body image · weight loss

Why make it all about weight? Can’t it just be a good hair day?

Saturday night I went to a concert.

I looked good, if I do say so. A snazzy new pink dress. Pink lipstick. Blonde wild curls.

It had been a humid day, the best kind for making perfect curls.

Here’s a serious selfie and a smiling selfie complete with photobombed bunny ears.

No big deal, right? Except after the concert I met up with a friend who was seated on the floor of the church. I’d been in the balcony. We met over coffee and cake in the church parlor.

And then it began.

“How much weight have you lost? You’ve lost weight, right? You’re practically slipping away into nothing. I couldn’t recognize you you’ve lost so much weight. How much weight have you lost anyway?”

Now to be clear, I haven’t lost much weight. Maybe five pounds since the whole talk of knee replacement surgery began back in November. That’s less than one pound a month, if I quickly do the math.

Here’s the post where I talk about the knee surgeon’s recommendation that I lose weight to help avoid surgery.

I weigh more than 200 lbs. Even if I’d lost more weight, I’m hardly slipping away into nothing. I’m pretty solidly, largely here.

Like Tracy, I hate the you’ve lost weight, you look great talk.

I think that night I did look great but I don’t think it was about weight at all. Nice dress, good hair, pink lipstick and toenails! But if you look good, it must be that you’d lost weight, right? Sigh.

And what’s with this “slipping away into nothing” talk. Why is that a good thing? Can’t women, shouldn’t women, proudly take up space?

I’m curious friends, followers, and readers, how to you handle weird, well meaning weight loss comments? What do you say?

15 thoughts on “Why make it all about weight? Can’t it just be a good hair day?

  1. Well, I haven’t had the “you’ve lost weight” comment lately, since I had to donate three pairs of my favourite jeans to the charity yard sale yesterday because they are too small ;-). But back when I did have a significant body transformation from about 150lbs to 118lbs I was astonished by a) the number of people who stared like they didn’t recognize me and actually SAID that; b) gross male clients who suddenly ogled me in a super gross way; c) the “skinny minny — I’m worried about you” comments (I was FINE, I was running all the time, happy as a clam); d) “you must have lost like, 10,000 lbs!!!!”

    I did not enjoy having my body subject to scrutiny at ALL because I read in every one of those comments “jesus you were a real whale before.” And I wanted to love and protect that heavier version of me as much as I wanted to love and feed the fitter version of me. I would say things like, “yes, I quit smoking so I’ve been working out — I’m really proud of quitting smoking. That was super hard.”

    No one let that stand.

  2. I lost some weight about five years ago. I also didn’t know how to handle comments. Especially now that I’ve gained it back. I’m tempted to go back to the comments people and say, “nothing to say about my gains?” Lol. I usually just tried to skate past them and not engage about my body. Occasionally, if they asked questions, I would note I was exercising more and felt good because of that. My face changed a lot when I lost and I knew a lot of comments came from that. I actually did look a little different with a thinner face.

  3. One thing I notice is that people will ask if I’ve lost weight when I’m really just happy and feeling good.
    I am getting to the point where I want to say “I think you’re mistaking my radiance for weight loss.”

    1. I love that comment (the radiance one!) and am stealing it now.

  4. I have always been thin or average weight, and with relatively small fluctuations (my heaviest adult weight was within 15 pounds of my lightest adult weight). Because I am already in a range that many people consider “healthy”, my experiences may differ from those of other people!

    At least once or twice in the past few years, I lost a few pounds unintentionally and due to “bad” reasons (once because I was under a lot of graduate-school-related stress, once because I was recovering from a torn ACL and subsequent reconstruction). In those cases, it was pretty easy for me to be honest about how the weight loss is not necessarily a good thing – “Yeah, it’s probably because I’ve been under a lot of stress recently/Yeah, in recovering from my knee surgery I’ve probably lost some muscle mass and haven’t been very hungry because I’m sitting around all the time.” I hope that by pointing out that weight loss might not be intentional or wanted, people think more critically about complimenting me (and others) on my changing size.

  5. I hate it. I generally laugh and say who knows, I threw my scale away years ago. And change the subject.

    If it goes on I am pretty up front that discussions about weight loss give me anxiety.

  6. A couple of months ago I was at a clothing party where we were trying on things and someone saw me in my sports bra and asked if I was lighter now. That seemed slightly less bad, although I don’t need comments like this (as I also read this as “thank goodness, you were so horrible before”). I said I didn’t know, maybe (honestly I don’t know; I think I’m about the same). I admit I do interject when someone else compliments a third party about their possible weight loss. I always say “you always look good to me at any weight”. Maybe it’s a bit snarky, but I kind of don’t care.. 🙂

  7. Hi, I’m glad most of your night out was great. I have a friend who has recently lost a lot of weight. I know that she is working really hard to lose that weight. When I see her I am shocked at how different she looks, she’s moving more and thats important for her. But here’s the catch. I’m not sure, what, if anything to say to her about it. I dont want to minimise the amazing work she’s done, and I want to say I see you and I notice you. So I occassionally say something, quietly and in private. And sometimes I dont. Its very hard to know what the right thing to do.

  8. I’ve lost 75 pounds in the past year, and around the time I hit the 50-lb milestone, I had a LOT of people telling me (in concerned tones) that I was “tiny,” and implying that I shouldn’t lose any more weight. (I hadn’t been vocal about being on a weight-loss diet, and for several months I wore my fat clothes, so I guess it was hard to tell I’d lost weight until I started wearing clothes that fit my new body.)

    I found the comments annoying, because I don’t think anyone should have an opinion about my “best” weight, except maybe my physician. (And then only maybe. Like if my BMI dipped below 17, or something. It’s currently 20.)

    How did I handle the comments? I kind of ignored them, and talked about how good I feel in my body now. All the people who made the comments, they see how much food I eat. They know I’m not starving myself, or denying myself calories. (In fact, I eat a huge volume of food.)

    1. Oops, it’s only been 55 lbs in the past year. 75 from my all-time high weight, before my diagnosis.

  9. How about just a coolly (almost coldly) expressed, “Thank you.” followed by an abrupt change of subject? Sort of a Miss Manners way of showing that you, at least, were raised to be polite. It seems to me that almost anything you can say that addresses the subject gives the person permission to raise the subject at all. And that permission should not exist.

  10. I avoid “thank-you” because I do not like to co-sign the view that “you’ve lost weight” is a compliment. Recently after a yoga class someone who I only know from the yoga studio and really have never had more than “hello/good-bye” type interactions with (for about 8 years now though) commented that I looked great, like I’ve lost weight. I liked the “you look great” part of the comment. But to attribute that to weight loss (which I don’t even think is the case) really annoyed me. Like you, Sam, I think I’m just feeling happy and healthy these days and that shows in a kind of glow that happy healthy people have. So I said, “not that I know of,” and he realized his blunder, and then he tried to fix it, and that made it worse, and finally he just told himself to shut up lol. It was sort of funny and I understand that I contributed to making him feel uncomfortable when all that he meant was to pay me a compliment. But it was the morning of our book launch and I just didn’t think smiling and saying “thank you” was enough to combat the default messaging about weight loss comments as appropriate and as assumed to be compliments.

    One thing I never do is comment on another’s weight loss or gain. And mostly, unless it’s dramatic, I don’t even notice it. Body policing REALLY pisses me off, and commenting on weight loss is simply a form of body policing.

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