Skin Deep


Recently, a local business owner whose diner I occasionally frequent exclaimed, loudly enough for the seats in the back to hear, “Oh my God! How much weight have you lost?”

I think probably most people would see this attention as complimentary. For me, personally, it was embarrassing. I’m about 95% introvert (and the other 5% lives on the Internet!), so having any attention drawn to me, especially by someone who’s practically a stranger, makes me want to withdraw instead of proudly accept what they likely meant as a compliment.

This is one of many mental things that I have had to work on. After losing a lot of weight years ago, I allowed my weight loss to define me, and when I inevitably failed, I failed spectacularly and quite visibly.

We all deserve to love who we are and the skin we’re in.

This time around, I am not in the least bit interested in being defined by weight loss; it’s as distasteful to me as being defined by my weight when I was morbidly obese. It’s just another side of the same issue. Although it’s difficult to explain to those who have not been there, themselves, overtly identifying someone by their weight loss is not necessarily a compliment.

Don’t misunderstand; I am proud to have accomplished what I have to this point, and I accept praise from my friends. You all have been with me from the start, and you know the battles I’ve faced; I have been transparent because I have needed to work through these things, and I know I am not alone. If you as my friend pay me a compliment, I will appreciate it because I know you mean me well.

But it’s tricky. In the case of the diner owner, she went on to ask me how I was losing weight after I told her I had lost 182 pounds. I understand that’s a normal question, but from my angle, a bit nosy. I don’t discuss such things openly because I firmly believe everyone must find their own way; what’s right for me isn’t necessarily right for you. Add to this that I was in a restaurant and I had not yet ordered. Although I was only there to drink coffee, had I been there to eat, I would have felt as if my food choices would be scrutinized.

Besides, what if I had lost great amounts of weight because of personal tragedy? An eating disorder?  A health issue? This is one of those topics people should truly approach with caution.

A few weeks ago, I was leaving another restaurant when one of the servers asked me quietly how much weight I’d lost. She, too, has lost a great deal of weight, and we had a nice conversation. It was quiet, respectful, and I didn’t feel like I was under a microscope. Maybe she was less overt because she’s been in the same place; maybe she just found the right opportunity, but I appreciated her approach.

Believe me, I know it’s tough for those who deeply want to say something to someone who has obviously made a drastic change in their life. I compare it, though, to asking someone if they’re pregnant; if you’re wrong, you’re in trouble.

Be subtle and respectful, and most will respond in kind. Be loud and perhaps be wrong, and you’re likely to be remembered.

Back in 2005 or so, I remember a friend coming up to me and nicely telling me how proud she was that I was working so hard on losing weight. She told me how great I looked; and then her husband said “yeah, because you were ugly before!” The sad part was that even though his wife just about beat him up over it, he was absolutely sincere in what he said. And now, in 2018, I still remember how my gut wrenched when he said what he said, and how hurtful those words were.

These days, I don’t expect anyone to approach me with kid gloves. I have worked hard to separate my self-worth from my appearance. I was able to brush off the underlying thought of you must have thought I was a fat ass before when the diner owner exclaimed about my weight loss; she doesn’t really know me, anyway. All she knows is what she sees; she can only see skin deep.


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