mind a bit – genuinely he’s not being rude, he’s just … fixated. I think an “I’d appreciate it if you’d cut out the comments about other people’s weight” might go a long way (it’s harder for me to say to my relative “I don’t want to hear about your weight” but I’m getting close – I love him but hearing his fixations is not my fave!)

    8. iglwif*

      You know what, I don’t know if that’s entirely true.

      “fat = ugly” and “fat = unhealthy” and “fat = something needs to be fixed” are so deeply entrenched in North American society that I would not be at all surprised if Brad has no idea that these are not just unusually blunt ways of expressing things that everyone he’s talking to is already thinking.

      Of course, mean and inconsiderate people say fatphobic things all the time. But even very kind and well-meaning people say fatphobic things, too, because doing so has been culturally acceptable for their entire lives and/or because they genuinely believe that people are fat for reasons they could do something about if they just tried and/or out of a real concern for the (disputed or even debunked) health effects of being fat.

      Exhibit A: my mom, who is very kind and loves people and will generally not say unwarrantedly mean things (as in, she will say mean things about D*n*ld Tr*mp but you have to push her pretty hard to get her to say something mean about my late father, even though he was … not a nice person, because after all if she hadn’t married him, she wouldn’t have us kids!). And who appears to genuinely believe that people become fat as a result of being unhappy and eating too much, so if someone is fat, there must be a problem that needs solving so they can get back to not being fat. And who will make negative or deprecating comments about her own no-longer-slim body and have zero awareness of how those comments land with the also-no-longer-slim people around her.

      It sucks. It has sucked for a long time. And Brad may be a terrible person who’s doing this on purpose! I’m not saying that’s impossible! Just that he may not be, and it’s worth trying the reasonable step of a kind but direct “please don’t.”

    9. JSPA*

      Or Brad has eating issues himself. (Eating disorders are not “ladies only.”) Or he grew up in a house that was pervasively messed up about body judgement, and didn’t get out much.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        That may very well be but it’s beside the point and also completely inappropriate for OP to figure out if Brad has eating issues. It doesn’t change the overall advice for OP to know the reason behind why Brad is making these comments and it doesn’t change the fact that Brad needs to just stop.

  2. Cat Lady*

    Yet another excellent example of why commenting on other peoples’ bodies – even when they’re not around to hear you – is weird and inappropriate.

    Also, since OP has a larger partner who their coworker will likely meet eventually, I really hope that Brad cuts out the fat talk by the time that happens. I can imagine a number of different ways that that could get uncomfortable.

    1. Mo*

      And the dead by 30 bullshit is just wrong. I remember researching a paper on this back in my college days and underweight, which almost all celebrities celebrated for being a “healthy weight”’are, is actually as dangerous in terms of longevity. The statistic that stuck in my mind was that someone of Jennifer Aniston’s height and weight had a 75% chance of living to 75. To reach the same mortality hit from being heavy, she’d have to be over 250 pounds. There are all sorts of “risks” from overweight, but it is protective in terms of overall mortality.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, it’s really “interesting” how many of the “but I’m just concerned about their health” people don’t express the same concern about the health of those who are underweight. They usually praise them.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Which makes sense, if you think about it. When I was young and my metabolism and genetics meant I was underweight, my doctors and I were worried about how I’d deal if I got a bad stomach virus or something of the sort – because I had almost no spare reserves. (I was arguably less healthy then than I am now, when I’m overweight – because I was eating a lot more junk and exercising the same or less.)

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I see this all the time with my elderly in-laws and their friends. Many of them are already quite slim (and have a lot to say about people who aren’t, which is annoying), and when they get sick they lose weight and become dangerously thin. It really affects their mobility and quality of life.

      3. Saturday*

        Those studies often do a bad job of taking into account other underlying health issues – for example, someone’s unrelated chronic health condition might cause them to be underweight.

        I would much rather that the message be that you can’t predict someone’s longevity by looking at them!

        These kinds of arguments about who is more unhealthy based on weight alone get us nowhere.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        There was some long term study of residents in a California community who lived there for several decades that found that as they aged into full retirement age, people who were at a “higher than recommended BMI” had a lower mortality rate than people at the recommended BMI or lower.

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Presuming LW has already told her partner what Brad is like, LW should give their partner the option to bow out of work functions where Brad will be present. LW’s partner should feel obligated to walk into a situation where they’re likely to be bullied. I know that being in a relationship sometimes means tolerating boring work events, that LW’s partner doesn’t have to hide, and that it would be satisfying for Brad to come face-to-face with the fact that he’s been dissing a real, live, multifaceted human with his fatphobic comments, but LW’s partner isn’t obligated to be a learning experience for a rotter.

  3. Silver Robin*

    Kudos to you, OP, for looking for ways to shut down that kind of talk. You mention that nobody on the team currently would be a potential target for such comments (or in the splash zone) but people and teams change all the time, so you can also think about it in terms of creating a positive/welcoming team environment. That framing can also be helpful if it eventually needs to be brought up with your manager (hopefully not! Allison’s scripts should be enough to stop a reasonable person).

    1. Keymaster the absent*

      Also you do not know who’s battling with an eating disorder. They could look perfectly normal and be set off by these comments into harmful behavior.

      1. ferrina*

        This. Or Brad could have an eating disorder or be from a household with eating disorders/extreme obsession with weight.

        This is probably the angle I’d approach it from:
        “Brad, I’m concerned about you. You seem to have a fixation with weight. It’s the first thing you talk about when talking about people. Sometimes an obsession around weight can be a sign of an eating disorder. You don’t have to talk to me about it, but I want you to know that our EAP has resources to help if you or someone you know needs help.”

        This tactic wouldn’t work for everyone. I’ve been able to use it because I’m pretty proactive about talking about EAP resources in generally, and people tend to see me as grandmotherly (no idea why). I’m also adept at weaponized concern (don’t use it often, but found it’s impactful against boors who disdain reason). Mileage will definitely vary.

        1. Keymaster in absentia*

          Absolutely NOT. Speaking as one with a long term eating disorder that kind of ‘I’m concerned you may have an eating disorder’ talk is very, very dangerous. Please, I’m serious here, reconsider this.

          Saying someone should stop talking about weight is fine. Asking if they have a mental illness is not ever.

          Seriously people, a bit less of this ‘suggest HE has an eating disorder’ stuff. It’s really, really harmful and not funny.

          1. JSPA*

            People are not saying it to be funny. Ferrina certainly, explicitly, isn’t.

            And, “our EAP is helpful if you or anyone you know need help” is a far cry from making a diagnosis / telling someone they’re mentally ill.

            “Support exists here” isn’t a given; it’s a worthwhile message to pass along, in as neutral a tone as possible.

            1. ferrina*

              Yes, I didn’t mean for this to be derisive or a joke. This is similar to the approach I take to jokes about self-harm. Sometimes the jokes or the outward projection to others mirrors the inner turmoil that one is experiencing. But on reading the comments and re-reading the letter, I’d like to retract my earlier comment. I think what I suggested there is likely to cause more harm than good. My apologies, everyone!

