Read this before you compliment someone on their weight loss…

So, here’s the thing. About 10 years ago I lost a significant amount of weight. Nothing worth writing a motivational book about, or anything, but it was still the the head-turning, life-altering, question-provoking kind of weight loss. I don’t think anyone would argue that weight is a fairly sensitive topic. And that you wouldn’t just strut up to somebody and ask them if they had gained 5 pounds. What does sometimes surprise me, however, is how the converse situation, someone’s weight loss, isn’t treated as something equally private.

I get that commenting on how someone lost some weight is usually a compliment. But it’s still a double-edged sword. The thing that people don’t realize is that I wasn’t particularly kind to myself throughout this weight-loss process I reference above. Actually, it kind of totally sucked, was a low point in my life, and I was probably borderline unhealthy about the whole thing. I’m not going so far as to suggest that I had an eating disorder or anything, but I guess I am saying that if I had pushed myself any further, that’s probably the direction I was headed. The bottom line is this isn’t a period in my life that I reminisce about wistfully, with a smile on my face. It’s not something I want to re-hash, re-live, and re-trigger my obsession. Enough time has passed now that people don’t routinely bring up my weight as much anymore. But, it still happens. And regardless, the memories of what it was like at the time are still very strong. Especially when I witness other people obsessing over their weight, and openly commenting on other people’s, on a regular basis.

I remember having mixed feelings when someone would approach me about it. Granted, attention in general makes me uncomfortable. But even when someone was trying to compliment me, I still wasn’t sure how to feel. Especially given that the compliment was typically prefaced with asking me if I had lost weight. So really, what was the messaging, there? That there was a problem with the way I looked before? That thinner was better? I know this isn’t usually what the person intends. And I’m not going to lie that I obviously enjoyed the compliment, overall (I mean hey — if you’re ultimately telling me that I look good, I’ll take it). But still.

I didn’t lose all the weight overnight. So, if you had noticed that I had lost so much as 5 pounds, and already started to comment, it made me realize that a) you are paying attention to what I weighed and b) you would sure as hell notice if I ever slipped, and gained 5 pounds back. It really amplified the insane amount of pressure I was already placing on myself.

The other thing I really took issue with was when people asked me for advice (let me explain!). On the face of it, asking me how I did it is not something outrageous — you want some tips, motivation, whatever. But when you ask someone what their “secret” is, you’re really minimizing the hard work that I did, and still do to this day. I really, really hate to break it to you but there *is no secret*.

Losing weight is a ton of work. I cannot emphasize this enough. It’s a bummer. No one wants to hear this but I ate less than I wanted to, exercised more than I wanted to, and was miserable. I’m sorry. I’m not going to tell you that I wasn’t extremely hungry at times, grumpy, or exhausted. I’m not going to tell you that there is some magic smoothie that you can eat for breakfast, a great natural appetite suppressant, or that there is some weird loophole where you can diet between 8 AM and noon, but eat all you want after that! There isn’t a quick fix, and it’s hard to see that look of disappointment when I’m not giving people the miracle answer that they want.

If we fast-forward to today, to the people who didn’t know me during the heavier days, it’s also really insulting if you imply that I have it easy. Again, people likely think it’s a compliment, but making a joke that “I wish I could eat that, and still look like you!” is kind of hurtful. If you see me eating pizza, what you don’t realize is that I likely ate yogurt for breakfast, a salad for lunch, going to the gym afterwards to make up for the extra cals, and still feeling a little guilty for eating it (not that I have to justify why I’m eating it at all, mind you :P).

All that being said, can we not consider the fact there might be a small minority of people who DO actually have a secret? What if the person had weight loss surgery and wasn’t looking to share it with the world. Or what if the person was battling an illness, and wasn’t even intentionally losing weight? It’s not always something that people want to gush about.

Even my best friends would never guess this about me, but despite the fact that it’s been over a decade now, my heavier days never cease to haunt me, and my anxiety surrounding food still lingers. Example: I absolutely hate eating in front of people. It’s probably one of the things that causes me the most anxiety. I much, much prefer eating alone. I will only eat junk food in front of you if I know you well, and feel comfortable around you. And sadly, even when I do know you well, and feel comfortable, I still eat less than I want to. Flat out lie and say that I’m full when I’m not, and have a weird quirk of literally being incapable of finishing my entire plate (I have to leave a few bites left, to sub-consciously feel better about not eating the “whole” thing). But, I’m working on it. And know that I can’t blame everyone else for my anxiety — rectifying that is going to come from within. But, I’m just sharing this as food for thought (pun intended).

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