Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rant about body comments

People's attitudes about appetite and body size are really getting on my nerves lately. For the past few months I have had a significantly reduced appetite. For the first month or so I thought my body was finally wising up and dumping the extra pounds I put on when I got sick and had to take prednisone last year. Then I got the flu, so it made sense that I didn't want to eat that week, and for a few weeks after that I just figured that it was taking a while to get back to normal from the flu. However, the flu was ages ago, and the appetite decrease has only grown more pronounced. It wasn't until last week that I dusted off my old mental calorie count dictionary honed from years of dieting and started doing the math and realized that even with forcing myself to eat at fairly consistent intervals, I was getting about 800 calories a day if I was being generous with the numbers. Yesterday I had to force myself to eat more than 200 calories for the day.

I went to the doctor for that combined with some other issues. I don't weigh myself anymore, so when I discussed the appetite reduction with her and she asked if I'd lost weight, I could really just shrug and say that her chart knows better than I do. (They weigh me every time I go in, and I always ask not to be told. Giving up dieting and the fantasy of being thin is difficult enough, and I worry that hearing the number will trigger old habits.) According to them, I was 12 pounds lighter on this visit than the last time I came in two months ago, which is a fair amount of weight to lose unintentionally.

The problem is when I try to share this issue with people and I get comments like, "Oh wow, that's awesome! Good job!" or "Maybe it's because of a healthier lifestyle!" Um, no, eating less than 1000 calories in a day is not a healthy lifestyle, and it's not awesome. Unless you're obviously underweight, everyone assumes that you must welcome weight loss for any reason. It might start to get a whole lot worse soon--I'm fairly tall so weight loss isn't really visible on me until I've lost 20 or so pounds, after which people start noticing. If this continues I can look forward to being subjected to a whole litany of "You've lost so much weight!", "You look really good, what are you doing?"

These comments have always been a huge pet peeve of mine, even when I've been intentionally trying to lose weight. I've heard from a lot of people that they love hearing this kind of stuff when they're losing weight and that it's encouragement, but it's always driven me up the wall. It reminds me that people are always checking out your body, making judgements on it, and keeping some mental tally of gains and losses in body size. The comments imply, if not implicitly state, that the commenter believes that you look great NOW, as compared to 20 pounds ago when apparently you looked terrible.

In my ideal world, people would not really notice these things, and if that is too much to ask, they would keep comments to themselves. There are so many reasons for people to lose and gain weight, and these reasons can be incredibly personal. I know that many drugs for depression/anxiety/bipolar can cause pretty severe weight gain, so can something like prednisone which is sometimes used long-term by people with some autoimmune conditions. Someone could be pregnant and not ready to share that information, or they could be really sick with something that is causing weight loss. You don't know what's going on, and it's not your body, so shut it, even if you think you're giving a compliment.

If anyone is still reading this, please just question the de facto assumption that small=good+healthy and large=bad+unhealthy, and that moving toward being small is to be congratulated no matter what the means. Also, give just a tiny bit of thought to why comments on the size and shape of another individual's body are deemed to be fair conversational game, not on rare occasions, but often immediately upon greeting someone you haven't seen in a month. Maybe I'm the minority, but I can't be the only one who finds these comments uncomfortable and slightly offensive.

1 comment:

The Bombshell said...

I'm with you on this issue.