        2. Kella*

          That seems like a significant overreach for a coworker to say. It’s really not OP’s business to get to the bottom of *why* Brad talks about weight so much, and while an eating disorder is possible, there are plenty of people who make frequent comments on others’ bodies that don’t have one.

    2. LW*

      This is a useful way of framing it, thank you! We are both new but I also presume I’m not the only one who would find his comments off-putting, so he’s also harming himself in a professional sense if he makes these comments around others.

  4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

    I’d be inclined to suggest Maintenance Phase podcast to Brad (well I’d suggest it to anyone because it’s awesome and hilarious)

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          Aubrey really opened my eyes. When I read her first book I couldn’t read it at night because I’d get too angry to sleep. Of course I knew fat people are often treated horribly but had no idea how systemic it was, or how poor the ‘science’ like BMI that people always cite is.

          It sure shut me up with the “people harangue me about being skinny too” stuff. And I am not letting Brads go unchallenged. Kudos to OP for speaking up.

    1. Tammy 2*

      Casually recommending Maintenance Phase to people who make casually fatphobic comments is one of my very favorite hobbies.

    2. Somewhere in Texas*

      1. Love the podcast.

      2. LOVE your name here. Glad we finally watched Ted Lasso so I get the reference.

    3. Keymaster in absentia*

      Educating the ignorant is a good thing but it’s a step or two on from just shutting down the talk.

      Also, with what we’ve just come through in terms of a pandemic there’s a growing number of people very disinclined to take “hey read this it’ll explain everything” seriously.

      If he asks for resources to prove that fat != unhealthy then by all means give it. It is an excellent series to be fair :)

    4. iglwif*

      Maintenance Phase and Audrey’s books have seriously helped me so much. With my own body image, but also with cleaning up my act around my kid so as not to pass on the kind of earnest, well-meaning fatphobia I’ve heard all my life from my mom.

    5. Goldenrod*

      I loooooooooooove Maintenance Phase.

      Also, I just finished reading “I’m Glad My Mom Is Dead” by Jeannette McCurdy and I thought it was great.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Omg, yes to both!

        I adore Maintenance Phase (which I first heard about here at AAM), and McCurdy’s book was mind-blowing!

  5. Problem!*

    How long till he starts trying to recruit them into a weight loss pyramid scheme? That’s always my first thought when people unnecessarily comment on others’ bodies, they’re winding up for a sales pitch.

    1. Anon for This*

      That might be the way to shut him down – every time he makes a fatphobic comment, loudly tell him you aren’t interested in his weight loss MLM. Loudly, so that others will give him the side-eye.

  6. Spicy Tuna*

    It’s totally rude and inappropriate and you will be doing Brad a favor by bringing it to his attention in a professional manner.

    While I am not defending Brad’s commentary, I am going to bring up the possibility that Brad himself may have been overweight at one point. My dad was an overweight kid and it made him miserable. He managed to lose the weight as a young adult and keep it off for nearly 60 years. I’ve learned to tune out his commentary about other people’s sizes.

    He doesn’t make these comments in front of strangers or to an actual overweight person’s face (and he’s been retired for nearly 30 years anyway) but he seems incapable of turning it off.

    Since I know it comes from a deep seated sense of shame (an also because he’s my dad), I’m not offended by it. If he were making these comments in public, I would probably say something so he wouldn’t offend people. Of course, at his age, IDK if he cares about offending people anymore!

    1. anononon*

      Came here to say something similar. My mother’s neighbour was morbidly obese in the 80s. She lost something like 17 stone on Slimming World, has kept it all off 40 years later and loathes fat people – is utterly disgusted by them. My mother only has to change weight by half a kilo and Sheila comments on her ‘getting big’. Ugh!

      Mind you, she’s also *horribly* racist and to my knowledge has never been Black, so…

      1. Sleve*

        Some people get taught certain “facts” when they’re young and are incapable of revising that information as they get older. See Brad, Sheila, medical professionals who insist most women’s medical problems are just anxiety and that Black people don’t feel pain….

        I find it a bit odd if I’m honest, because it’s usually people who loudly and obnoxiously confidently pride themselves on their mental strength; so it surprises me that they’re willing to allow themselves to be incapable of anything.

    2. Zweisatz*

      I don’t think that it matters a lot where it’s coming from for this topic. Formerly fat people being rude to fat people … still sucks and fosters a hostile environment for presently fat people (in the colloquial, not legal sense). Same goes for people on a diet who have to harp on what others are eating. Rude is rude.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Maybe not, but it’s never a bad thing to consider having empathy for someone who otherwise seems like a deeply problematic person at best.

        1. JSPA*

          Empathy at a distance, I’d say.

          Yes, it must be unremittingly horrible to live in the cesspool of misery that inside her head; but stick around long enough, and some of that nastiness will get on you.

      2. MsM*

        Yep. One of my doctors lost a lot of weight and decided the way he managed to do it was the One True Way that should be pushed on “chubby” patients like me. (He was not a nutrition specialist.) Guess who I don’t see any more?

    1. Florence Reese*

      You gotta deliver it the right way. Not like, “oh, that’s interesting.” More like, “…oh. Hm. That’s……..interesting.”

      But I do think a more direct approach is warranted if the awkward silence doesn’t make him reconsider.

  7. BethRA*

    Love Maintenance Phase, but I’ll be you a cronut that Brad’s response would be to take that as an invitation to discuss (really, argue) weight and diet issues MORE.

    1. Dulcinea47*

      This…. look at the comments on any article ,anywhere on the entire internet, about weight & health. Even when the article is providing scientific proof that many aspects are out of peoples’ control, the idiots are there screaming at people to “just” eat less and exercise. It’s insanity.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        It’s the “Just World” fallacy. You also see it on any media discussing how certain things around jobs, money, and potential homeownership genuinely *are* more challenging these days than 30 years ago. You get commenters coming out of the woodwork insisting that “young people just don’t know how to work hard or sacrifice” (or younger commenters saying “I bought a house in rural Missouri last year for 50k, people just aren’t willing to do what it takes”), when like… dudes, if you read/watched the thing at all, there are facts and figures and bar graphs showing what’s going on.

        A lot of them are people who want to believe that things worked out for them because they did the Right Things, and anyone struggling must be doing the Wrong Things and – most importantly – as long as they keep doing the Right Things, the Bad Things will never happen to them.

        Of course many people have worked hard and sacrificed to own a home, and many people work hard and sacrifice to manage their weight. What that type of commenter doesn’t want to acknowledge, however, is that luck *is* a factor, and there are people who work hard and sacrifice and still struggle.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*


      If Brad is a decent person, he doesn’t need to listen, he will accept he needs to stop.

      If Brad is not a decent person, he isn’t going to listen or will use it as an excuse for his behavior.

      Less is more here. Don’t make suggestions about how he can learn more about the subject. Just make it clear this is not acceptable and I don’t want to hear it.

  8. Heart&Vine*

    I love the go-to, “Why would you say something like that? Are you okay?”. It’s great because it 1. makes it clear you won’t tolerate comments like that and 2. suggests that, clearly, they must be having a bad day because no person in a healthy state of mind would say something that awful… right?

