Tuesday, 17 February 2009

"you've lost weight..." awkwardness

So, I've lost weight. A not insignificant amount of weight. I didn't do it on purpose - posting here, I feel mildly guilty about it, though, as I said, not on purpose - and I don't care about it for its own sake. That, in itself, is a sign of recovery. I don't know exactly how much, but it's at least two stone (28lbs). I'm still fat, of course, and now I'm saggy as well. But I'm not bothered by either of those things. No, what's beginning to bother me is the compliments.

It's become noticeable, you see, and people are commenting. And I feel deeply awkward in answering them, because...Well, let's see:

(a) I feel awkward because I don't value the weight loss for its own sake - the only reason I value it at all is because it's a sign of my recovery. Well, and because now I can buy clothes in Marks & Spencer and other shops that stock up to my new size, but no further. That's quite good too. Makes shopping easier and less restricted.

(b) I feel awkward because I don't want to say "thank you" as though I think it's inherently complimentary that people are remarking on my weight loss, especially when it's not like they're just saying "You look fantastic, is something different?" They say "You've lost weight" or "have you lost weight?" or "those trousers are swimming on you", and they expect those things to be interpreted as compliments of the highest order, and I just don't feel that they are. Oh, I say thank you, because it's expected, and because I know they mean to be nice. Or, if they ask me if I've lost weight, I say, "maybe, I'm not sure". But I don't put the value on the weight loss they do, and therefore I don't see this as a compliment. It's just...an observation. I've lost weight. It's true. It doesn't equal "you're so beautiful" or "you're so clever" or "I think you're awesome". It's like saying "you cut your hair". It only becomes a compliment when they follow it up with, "you look great". But with weight loss, they assume that the observation is in itself complimentary. And so I thank them, but it makes me feel awkward.

(c) I feel awkward because people who see weight loss also ask how I did it. And I don't particularly want to announce to every casual work acquaintance who hasn't seen me for a couple of months that I've finally got into recovery from a soul-destroying eating disorder, and I have no goddamn diet tips because I didn't go on a goddamn diet. AWKWARD.

(d) I feel awkward because I don't enjoy this kind of conversation. It makes me self-conscious, and I don't want to be self-conscious. I'm making peace with my body - other people remarking on it makes me feel like it's not just mine. This, I recognise, is my issue, not theirs.

And look, I do know that people are trying to be nice, trying to compliment me, and I've appreciated a lot that those people who know about my eating disorder AREN'T giving me "you've lost weight" compliments, even if they're aware of the weight loss.

I'm just finding it awkward.


Jen said...

C) has got to be the most difficult part of that. You could just say "I was sick." and leave it at that? I don't know.
Anywho, yay for kicking your ED. :)

Lori said...

I had a similar situation after I stopped breastfeeding. I dropped 30 pounds in a really short period of time without making any changes in my diet or exercise--apparently my body just wanted to hang on to as much weight as possible while I was nursing, and then once I stopped I went right back to my usual weight--and I got a lot of comments about my weight loss. I don't remember how I responded, but it was awkward. I wasn't even actively thinking in terms of fat acceptance at the time, but I wasn't dieting, I knew I hadn't done anything to lose the weight, and I was just in a place where I was happy to let my body be whatever size it was going to be, and dealing with comments that made me feel like my body was anybody's business but my own made me very uncomfortable.

Elle said...

I have dealt with this! There was a period of time when I was working on a musical and was constantly dancing and singing, as well as eating less because of the sheer lack of time that I had to ingest, and I dropped 20 lbs or so. My friends would say, "Oh, you look so skinny!" or, "You've lost weight!" My response was kind of scrunching up my nose and saying, "Oh, I certainly hope not/I haven't!" It sounds sort of cheesy, but It worked -- people either looked dumbfounded or they laughed.

Try it! It's much nicer then thanking someone for an observation, even if they expect it.

Sheryl said...

(c) I feel awkward because people who see weight loss also ask how I did it.

I would totally reply, "I quit dieting." Because it's essentially true in your case, because that's how it works for a lot of people, and because it will mess with their heads. ;)

Brigid Keely said...

Overheard conversation:
"Oh, you've lost weight! You look great! How'd you do it?"
"I had the flu. I couldn't stop puking for a week. I was hospitalized for dehydration."
"Well, you look fantastic! I wish I could drop fifteen pounds like that!"
"I, uh, I almost died. I had a seizure. I'm trying really hard to put the weight back on."
"but you look so good!"
"I'm cold all the time and exhausted. It's really hard. I was incredibly sick."
"Well, you look great! See you later! Keep up the good work!"

(the final 'keep up the good work' might have been in regard to actual work, not further weight loss. i hope.)

Ashley said...

I'm getting this now too, only it's compounded by the fact that I'm pregnant.

I adamantly have not tried to lose weight, and I make that very clear whenever someone asks about my sorta-obvious weight loss (the face is skinnier, I'm "all belly", etc.), but I still get comments like "It's so much better to lose weight during pregnancy than gain 40 pounds like I did."

Yeah, barely eating for 2 months and than barfing all that up is SO MUCH BETTER.

It's gotten to the point that my husband, who knows better, is commenting on it, and I'm not sure what to say, if anything, cuz heck I'm talking about it. At least he knows it's not a compliment and that he's about the only person on the face of the planet who can comment on my body.

Cassandra Says said...

Agreed with Sheryl - You should tell them you stopped dieting just to mess with their heads.

Honestly I think that it's rarely wise to make comments to people about their weight, even if people do think they're being complimentary. How do you know the person wanted to lose weight? How do you know they're not recovering from, or even worse, currently deep in the throes of an ED? How do you know they're not sick and maybe not wanting to talk about it?

If everyone would just lay off the weight comments altogether we'd all be better off.

Anonymous said...

I am dealing with exactly the same thing right now. I have changed some meds, and I am losing weight at a rate that almost alarms me. I haven't gotten any comments yet, but I am dreading the moment when they start. I don't want to be rude, but I don't want to do anything to reinforce the thin=better mentality either.

professional daydreamer said...

i tend to respond to what people have said rather than what they're trying to imply. (half the time i'm oblivious to the implication, anyway.) "you've lost weight" will get a fairly straightforward response: "yes" or "i don't think i have" or "no, but i did just get these awesome clothes that actually fit properly. may i share the tall gospel of old navy?" if they persist beyond "yes," then i get into whether or not i personally believe it is a good thing and why, exactly, this came about. if they maintain a horrible flu is a good thing, the i slip into education mode. it tends to work. if someone pushes for dieting tips, i give them intuitive eating.

Anonymous said...

"Oh. Yeah. Well, I have cancer." (Stolen from Wendy McClure, author of "I'm Not The New Me."