Last week I ran into someone I haven’t seen for quite a while. She tugged on my shirt “well, look at you, all svelte!” she exclaimed. “Good for you!”
I snapped back: “It’s NOT good for me. I’ve been sick!”
She was taken aback by my tone: “Are you okay now?”
“No, but I will be.”
“Still,” she said cheerfully. “At least you lost the weight!”
I turned my back and walked away.
This kind of thing pisses me off. Why do women always assume that other women are trying to lose weight? Why do they think it’s okay to comment on each other’s weight? Why do they assume all weight loss is welcome and a matter for congratulations? Her “Good for you!” felt so condescending.
Other people’s weight is none of your business. Seriously. Never. Don’t congratulate someone spontaneously on their weight loss. For all you know, they could have been ill. I was hyperthyroid. Others lose weight from, say, cancer. Others are struggling with eating disorders. Keep your unsolicited comments to yourself. If someone brings it up themselves, then you know it’s an okay topic, but until the door is opened, don’t barge in like a jerk.
Just because you are desperate to lose weight, just because you feel unhealthy or unpretty or unacceptable for whatever reason, don’t project your weight loss fantasy envy bullshit onto me. I would have gladly kept that fifty pounds if it meant not going through all the various systemic problems that accompany severe hyperthyroidism.
When I first lost this weight a year and a half ago, I ran into one of my aunties at a family garage sale. “Oh, you’ve lost so much weight! You look fantastic!” At the time, my symptoms weren’t yet under control, especially the cardiac ones, so I still felt truly awfully ill. I told my auntie as politely as I could manage that the weight loss was due to serious illness. She gave a little shrug and said “Well, silver lining.”
Are we so desperate to achieve the body of a thin teenager that we don’t care what damage we do to ourselves? Is it for health? Not if we see illness-related weight loss as a lovely side effect. Is it for beauty? Hard to imagine, for me, when I carry my heavy thighs and big breasts and wide hips and round belly and strong back through the world and never lack for compliments or flirtations. Is it for happiness? Only if your happiness depends on commercially-driven external definitions of how you look. I can guarantee you that I can enjoy a Coffee Crisp or a bowl of ice cream more than most women I know.
I don’t know about calories. I have never dieted. I fucking detest listening to people talk about their diets and weight loss regimes. People tell me about the diet they’re on in which carrots or avocados aren’t allowed and all I can think is seriously, fruit and veg? A diet that restricts fruit and veg? What the actual fuck?
So many people hate their bodies so much. And I’ve just decided I don’t want to participate in that anymore. I don’t want to commiserate with people who are complaining about how they need to lose weight. I’m not going to agree that your jeans make you look fat or try to reassure you that they don’t. I just don’t care enough about appearances. What I care about in my own body is: did the hyperthyroidism damage my heart or my eyes? What stretches can I do to loosen the hip that always gets stiff after I’ve been drawing for hours? Am I strong enough to lift my old dog in and out of the car?
The world is an interesting place and I want to pay attention to it. The world is a messed-up place and I want to fix it. The world is full of fascinating people and places and animals and ideas, and I want to learn from all of them. Worrying about my weight, or feeling guilty about eating a cookie, or caring what strangers think of my appearance, or obsessing about dandelions on my lawn, or keeping my house immaculate: none of these are going to help me live a good, productive, creative, happy, loving, reflective life.
And as much as I don’t actually care what people think of my weight, I am enraged at their rudeness and presumption and enforcement of societal assumptions and rules about weight, appearance, and the need to control women’s bodies. It’s perfectly possible to say “Hey, you look great / healthy / strong / happy / beautiful / sexy” without adding “You’ve lost so much weight!”
Don’t be that judgy person. Other people’s bodies aren’t any of your business unless you’re worshipfully kissing them from top to bottom. In which case, the point is moot.
(Edit 01-Dec-2015: fixed a typo)