    1. mb*

      I like this train of thought – you could even phrase it in a “do you have an eating disorder ” or “I’m concerned these types of comments could trigger someone with an eating disorder” and I’d prefer not to hear them kind of way.

      1. Dulcinea47*

        that seems like it would invite his comments on eating disorders. I wouldn’t mention anything other than “stop saying that you jerk”

      2. badger*

        nah, don’t use eating disorders as a weapon. That’s what that is, because you’re not asking out of a place of genuine concern, you’re tossing it off with intent to provoke. If they do have one, they will deny it and the fact that you just tossed it out means they’ll never trust you with their personal stuff since you’re not genuinely asking out of concern. If they don’t, they’ll laugh it off and/or turn it back around: “why are you so upset about it? do YOU have an eating disorder?”

        I want to like Heart&Vine’s suggestion, but to me it also feels like excusing the rude comments because one is having a bad day and lashing out. It’s not okay then either. I don’t think that’s what you intended but it doesn’t quite sit right for me. Maybe it’s better for other folks or would work in some dynamics.

        I’m blunt enough to just be like, “what’s your deal here? knock it off,” but I know that’s very much not the case for everyone. If one wanted to try to have a conversation about it beyond that, “why are you making those comments” might work.

      3. Keymaster in absentia*

        The second one maybe – the first one absolutely not. Never ever ask if someone has an eating disorder or even imply it. That’s very dangerous territory to skate around in.

      4. iglwif*

        LW, please don’t ask Brad if he has an eating disorder.

        * If he does or did, it’s potentially triggering.
        * If he doesn’t and never has, it’s inviting a debate about them.
        * Armchair-diagnosing coworkers is generally unhelpful.
        * It doesn’t matter, because the behaviour is still obnoxious irrespective of who does or doesn’t have an ED.

        If it helps you keep calm when talking to him about this to imagine that his behaviour might be coming from a place of trauma, go ahead and think it, but don’t say it out loud.

      5. Kel*

        I don’t think asking someone if they have an eating disorder is the right way to counteract someone who you want to stop talking about other people’s bodies.

        1. JSPA*

          I’m not sure this is a fair parallel.

          People don’t have bodies “at” or “to” other people. In contrast, Brad’s words actually ARE pointed and intentional. Specifically, they’re directed at the LW. They thus create a situation where there are no comfortable options. There’s

          a) silence / redirection (which will be read as implied agreement)

          b) pushback that lets Brad know he’s being a jerk (awkward and hard to hear)

          c) an expression of support, if there’s something troubling Brad

          I guess there’s also

          d) “Did you grow up in a household where commenting on other people’s bodies was normal? I think that would really have made me miserable if my parents had done that! Honestly, that sort of dysfunctional, judgemental, old-school body talk still makes me twitchy, even secondhand.”

          Regardless, “I notice you intentionally do this thing at me, and I don’t know if I should potentially hear it as a cry for help” is very different from commenting on some stranger’s body (whether or not it’s actually helpful).

    2. Meemur*

      Yeah, I tend to go with, “Why does that bother you so much?” and if they ask what I mean, I’ll give a few examples of when they’ve used fat as a descriptor. If they claim it doesn’t bother them, you can ask them to stop as it does bother you. And if they say it *does* bother them, well then that’s a whole other issue entirely

      1. Hannah Lee*

        While an interesting thought experiment, in real life, there is a good chance that Brad will go into excruciating detail of exactly WHY it bothers him, with the same degree (ie a glaring lack) of insight, logic, grasp of reality that ranters about “those illegals!” or “sheeple wearing masks” like to serve up.

        At this point, in the workplace, LW should not be wasting time and energy or giving Brad more of a platform to expound on his bigotry. LW just wants him to stop. So focusing on “that behavior isn’t okay with me, please stop” and escalate as needed strikes me as a better approach.

        1. JSPA*

          LW may actually benefit from clarifing whether Brad is an unrepentant bigot, and to be avoided insofar as possible, or someone who is as relatively decent as he generally seems to be, outside of this quirk, and who can and will redirect his thoughts and/or watch his mouth.

    3. Looper*

      I’m a big fan of the “switcheroo” like this. Brad makes these comments to “other” these coworkers, to diminish their humanity. Flip it around on him: Brad is the freak here, Brad is the “other” with diminished humanity. By making it clear that there is “something wrong” with him, that his statements are sending a message to others that he is not okay, he doesn’t have the power of social acceptance.

      1. RagingADHD*

        TIL asking someone if they are okay diminishes their humanity?

        Generally, the implication that someone is being rude because they are “not themselves today” or “off” today shows that you have higher expectations for them that they are not living up to at the moment.

        You shouldn’t ever say anything intended to diminish someone’s humanity, even if you think they deserve it.

        1. Looper*

          Brad has diminished his own humanity by calling his coworkers fat and making comments about their bodies. The intention is to point out his lacking, the way he has ostracized himself from polite society with his nastiness.

      2. ferrina*

        Exactly! Brad is the one being weird and gross here- call it out!

        “Wow, it’s so weird that the first thing you mention about someone is their weight.” said with disdain and an incredulous look.

        “Are you okay? It’s really strange that you immediately start talking about weight.”

        What he’s doing isn’t normal, and he needs to be told it’s not normal and not okay.

      3. A trans pagan*

        Ugh, no, trying to “diminish his humanity” as part of an argument is disgusting and not something I think is ever ethical. Humans do cruelty *because* they are humans, not out of some hidden but essential inhumanity, and confronting that is part of being an ethical human.

  9. Jonah*

    I’d be tempted to say to Brad “You’re one to talk” next time he says something about others being overweight.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Agreed. And it doesn’t work anyway. Evidence: I say this to my dad all the time whenever he talks about someone’s weight but he keeps doing it. (Although just asking him to stop also doesn’t work, but even if it might work on someone who is not my dad, this is NOT how you respond to a colleague.)

          1. Not Totally Subclinical*

            Yep. “I find it so weird that you keep commenting on people’s weight” is soley focused on what Brad says.

            “You keep commenting on people’s weight; you’re one to talk” is not just about what Brad says; it’s commenting on Brad’s body, exactly what the LW wants Brad to stop doing to other people.

    1. NotAManager*

      Yeah, I think the only way to appropriately respond is with a, “I don’t talk about people’s weight,” with a slightly puzzled look, like it’s unusual that Brad does so. If he gets the sense that his commentary is both unwelcome AND not within the norm for this coworker, he might cool it.

    2. Ess Ess*

      That could easily get you a quick trip to HR for making comments about a coworker’s body if he decided to make a complaint about your direct attack at him. Don’t put yourself into a bad situation. Just a basic grey statement that his comments about peoples’ weight is not appropriate and bothers you to hear them would keep you on the correct side of professionalism.

    3. Zona the Great*

      It’s so true that these comments bring out the sh*ttiness in even the kindest person. I’d be tempted to say something like this too and would hopefully not let myself get so resentful that I did.

