A reader wrote in with a question that I’ve been asked before by a number of people who have lost weight unintentionally – through illness, or grief, or some other reason, and I thought I would address it today:
Now my friends are asking me for tips on how to lose weight. I don’t know what to say. But when I say that I wasn’t trying to lose weight, people don’t believe me. They don’t believe me when I say that I was just as happy with my body when it was heavier. But I really was. Do you have any advice about what to say?
When your body size has changed and you become smaller, people’s unwanted comments can range from annoying, to rude, to incredibly hurtful (I hear from lots of readers who are complimented on weight lost following the loss of a loved one, or an illness – one reader with stage 4 cancer had a co-worker tell her “cancer looks great on you!”)
To me, the most important thing to realize is that the problem here isn’t the person whose body is smaller, it’s people who are making inappropriate comments about it and the culture that tells us that everyone wants to be smaller than they are, that smaller is better, and that it’s ok to comment on each other’s body size without invitation. So once again we have an issue that isn’t our fault, but can become our problem.
Nobody is under any obligation to do activism/education etc. so each person who deals with this gets to choose how to handle it. On the other hand you might consider that, whether you ask for it or not, having a less-fat body in a fatphobic world means that you may have access to more things (clothes, spaces, etc.0 and people may treat you better. You probably didn’t ask for this and you can’t really give it away, but you can use this as an opportunity for activism, and when you do it is much appreciated.
So here are some options for replying if people make undesired weight loss compliments.
Responses that invite a dialog
People keep asking me that – do you think they are assuming I tried to lose weight on purpose?
Oh, I’m not interested in weight loss. My body size may go up or down and I’m fine with that. Isn’t it odd that we are so fixated on thinness as a culture?
I believe in Size Acceptance and practice Health at Every Size, I’d be happy to tell you more about that.
Responses that don’t invite dialog
I don’t engage in diet talk.
Diet talk makes me really uncomfortable, how about that local and or college sportsballing team?
Can’t help you – I don’t pay attention to my body size.
Responses to shut that shit down
I didn’t know that you were monitoring my body size, please stop, it’s hella creepy.
What a strange and inappropriate question, I’m curious – what made you think that was ok to ask me?
How are your bowel movements? Oh, sorry – I thought we were asking each other inappropriate personal questions.
Remember that, no matter how you handle this, you are not the problem.
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