I know better than anyone that one’s weight is a topic fraught with sensitivity. As an anorexic teenager I loved it when people noticed my weight loss. In later years when on diets, I’ve been thrilled to receive comments on my ‘success’. Fortunately people have rarely commented on the ensuing weight gain. Nonetheless, my own angst over the issue of weight means I know it’s a friggin’ minefield and something one needs to negotiate carefully.
Nowadays I’m trying to embrace the body-acceptance way of thinking and not despise myself because of my weight. I’m also trying to acknowledge that healthy is more important than slim and self-confidence more important than how we are perceived by others.
I was out with a friend recently and she commented that her shorts were falling down. Without thinking my response was…
Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Implying of course it means she’s losing weight—which MUST be a good thing. I should note that this friend has no hangups about her weight but I know she’d like to lose a few kilograms.
Nevertheless I studied the words as they left my mouth.
I was struck with a myriad of realisations: firstly that we tend to think losing weight is a good thing. Naturally not everyone needs to lose weight. Indeed a friend of mine who’s a runner recently dealt with a lot of stress and lost weight she could ill-afford off her already lean frame. But for most people, it’s a big thumbs-up.
And, other than the obligatory congratulations which accompanies weight loss comments, there’s the unsaid but implied suggestion the loser-of-weight is ‘better’ than they were before—a new improved model.
I suspect the issue was playing on my mind because that morning I’d been out with another friend to my favourite brunch spot. One of the staff members is always super-friendly but my immediate thought—as I hadn’t been for a few weeks—was that she’d lost weight.
“Do I say something?” I wondered.
The options marinated in my mind. If she meant to lose weight, she’d be happy I noticed. But I couldn’t remember her being overweight, so if I said something will I be implying she was? What if she hasn’t lost weight? Will she think I’m saying she needs to? (As an aside, as if I would… #potkettleblack etc)
And then of course… the other dilemma: what if she was sick?
I’ve read a few articles which discuss the pros and cons of ‘commenting on weight loss’. Those who’ve worked bloody hard to drop the kilograms generally appreciate encouraging words and knowing someone’s noticed. It can give them the motivation we need to continue on their weight-loss journey.
Of course to some, congratulations on weight loss can feel like confirmation that we were indeed overweight. They suddenly worry everyone noticed and secretly thought they needed to lose weight. More importantly and on top of that…
It implies that we weren’t okay before. It feeds our assumption we need to lose weight to be socially acceptable.
Or perhaps that’s more about the way it’s done. “You’re looking good!” most certainly implies that everything which went before was not; whereas “Have you lost weight?” is a far more open-ended option. If they want to talk about it, they’ll generally offer up information which allows us to offer the positive reinforcement they may need.
Of course, I may just be overthinking this whole thing and need to stop reading online magazines. Honestly… although the internet has brought a great many wonderful things into our lives, it’s also introduced a very visible dichotomy of thinking which can be a real mindf*ck!
Do you comment on someone’s weight loss or not? Are there other factors influencing your decision?
Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.