    4. iglwif*

      Nope. That’s just sinking to his level — he made an inappropriate comment about someone else’s body, and now you’re making an inappropriate comment about his body.

      What LW wants is for him to cut it out.

  10. ZIPIT*

    My dad thinks pointing out people’s weight, being disgusted by their appearance, and “all they have to do”-ing is perfectly normal conversation (and boy was it fun to grow up hearing that and realize how it affects your sense of self). I wish someone had shut him down a long time ago, and by someone I mean a male peer because we (all girls) wasted our breath trying to tell him over and over and over again for years.

    So yes, please tell Brad. Especially if you’re a male peer. Please. And thanks.

    1. Frodo*

      Wait, you and I are sisters?

      My dad’s comments led to a life long eating disorder for one of my sisters. For me, when I finally had the guts (in my 40s!) I said, “It’s amazing how a guy who sells furniture for a living and never finished college has so much knowledge about the correct diet and nutrition for women.”

  11. Dulcinea47*

    Someone who makes comments like that is already a boor. Sorry OP your coworker is fundamentally a jerk.

  12. Fluctuator*

    I have a fit guy that works for me and he’s definitely on the bulking type program. Eats lots of lean meats, low carb stuff through out the day and people will not stop making comments about it. They’re complementative, so I guess people think it’s okay to constantly call him “ripped”, make jokes about him working out all the time, etc. He’s also a grown man, older than me and not seemingly upset by the comments. Still, I don’t like the overall vibe of commenting on people’s bodies so I do always say a nondirect thing back when I hear it like..haven’t you heard you aren’t supposed to comment on people’s bodies? As a woman who’s weight fluctuates a lot, through pregnancies and ya know, just being a person, I HATEEEE when people comment on my body especially at work. They only ever comment when I’m down weight and it’s almost always months after I actually lost the weight and I’m usually pretty thrown by the comment. Good or bad let’s just leave it alone.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      It’s so annoying. In our F’ed up culture thin = healthy, virtuous, beautiful, almost worshipped; fat = lazy, unhealthy, ugly, used as an insult.

      When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago, I lost a noticeable amount of weight, maybe 15 pounds, fairly quickly because I quit drinking soda and started taking metformin. And at first metformin turns your colon into Mt. Kilauea. I got so many compliments and people telling me I looked great, asking for my secret. Some even wanted to be put on metformin themselves even though I made a point of mentioning the whole “camping out in the bathroom” thing.

      The thing is, I was still the same person with the same flaws and virtues, but I was somehow “better” when I was thinner and that pissed me off.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        Virtuous. Major hot button for me when people talk about the fit/slender/ripped people. I’ve seen people on this site say they wouldn’t hire a fat person because they were obviously lazy so wouldn’t do good work.

        I wouldn’t be nearly as nice as some people are suggesting to Brad. I’d be much more likely to say something like, “Dude, that is totally uncalled for. Other people’s bodies aren’t your business.”

        Gentle is not going to work on this jerk and this needs to go before his trash talk sends someone to HR about him creating a hostile environment.

      2. Keymaster in absentia*

        A large part of workplace stress for me is that due to a bad health issue I’ve dropped a lot of weight very fast. The people congratulating me on it or saying how much better I looked didn’t understand that it wasn’t intentional and wasn’t healthy.

        I’ve got bones visible now and still count on the high side of ‘overweight’ BMI. I’m still the same damn person.

        Weight should not correlate to health or worth.

        1. Salty Caramel*

          BMI was developed to measure population, not individual health. It’s nonsense that’s over a century old and I don’t understand why the medical profession insists on using it.

        2. aqua*

          I was once complimented on weight loss when I got top surgery, which, lol. I guess technically I had lost weight but I don’t think the person talking to me realised why I looked thinner.

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            Me too! And the doc was obsessed with measurements so I happen to know that I lost all of 2.2 lbs. (Though it did feel like a huge weight was taken off my chest, so maybe I was just standing up straighter.)

        3. allathian*

          I’m so sorry you’ve been sick, I hope you feel better now.

          One of my former coworkers who was marginally overweight rather than obese like me went on sick leave for three months. When she returned to work, she was noticeably slimmer, on the thin side of normal weight. I don’t like talking about people’s weight or how they look, so I only said how great it was to see her back.

          Others were less diplomatic. During our coffee breaks, lots of people complimented her on how great she looked, and some asked her what her secret was. After a couple weeks of this, she finally had enough, and when someone once again asked what her secret was, she pulled her wig off and said “Chemotherapy.” That finally shut them up.

          She quit not long afterwards and she told me that dealing with cancer had really made her think about what she wanted to do for the rest of her career. She switched to a completely different field and I hope she’s doing well.

          I hate the thought that she had to reveal a medical issue she’d rather have kept private just to get people to stop with their supposedly complimentary comments.

      3. Michelle Smith*

        When I was prediabetic, my doctor prescribed me rybelsus (similar to ozempic, but a tablet rather than an injection) and told me to my face that he thought it would make me nauseated enough that I would eat less and therefore lose weight. I did not lose any weight and discontinued it because it did in fact make me nauseated so that I couldn’t eat. Eating is kind of important to survival.

        Sometimes existing in a fatphobic world can be so exhausting. Solidarity.

        1. Jiminy Cricket*

          Right. The “We’re just worried about your health” to “Who cares if the treatment makes you unhealthy (nauseous, vomiting all the time)? At least you’ll be thin!” pipeline is exhausting.

        2. Kel*

          I actually resisted going on Ozempic for diabetes because of the association with weight loss. It took a lot of long talks with friends, and my doctor before I agreed to go on it.

  13. melissa*

    Also do it now! It will be way harder for you, way more embarrassing for him, if you wait.

    And your partner being “a bit overweight” is not relevant! Most Americans are a bit overweight (I don’t know if you’re American or not, but you know what I mean).

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Not only is it irrelevant, it risks Brad lecturing LW on how Partner is going to die young and leave LW alone and he should go on this diet or do this exercise…

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      And “overweight” is completely made-up BS that means absolutely nothing anyway. (I just went down a big rabbit hole trying to find the exact evidence of this that I’ve discovered in the past and can’t find it ATM, but it’s out there if you look for it.)

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Case in point: if I go by BMI, I am on the far end of overweight, heading towards obese. If I go by waist to height, I am slightly over my ideal weight, just barely into overweight. So you know, which is accurate?

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Well, considering that BMI is meant to assess populations rather than individuals, I’d go with #2 as a starting point.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Two articles I found with a quick google, for anyone who’s interested in further reading:

        “Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI Is Bogus” from NPR on July 4, 2009

        “BMI a poor metric for measuring people’s health, say experts” from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health on October 27, 2022

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Thank you, Hlao, you are so helpful!!! That NPR one is great and contains this gem, which was news to me even after all my prior research: “Quetelet had to square the height to get a formula that matched the overall data. If you can’t fix the data, rig the formula!” What the what now??? To quote another excellent former NPR show, “Booooooo-gus!” (Bonus points if you can guess the show.)

