Commenting on Weight

I made my weight loss rather public last year for a few reasons. The first was for my own accountability. If people were watching what I did, there would be some level of shame in either screwing up or not reaching the finish line. I think that part helped me to keep the ball rolling, especially at the beginning. The further I got into it, I don’t think I needed accountability as much but I still used it because now people were curious and paying attention. The second reason I talked about it was because I hoped that people would see, though my own success, that you really can do it if you work hard. You can go from obese to a healthy weight. It’s possible.

I have put myself into a position where people comment on my weight. A lot. In a good way. They ask how much I’ve lost and how I did it. I answer them (50 pounds and by learning about nutrition, respectively). I know that I put myself out there and let people see this process. I showed the difficult days and the knee injury. I showed my weekly weigh ins. I was out there. People were happy for me and they wanted to share that with me and it’s a rewarding reminder of where I’ve come. But the important thing is that I made a choice to share.

A couple months ago, though, a comment made me think. I overheard someone (male, I think this matters) mention that a woman had put on a few pounds. Not some imaginary woman but a woman in that room and only just out of earshot. I felt disgusted for her. If I had known the perpetrator more, I would have told him how rough it was to hear that, even if about another person. I thought about what people say to me and how they would never have said “Wow, you’ve put on so much weight! How many pounds has it been?” even though they will tell me “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight! How many pounds has it been?”

It made me think that when I did gain weight, people probably talked about it and how they were worried or wondered if I was okay. Maybe they even joked at my expense and maybe it’s hopeful of me to think that their comments were concern rather than something worse. He could easily have been talking about me a few years ago. But now that I’ve turned the tables they’re able to comment in a positive way and say it to me rather than to other people when I’m not there.

It has made me feel a little bit more weary about the comments I’ve been getting and I know that it’s wrong on some level to feel that because the people commenting positively really do mean it in the best possible way. They are genuinely impressed (or that’s what I’m told). But there’s just something about it that feels wrong because they would never have told me anything when I was in the process of gaining.

So there is a point where it feels strange to receive these comments. At least for me. And also for a friend of mine, except her situation is not like mine. She was not overweight and she isn’t now. The situation that she told me about that struck me was on the other end of the spectrum but very awkward and inappropriate all the same.

She is thin, but not dangerously so, and was commenting on how cold she was in the air conditioning when another person (male, I’m not sure if it matters) told her that if she ate more and wasn’t so thin, then maybe she wouldn’t be cold.

This bothered her because she eats plenty–she’s just naturally thin and okay with her own self. But why do some feel is acceptable to comment on her weight, even thought she is well within healthy limits?

I accept a level of commenting because I talk very openly about my own weight but her? She’s not. She’s just naturally thin and that is not a problem for her. I’ve never even heard her bring up her weight. So why is there negativity? Why is she made to feel as though her weight is unacceptable, even though she’s healthy? And even if she did put on some weight, I have a feeling that these same types would also comment (but maybe not so openly to her) that maybe she was getting a little chubby.

Here’s the point I’m driving at: if people aren’t talking about their weight and they are not harming themselves, then you probably shouldn’t talk about their weight either. It’s none of your business.

I talk openly about my weight loss because it’s important for me to stay honest with myself and for others, even just one person, to see what I’ve done and know it’s possible. But I still didn’t do this for anyone. I didn’t do it in preparation for a wedding. I didn’t do it because I was worried what others thought of me. I didn’t do it for you, or for my family, or for my husband. I did it because I felt like crap and I needed to change.

I welcome people to talk to me about it, ask questions, and figure out how they can achieve their goals. But others have to know that not everyone is me and not everyone welcomes comments on their weight.

So just, you know, don’t.

5 thoughts on “Commenting on Weight

  1. Personally, I get a little frustrated when people comment on my weight.

    I haven’t made much efforts to lose weight, and I have stayed roughly the same size (+/- 10 lb) for the past several years. But with astounding regularity, people ask me if I have lost weight, or otherwise comment on how I look like I have lost weight. (One woman I know, who I don’t see very much, makes this comment every single time I see her.)

    I know a lot of times people are trying to pay me a compliment and I try to be gracious about it, but I always end up wondering why they believe something has changed when I’m pretty sure it hasn’t. Do people see me in memory as being heavier than i actually am? (and why is it that remarkable?) Do people make those remarks to help me feel better about myself? (and why would I need that reassurance?) Do I usually wear ill-fitting clothes? (this might be true.)

    Sometimes I feel like it is unkind of me to be offended at weight loss remarks, but sometimes people make comments without framing their intentions correctly. I would rather someone say that I look “good” or “healthy” in a general sense than simply commenting on a scale reading.

    • That’s very interesting and I know many others who have complained of the same type of repetitive comment. This is purely speculation but I think people comment on weight because you can quantify it in some way that seems easy to measure. A scale will spit back your weight, so if you’ve lost 10 pounds, it’s clear and you can respond with something like “Thanks! Down 10!” But if you look healthy or happy, or your outfit is just really nice, it’s harder to quantify so maybe it’s harder to comment on? You can’t say, definitely like you can with a scale number, that you’re 10 units happier than the last time you saw them. It’s also possible that they’re only looking for a superficial conversation so they bring up superficial stuff. Plenty of possibilities.

      I’m not entirely sure but one thing I know is that weight doesn’t even matter as much as your happiness or health, so it’s almost like picking the most trivial thing and saying how great it is when there are much bigger things that are way cooler.

      • Right! Weight is such a comparatively uninteresting topic. It makes me wonder why people think that’s a great conversation starter. But perhaps it goes back to the reluctance of people to talk about deeper personal issues and preferring to stick to superficial topics.

        For example, the question of “how are you?” (or for our generation, “what’s up?”) A while ago I decided to try framing these questions differently because no one ever feels comfortable answering them with anything other than the most common reply (fine, thanks or not much). The short responses are certainly appropriate for times where you don’t have the time or desire for a longer conversation, but I prefer to ask “how is life?” or something similar.

        I think there is nothing wrong with making comments on a person’s overall appearance of health, but superficial comments indicate a sort of ignorance of the big picture.

  2. I did a quick Google search to see if this sort of thing happens to other people, and i found this blog post which was really interesting.

    http://rosiemolinary.com/2011/05/22/have-you-lost-weight/

    In the comments, someone mentioned that usually the people who make these sort of comments usually have concerns about their own weight. Looking at the people that typically comment on my weight, I can definitely see evidence of that.

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