Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"You look great! Have you lost weight?"

I went "home" for the weekend last week--back to Madison, where I lived for 16 years. It was great to see old friends, neighbors, acquaintances, etc., and very emotional, too. It takes time, lots of time, to forge friendships. This year is rather a lonely year in Syracuse.

It was great to see those friends, but I really wish so many of them hadn't commented on my weight. The consensus seemed to be that I was looking better than usual so I must have lost weight. This conflation really, really bugs me. Why is a weight loss always associated with looking good?

I went to the doctor today and got on the scale for the first time in probably 6 months. Yes, I have lost a couple of pounds, but not, as one friend suggested, "a ton of weight!" For someone my size--five foot one and a little, 161 pounds--a couple of pounds makes little visible difference.

"You look good because you're happy," my husband pointed out. That's right. I'm engaged and invigorated by my new work and by the challenges and curiosities of making a home in a new place, and it shows.

I look forward to a day when looking good and losing weight are two separate and distinct ideas. And when we think twice before mentioning them in the same breath.

13 comments:

Joy said...

I hate that too. I find that it's effective to simply answer "No, I haven't!" regardless of what the real case may be, and let people puzzle over it... :)

living400lbs said...

One friend would reply, "No, my clothes fit better" or "I bought better clothes".

I've also been known to reply, "No, but I'm feeling better". :)

April D said...

That assumption that looking good/better can only come with lost weight has always (even before my intro to FA) boggled my mind. Usually because whenever someone commented and said I looked great/like I lost weight it was during a period in which I WASN'T dieting and had gained weight. Maybe I just looked better because I was happy to get food again ;)

A Fan said...

Tell me about it!!

Back when I was too poor to eat everyday and would go 2-3 days with no food, you would not BELIEVE the amount of compliments I would get!

"You look sooo wonderful/beautiful/great" and what have you, was I that bad before? It sucks even more because I liked the compliments and attention so I'm real torn, right now and kinda catch myself being somewhat glad that we might not have enough money to eat properly again.

I'm all mixed up!

Rachel said...

It's those kinds of comments that used to fuel my eating disorder, even as they infuriated me at the same time. I always thought, "Gee, did I look so hideous before?"

I still find it ironic that I never looked as "great" as when I was at death's door.

Angie said...

This is all to common (one of my many examples), just last week I over heard my co-worker, tell another gal who was on medical leave (breast cancer) wow you look great I see you lost a few pounds, well at least see it on a positive light remember how you would workout and could lose the weight. How inconsiderate of someone to say this, I was floored. It’s really sad to see how fat people are perceived. They assume I’m not happy because I’m fat, well guess again.

Anonymous said...

No big deal. Losing weight does make you look better in most people's eyes. Sometimes I think people on these boards (deliberately?) forget that the world outside of a few dozen people who post here does not subscribe to even the first hint of the political convictions about fat that abound here. It's ok to feel however you want to about fat, but becoming delusional to the point of expecting other people to feel the same way might not be a good idea.

mary said...

I know what ya mean!

I most hate when people tell me I look tired after I just did some really exhausting work and therefore I am tired. I've heard the "you look great" when someone thought I lost some weight and was annoyed that it would equate to "better looking". I try not to be too sensitive about this anymore. It's so important that we forgive others for our different opinions. I suppose we might say "thank you" to what is meant to be a compliment and flip them the bird when they tell us how shitty we look. ( I never tell someone they look tired...I think they can feel it)

purplegirl said...

I get this all the time from my aunt and grandmother (who thinks it just fine to tell me how my butt looks). I used to just say "I don't know, haven't weighed myself", or "I don't think so", but then they'd keep it up. It wasn't until I matter-of-factly told my grandmother "Nope, actually I've gained ten pounds" and went about my business that they left me alone.

Mim said...

Yeah, the problem isn't just that other people think losing weight makes a person look better, it's that any thought that you're looking good is automatically equated to an assumption of weight lost.

I've lost count of the number of times I've stepped in the scales in the morning and noted a gain of a kilo or two only to be greeted later that day by someone saying "wow, you look good today, have you lost weight?"

My standard reply is to say "Thank you, I've gained actually, but I'm feeling great!"

Ooo! Challenge to myself: change that "but" to an "and".

Harriet said...

Mim--You go, girl! :-)

Purplegirl--Good answer. I'll keep it in mind.

Mary, you're right as usual. Forgiveness is a very human thing, just as screwing up is.

Anon, I've got news for you. There are a lot more than "a couple dozen" of us who feel this way and are thinking this way. A lot more.

Anonymous said...

It could be a few hundred or a few thousand people. My point really is about feeling genuinely surprised by statements such as that of the people in the original post, which, by my logic, reflects a detachment from reality. Disapproval is subjectively understandable, but surprise, given cultural realities, is or is approaching disordered thought.

SYLVIA LOUISE said...

This is my favorite "complement" that I love to hate. It's a little easier when phrased slightly differently - when they say something like, "oh - you've been losing weight, haven't you?" then I reply something like, "oh, you mean - I look happy?" (or serene; or joy filled; or confident) - then I usually chuckle at them as I walk away. I know they think they are being well intentioned and think they are being positive and affirming somehow; but it is still BS to me!