    3. Festively Dressed Earl*

      It’s relevant because LW’s partner is likely to meet the team at work gatherings, exposing them to bullying from Brad. When bigots come after your loved ones in person, it’s hard not to react in a way that will get you fired or arrested.

    4. TPS reporter*

      agree the partner is not relevant

      OP if you do stand up to Brad thank you for being an ally. this is a rallying cry to thin people everywhere- it means a lot when you stand up to fat phobia. fat people have worse health outcomes in part because of fatphobia in the medical community and society at large

  14. Looper*

    I would lean into the “what a weird comment” talk. Instead of making it about your discomfort, point out the facts: it is weird that Brad makes these comments, it’s weird that he is so focused on other people’s bodies, it’s weird that he thinks this is a professional way to behave. Make this about Brad and how abnormal his behavior is. Like,
    “I don’t know if you’re aware how body-obsesses you come across, but I think it diminishes your professional image.”

    “I have never heard anyone make so many weird comments about other people’s bodies. What’s up with that?”

    “Brad, weight and body image seem to he a real sticking point for you. I’m sorry that’s something you struggle with, but let’s keep the conversation professional.”

    1. not a doctor*

      Agreed, I think it’s time to have a small come-to-Jesus moment about this rather than addressing it each time as it happens. I like the emphasis on professionalism because it tells him he should stop for his own benefit (good for people like this) rather than, say, have to think about anyone else’s feelings.

    2. Keymaster in absentia*

      These comments? I like a lot. They’re professional, concise and with minimal shaming and no concern trolling.

      A+ would use.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was just coming here to say something similar, but yours is better, Looper.

      It doesn’t have to be a big, serious conversation. It can just be saying “It is so weird how you reference weight all of the time. That’s not good and it makes you look really unprofessional.” Brad may respond with “Lighten up” or something similar (which would mean he’s a jerk), or he might ask why you think it’s unprofessional, and you can give constructive feedback. My bet is on the “lighten up” comment, which means you get to just keep calling it out when it happens with “Again with the weight comments?” in a bored voice.

      I get that this is not a fun thing to do, but not saying something means you are going to be in a state of what I call impending discomfort, waiting for Brad to say something crappy. It truly is better to get it out in the open as soon as possible.

    4. LW*

      I really like these! And I think that pointing out how it affects his professional image (which it surely does if he makes these comments to others as often as he has to me) is likely to make him stop. And hopefully, will also make him reflect on why he’s so obsessed with something so irrelevant.

  15. HR Exec Popping In*

    Brad needs to understand you will not tolerate comments like this. Think of it this way – he is making you uncomfortable. It is ok for you to make him equally uncomfortable by letting him know that these comments are unacceptable, you will not engage in those conversations and you will call him out for continuing to make these statements.

  16. Juicebox Hero*

    I’m fat. I can lose weight, which I am slowly, but the Brads of the world will always be judgemental jerks trying to build themselves up by bringing other people down.

    1. Sylvia*

      That’s absolutely true. And if there were no fat people, the Brads of the world would find something else to put people down for.

    2. AvocadoQueen*

      I’m fat, and I can’t lose weight, and that’s ok. This guy considers fat to be an insult. For me it just is. It’s neutral. I hope OP shuts him down.

      1. Happy*

        Yeah, I’m not a big fan of “I’m fat but I can lose weight” comments…it implies that it’s better to be thin than fat, which isn’t helpful.

    3. TPS reporter*

      it doesn’t matter if you are or are not trying to lose weight. the condition of your body and your health are no one’s business, let alone someone who is not your doctor.

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      Losing weight is better for ME because it improves MY blood chemistry, takes some strain off MY arthritic joints, and helps ME feel less tired and more mentally alert, and honestly, that’s all I really care about – that it’s better for ME to be thinner than fatter. It’s not a value judgement on anyone but myself.

      I understand that everyone else is doing the best they can with the resources they have. I fully understand that a person’s value as a… you know, person, has zilch to do with their weight.

      I try very very hard not to be judgemental. Defensive, oh yeah ;)

  17. Keymaster the absent*

    What a rude sod.

    I think I’ve made my position very clear here that saying anything about someone’s weight is out of bounds. You do not know who within hearing has an eating disorder (you can be fat and have a restrictive eating disorder).

    I’ve mostly been able to stop comments like that at work with ‘hey, don’t talk about other people’s bodies like that’ or for the “he won’t live long with a body like that” statements there’s the ‘rude, untrue and none of your business’ statement.

    And as a general: people who are fat *know* we are. Telling us that does nothing but harm. Same goes for comments about diet, exercise, possible health conditions etc.

    It does not help

    1. GingerNP*

      Right – if shame made people thin, there would be no fat folks, firstly, and secondly, the prevailing assumption among people who judge fat folks is that we don’t know what “you just have to” do. I promise. We have heard all of the advice and we have likely tried all of the advice – AND we have been congratulated on behaviors that would be swiftly diagnosed as disordered/unhealthy in straight sized people.
      Anyway I’m a healthcare provider who doesn’t talk about body size at all. We’re out there.

  18. JaneDough(not)*

    LW, your coworker is a bigot. BIGOT. See this, in big capital letters, as you decide how to respond.

    I don’t know whether you’ll feel comfortable with this, but you could encourage him to watch the NOVA special “The Truth About Fat.” Because our bodies are complex machines designed to, among other things, protect us against death by starvation, being fat is NOT as simple as “eat fewer calories than you burn.”

    His disgust with people who are bigger than he thinks is acceptable is just as appalling as being disgusted with people who develop, say, one of the “can’t blame it on behavior” cancers, or an autoimmune disease, or sickle-cell anemia, or any number of diseases that people develop / have a genetic predisposition toward.

    1. JaneDough(not)*

      Just to clarify: NO ONE should be blamed for developing a disease; the web of factors that influence who gets sick and who doesn’t is very complex. I’m just saying that some people are very point-the-finger with regard to diseases that are known to have a lifestyle component.

  19. Rizzi Ella*

    In the nineties, one of my favorite comments was how people dressed like they lived in a trailer park. Then one time after I made that comment, a teenager looked at me and said they live in a trailer park and ‘do I dress like I live there?’. I deserved it and never said that comment again.

    I would say ‘my husband struggles with his weight and he would hate to hear someone say what you just said about him’ and then silence.

    1. badger*

      I wouldn’t even bring up the personal. That’s inviting comment to Brads of the world and it’d be rude even if there were no personal interest on LW’s part.

    2. Jezebella*

      I think that would just open the door for concern-trolling and more comments about diets from Brad.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      I hate this framing, respectfully. As a fat person, I do NOT struggle with my weight. I struggle with other people’s opinions, stereotypes, and biases about my weight.

      1. allathian*

        Oh yes, you said it. I’m obese, and I can’t say I struggle with my weight, either. Fat phobia is a struggle, though, and it affects everything from employability to medical care.

    4. DawnShadow*

      Thank you for this. It’s difficult to bring up a personal moment that caused shame. I like that you owned it and it changed your behavior. I wish more people were like you!

    5. Kella*

      Learning that you know someone who is part of a marginalized/highly stereotyped group and humanizing that group can be an effective way to unlearn bigotry. The problem with anti-fatness is it’s largely based on the idea that you *choose* what your weight is. People shame fat people for their bodies, to their face, *constantly*. Sharing that the OP is close to a fat person would likely only invite more judgment and even unwanted advice.

  20. Quantum Possum*

    Is it possible that Brad is possessed by the ghost of Joan Rivers?

    Seriously, he sounds not only rude and judgmental but also very boring. This is a person who needs a hobby.

    My personal go-to when people won’t stop being judgmental and negative is asking, “Have you looked into volunteer work? You seem to have a lot of energy that could be focused somewhere else.” Because seriously – find something better to do with your time. Life is too short and too hard. We’re all doing the best that we can. (Except for Brad. Brad is not being the Best Brad That He Can Be.)

    Alison is 1,000,000% correct – you are about to learn a lot about Brad based on his response. And yes, it’s very important to give him a couple of days. It’s normal for someone to feel defensive in that situation. You have to give people a chance to save face.

    If Brad continues to be rude and boring, then I recommend shutting him down immediately whenever that happens:
    – “That’s rude and inappropriate, Brad.”
    – “I won’t have this conversation with you, Brad.”
    – “Who cares, Brad? WHO CARES??!” *runs screaming into the night*

  21. EtTuBananas*

    LW, if you want an in-between message, you can try: “Do you realize that you bring up people’s weights a lot?” the same way you’d point out that someone tends to fiddle with the hem of their shirt during presentations. It’s not going to curb Brad’s gross fixation on weight but it will probably make him more self-conscious the next time he goes to say something, and could help fix the problem.

  22. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    LW, the Miss Manners-esque “what an odd thing to say” is waaaaay too subtle for someone who has already demonstrated they’re not receptive to social norms. You need to be very direct. “Please don’t talk about other people’s bodies around me”. Full stop. Otherwise Brad is likely to be overly-literal and not comment on weight but talk about people being out of shape or in some other way not living up to his ideals.

  23. learnedthehardway*

    What you need to do is to state flat out the following: “Brad, it is NOT appropriate to comment on other people’s bodies or weight. Please stop doing that!”

    Don’t pussyfoot around, or say it makes you uncomfortable, or ask him why he feels this way. Just be direct. If he argues or tries to justify himself, you just repeat, “NOT. APPROPRIATE.”

    Ideally, Brad will apologize and not do it again. Maybe it will even cause him to revisit his biases. Maybe he’ll be defensive. Maybe he’ll continue to make comments. You can determine your next action from there – whether it is to accept his apology, redirect him again if he slips up, or bring it up to HR as an issue.

  24. H3llifIknow*

    I think rather than saying, “that’s an interesting thing to focus on,” I’d say, “that’s a really WEIRD thing to focus on,” thus making the point that he’s being …well …weird. Saying it is “interesting” is not strong enough in my opinion to evoke any “aha” moment but calling it weird or rude or thoughtless or shallow or whatever word you choose might just be the “oh crap” insight he needs to hear!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This is actually VERY TRUE. I get extremely bored when people talk about what they’re doing to lose weight or eat healthier or whatever.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I think you missed the part where LW says: “We will be working very closely together over the next several years so I’d like to maintain a good working relationship.”

      IDK where you work, but aggressively schoolmarming a peer is not going to fly on most teams. The natural response would be to say “excuse me, who do you think you are?” And that’s the politest possible construction. I can think of much ruder (and more likely) responses in the same vein. Blowing this up would only make LW the problem.

      1. She of Many Hats*

        The statement would be appropriate after the second or third request to stop the weight comments and would ideally come from the manager/team lead.

      2. Jam Today*

        LW is not responsible for managing Brad’s emotions for him. His behavior is totally unacceptable in a professional setting (or in any setting). He has chosen to behave like, this and he can certainly be told very directly that he needs to stop, immediately. Indeed, he probably should be told as much very directly because he doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who internalizes attempts at “gentle persuasion”.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I’d get behind a straight up “Hey, knock off the weight talk, it’s rude.” (Or gross, or whatever). That’s appropriate from one peer to another.

          Directness isn’t the issue. The heavyhanded scolding tone in your phrase implies that the speaker has authority over the hearer, which is untrue and presumptuous. It’s not an evenhanded and direct response to the substance of his statement. It’s an attempt at a power move, which is a needless escalation.

  25. Michelle Smith*

    In the very, very rare chance that LW is also from NYC, I do want to point out that here Brad’s comments may create a hostile work environment that would rise to a violation of the human rights law if reported to the employer and they don’t put a stop to it. Both weight and height became protected classes here last year.

    I hope that starts to become a trend in other places too, if it hasn’t already, because it is deeply inappropriate to make these kinds of comments in the workplace and I firmly believe that employers should be obligated to intervene. (Yes, I am both fat and very short and so I am personally emotionally invested in this issue haha.)

  26. Office Lobster DJ*

    Just to expand on the last point, which is a good one: Know that his reaction probably will not be satisfying, and that’s okay. He will probably try to defend himself, make excuses, lash out, mutter a halfhearted apology with a sour face, whatever. As long as he stops, he stops.

    You can ask him to stop, you (unfortunately) can’t force him to care about it.

    1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      And a refusal to get drawn into “debate” will probably send a stronger message than trying to debate, even if you win.

  27. CommanderBanana*

    Gross. I once went on a date with a guy who did this, and told him in no uncertain terms that 1. there would be no second date and 2. his obsession with other people’s bodies was very weird, as other people are not having bodies at him, and he should really spend some time digging into that.

    1. Pizza Rat*

      other people are not having bodies at him

      Oh well said! I’ve heard various twits saying, “I don’t want to look at fat people,” and didn’t respond well to the idea that other people (especially women) were not there to be decorative for them.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        It was so weird. He kept bringing the conversation back to women and their weight?? And I’m like, dude, we’re just sitting at a bar, no one overweight is in eyeshot (not that that would matter), why are you so obsessed with the idea that out there in the world there are people you personally don’t find aesthetically pleasing existing? And why do you keep bringing it up?

        I really hope he did some work on himself, but he’s probably just saying the same stuff elsewhere.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Aubrey Gordon has a thing where she talks about fat people and how they are just living their lives in the only body they’ve ever had. But I like the “they’re not being fat AT you” line too, that’s good.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I went on half a date with this guy. It started out as coffee and when he suggested dinner I suddenly had to go walk my dog. (I did not have a dog.) It’s hard to explain out of context but at the time it felt like a test to see what I ordered.

      1. Champagne Cocktail*

        You just reminded me of a job interview I had years ago that was over lunch. I ordered chicken and the other women at the table ordered salads. I always wondered if that was why I didn’t get the job.

      2. AnotherLibrarian*

        Before I got married, I had a date with this guy t00. I am what is sometimes termed “small fat” which made the whole thing a million times more awkward. We also did not have dinner, because I had “a friend I was meeting to help pick out her wedding shoes.” The only part of this sentence that was true was that I had a friend who was getting married and did wear shoes.

  28. Immortal for a limited time*

    The LW could also make the response entirely work-focused. Something like, “Bob is good at his job, and focusing on his weight is irrelevant, so let’s not do that.” Repeat as necessary. New employees are looking to others for guidance on workplace norms, so if he fails to adopt that norm, it’s valuable information that can and should affect his standing as an employee.

  29. Sneaky Squirrel*

    My mother does this constantly. I usually say “It’s not appropriate to comment about someone’s weight” and make it obvious that I don’t respect that kind of talk. If she says “I’m just concerned about their health”, I usually counter it with “That’s between them and their doctor and not our concern” or “Strange that you don’t make those same comments for people who smoke/drink/etc”. For your colleague, you could choose to say “this is not appropriate discussion for the workplace” and that may be enough to shut it down.

      1. Tiny Clay Insects*

        I assumed you meant any time Brad’s name is said aloud, the office should shout “A**HOLE!”

  30. CommanderBanana*

    When people do stuff like this, I find that just going “how is that relevant?” works pretty well. Because then they have to stop and acknowledge what they just said and that it is, in fact, not relevant.

  31. Serin*

    I love this advice with one minor correction — not “Wow, please don’t talk about other people’s bodies that way” but “Wow, please don’t talk about other people’s bodies,” full stop.

  32. Frankie Bergstein*

    I’m a smidgen evil and would say, “BRAD! The nineties called… they want their widespread body dysmorphia back!”

    1. Zona the Great*

      I’m perhaps slightly more evil and would say, “Brad, I wonder how people label you when they talk about you”.

  33. Anonymousse*

    I think the next time you’re near him and he says something, you should tell him how inappropriate it is, depending how comfortable you feel or go to HR. This is so inappropriate.

    I think we should all treat these comments like they are sizist, because they are and because they need to know it’s not okay anymore. Diet and shame around food and bodies is not cool. Commenting about people’s bodies or their clothes is largely not okay.

  34. CommanderBanana*

    The only fat-shaming allowed is my house is fat-shaming my dog.*

    *Telling her in a squeaky voice that she is our little plumpkins and reminding her that her tiny pudgy belly is perfect, she loves it because ATTENTION.

    1. Kel*

      okay we say this all the time. we are a house of fat people, and we are very body and fat-positive, but we absolutely tell our old, small, rolly polly pom that he’s a chonk and say we’re fat-shaming the doggggg.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Many of her nicknames are based on her adorable chubbliness and eensy beensy teensy weensy nakies potbelly and how it looks like she has a tiny adorable little udder when she sits down and she is perfect, and most importantly she knows she’s perfect and she knows WE know she’s perfect, so it works out. :)

        1. Betty Beep Boop*

          I am currently dog-sitting a dog named Tonka, and ever since the Come To Anubis talk we got from the vet about him last year we’ve been periodically referring to him as Chonka.

          He has become distinctly cylindrical and nobody wants to end up sending him for double ACL surgery so the treats are getting broken in half until further notice…

    2. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      I have a rather unruly orange cat. He has a little song for when he jumps on my chest and makes biscuits and generally gets between me and my laptop. It is “fat dumb asshole baby,” ad infinitum.

      I don’t think he minds, I sing the song while scratching his ears.

    3. Avery*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes to bring up pets’ weight in that teasing sort of way!
      To be fair, “fat” rhymes with “cat”, so it’s only fair that I developed a little song along the lines of “You are a baby cat, you are so baby fat…” Even then, though, I sometimes get self-conscious and add another rhyming line like “There’s nothing wrong with that!”
      (Not the most awkward pet rhyme in my line-up of silly pet songs. That one probably goes to rhyming “babies” with “rabies” due to lack of better options.)

      1. Kel*

        lollllll @ babies and rabies.

        i think the only place fatshaming is okay is if you are lovingly doing it to your little round pet.

  35. DannyG*

    My first thought was to go all “Mr Spock” on him: would you endeavor to keep your comments germane to the topic at hand? Etc

  36. cxxxb*

    OP you mentioned that no one on your team is fat. But you have a partner who is overweight. Well I am a fat woman and I need you to know how big of a deal this is. Brad isn’t just being weird, its has the potentiality to be abuse and harassment. If I heard a co worker say this about anyone, be it a celebrity, a colleague from a different department/company, whatever….I would immediately to get to my supervisor and/or HR. I would do that because his disgusting behavior is a slippery slope if left unchecked by someone higher up could have real ramifications for your company but more importantly, to the people he is hurting. Because fat bias does exist in hiring,promotions etc. You need to nip this in the bud like…yesterday

    1. CinnamonToastCrutch*

      This! Exactly. This detail is what is missing from the possible response. Weight stigma and discrimination is a documented harm and a form of intolerance and bigotry. It is unacceptable to speak poorly about anyone because of their weight. It directly harms and stigmatizes many others beyond that conversation. If this person were making comments based on race or gender identity, it would not be okay because everyone in the office was white or cisgender or otherwise not in the stigmatized group. This is bigotry and intolerance, but our society still thinks bodies are up for public comment and that fat jokes are okay. Please work to start hearing these statements as harmful and bigoted, rather than just rude or annoying.

    2. Ana Maus*

      I’m also a fat woman the phrase “hostile work environment” popped into my head as I was reading the letter.

    3. WS*

      +1, but also I really appreciate that LW recognises how inappropriate Brad is being and wants to shut it down. Brad thinks LW is a safe audience because they’re not fat, just like racists think white people are a safe audience and misogynist men think other men are a safe audience. We know that having their perceived in-group shut down this kind of talk is extremely effective, so here’s your chance.

  37. Anon ducking*

    If it doesn’t have to do with the work (like if work involves physical stuff and/or weight limits), and no one’s weight is affecting work, what is Brad’s problem? It seems weird to criticize random people not even involved in work, although of course it’s also rude to insult one’s coworkers. Just STFU about it as long as it doesn’t affect you, which is unlikely unless you’re in a very physical job.

    I don’t talk about weight with coworkers. Seems best for keeping the peace, despite strong personal views (I left the fat acceptance movement, which is really prevalent in my marginalized group, whereas I think I should outlive people who want to oppress or harm us).

  38. She of Many Hats*

    Another comment to use: “That’s an unkind thing to say.”

    Being called rude can be a badge of honor because they’re “brutally honest” but most people don’t want to be known as unkind or mean.

    1. Frodo*

      And make them repeat it. After a comment about somebody’s weight, ask them to repeat what they just said. And again. Then ask why they focus on that?

  39. Wendy Darling*

    I have gotten a surprising amount of mileage out of saying “That’s a terrible thing to say!” or “That’s really rude actually!” in a pleasant and cheerful voice.

    I find people tend to need a second to get what I actually just said to connect with the tone of voice, by which point I am already talking about something else. That, and I’m not very good at thinking of things to say on the spot, so just blurting out what I actually think but keeping my tone light works for me.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      I’ve found this to be the best approach, personally (after much experimentation, lol).

      I find people tend to need a second to get what I actually just said to connect with the tone of voice, by which point I am already talking about something else.


      Also, this way you haven’t shamed them OR given them a chance to “explain.” You let them know in no uncertain terms that it was very rude and you don’t want to partake in that kind of conversation – while conveying that you’re willing to move on as long as they don’t do it again.

  40. Swamp Witch*

    One of my favorite things to say when someone (at work, friend, family, whoever) comments on someone else’s body or weight is : “wow, what an odd thing to say.” And then I just continue on the conversation like it never happened. It tends to work really well.

  41. Peridot*

    I realize the Brads of the world don’t care, but fat-shaming people does not actually make them lose weight, assuming they even want to lose weight. Somehow, the people who say “I’m just stating a fact” are never convinced by facts like that.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      If they used the word “fat” without judgement, as just a descriptor, the way most fat people use it and request that everyone use it, then sure, it’s just stating a fact. But that’s not the way Brad is using it, is it? And why does he need to point it out in every conversation? (Answer: he does not.) But you just know, Peridot, that Brad is totally going to say this when OP asks him not to talk like that, right?

  42. AAM fan*

    I have done, “Oh, no, I don’t talk about people’s bodies like that” and change the subject. It’s direct but also puts the action on me, which I find reduces defensiveness.

  43. GreenDoor*

    OP you commented that no one on your team is particularly overweight. Which reminds me of my friend who, when someone commented on how great she looked and how they couldn’t believe how thin she was said, “Well, I used to be very fat, but of course that was before the cancer. I’d rather still be fat!” A good reminder that just because someone is thin doesn’t mean they won’t be negatively impacted by a body shaming colleague. Please speak up!

  44. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    “Brad, why is this such a focus for you? Other people aren’t spreading health misinformation or trying to impact your lifestyle habits. They’re leaving you alone, you can leave them alone.”

    From my reading of the letter, no one is pushing food at Brad or being a jerk about his exercise time; issues that AAM has previously addressed. No one is trying to get him to believe any certain things about food and weight. In that respect, he’s left alone. Maybe if you point that out, he might see it as “fair” not to comment about others. It’s not an ideal thing to say, but a low-conflict way to make him think about his comments.

    1. Kel*

      Brad is absolutely going to come back with something about being fat being unhealthy and they’re ‘promoting an unhealthy lifestyle’ by being fat.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Not really a…thing, outside of maybe some rather amoral influencers. I mean, I don’t promote lesbianism by being one! Ha.

        1. Kel*

          No, for sure, it’s 100% not a thing, but that is a super common thing that gets tossed at fat people. ‘You’re promoting an unhealthy lifestyle’ just by existing.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I swear a lot of people think merely existing while fat and not being visibly miserable at all times is “promoting an unhealthy lifestyle”. They’re just doing their part by making us fat folks miserable, I guess.

  45. DJ*

    Good answer as usual by Allison as it starts with a polite request (to give a clueless person a chance to change their behaviour without too much confrontation) to a firm knock it off how weird to say that.

  46. Numbat*

    I once had to do some very quick thinking and shut down weight/diet talk in front of my daughter… what came out was “NO, NOPE, ABSOLUTELY NOT WE’RE NOT DOING THAT” which was alarming but effective.

  47. Betty Beep Boop*

    I am EXCEPTIONALLY fond of a phrase I got from Miss Manners, which can be deployed along a range that starts with “gently instructing the temporarily or accidentally inappropriate” and ends at “exposed skin freezes instantly”:

    “I don’t care for that kind of talk”.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Another favorite of mine is “I’ll be sure to give that the consideration it deserves.” Only a clod like Brad would think you’re agreeing with him.

  48. mkennedy*

    I’m overweight, with health problems. My partner, with health problems, is also overweight. We have twin boys. One boy is overweight, and has been for a while. The other was always thin, and almost fell off the bottom of the CDC age/weight chart for a few years. He shocked me when he mentioned at 4 or 5 that he needed to diet. Kinda luckily, he didn’t understand about sugar and carbs and continued eating decently. I was very careful what I said to him about food and weight. Whatever triggered him seemed to have resolved and he isn’t worried about his weight now. He’s a normal weight for his height/age now.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I know in retrospect that my mother dieted sometimes when I was a kid but I am eternally grateful that she never, ever, talked about it or her weight. I missed a lot of emotional baggage.

  49. Temp Anon*

    Some time in the 70’s my dad decided that my older sister was getting fat. He announced that every night, she had to bring the bathroom scale downstairs to the living room and get weighed in front of him in her underwear. She was ten years old.

    In high school she and many other girls took Dexatrim, a “diet supplement” which was basically speed. Many Moms and daughters in my town did this as a family activity to lose weight. Yes, moms and daughters would take speed to lose weight.

    When she graduated high school she got hooked on real amphetamines, she lost her sense of smell and more than once passed out in the shower, once getting a concussion and stitches.

    She has struggled, not really with weight—she has ranged from normal to slightly overweight—but with the psychological damage that these kinds of attitudes has wrought.

    This coworker Brad has a problem, he is obsessed with weight, fat people’s appearances, and weight gain, to the extent he is working it in to seemingly every work conversation, where it is irrelevant.

    Brad should see a therapist to work out why he feels compelled to be this way and how to change to be better. Pretty much everyone in his life will be better off for it.

    1. allathian*

      I’m so sorry about your sister, I hope she’s doing better now, preferably without your obnoxious dad in her life.

  50. Dog momma*

    In my family, I was never thin enough. Now I’m near 70, & no matter what I do ,the weight won’t come off. I lost 40# about four years ago, then got sick, needed major surgery etc % gained it back. Yes I’m on low carb and restricted calories. Meeting with a counselor next month to see if this may be some sort of eating disorder.. I currently have difficulty with certain odors/ foods that I didn’t have before my surgery. Time will! tell.

  51. LR*

    I tried to get my (77yo, lawyer) mother into a discussion of diet culture recently (over Thanksgiving, truly this was a doomed mission from the start), as she used to be pretty politically conservative and has blessedly swung wildly the other way in the past 15 or so years.

    I thought she’d be similarly open to having the scales fall from her eyes when discussing how the culture inculcates these insane ideas about bodies, particularly AFAB bodies (as hers and mine are).

    She absolutely could not untangle these ideas. Eating sugar is bad because it makes you fat and being fat is bad – very obvious to her. But when I pressed on why gaining weight was bad (‘because it makes you fat!’) why being fat is bad (‘it’s unhealthy!’) and why so many cultural assumptions are bound up in these things (being fat means you’re unhealthy; our culture says fat people are less human than thin people), she refused to acknowledge that one thing followed from the other.

    To her it was axiomatic and natural, and there was nothing more to it. Fat bad, thin good. She has never been what I would call thin, so the obvious implications here were…dissonant, to say the least.

    It was such an epic fail on my part – but a good reminder that, even though someone is at the peak of intellectual intelligence, that does not connote an understanding of/ability to muddle through the nuance of how culture works.

    Weight talk in the workplace should be curtailed early and often, imo. Please see all things Aubrey Gordon to start your personal deprogramming curriculum :) I have found it extremely liberating!

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