For most of my life, it has unnerved me when someone asked, “have you lost weight?” In fact, in my life history of gaining and losing weight, that question has often triggered a cycle of weight gain. I know it’s meant as a compliment; that people believe they are saying something positive to me. Maybe others want to be asked this; I don’t.
I don’t mean to make anyone feel bad by challenging this idea, but challenge it I must. For the past few years, I’ve been pondering why this is true. Why has this one small question unnerved me when it’s meant to be a compliment? Here are the reasons I’ve come up with:
- If losing weight is a compliment, it implies that there is something inherently good about weight loss. This isn’t true. People lose weight when they are sick. People lose weight when they are emotionally stressed and cannot eat. There are a huge number of reasons that people lose weight that are not good, so the presence of a smaller body does not equal a positive accomplishment.
- The flip side of this is there is nothing inherently unhealthy about larger bodies. True, some larger bodies are unhealthy, but there are larger bodies that are much healthier than smaller ones. If this is hard for you to believe, then look here, here, and here. After you’ve let that soak in, check out how many organizations there are for people with eating disorders. Here’s a list to get you started:
- CLARIFICATION: I am not saying that no one with a large body has health issues as a result. Neither am I saying that everyone with a small body has an eating disorder. What I am saying is that body size is not a clear indicator of either physical or emotional health. Therefore, complimenting someone on having a small body should not even be a thing. Compliment my courage. Compliment my intelligence. Compliment my sense of style, my ability to sing, or my willingness to love people with abandon and invest in their lives.
- The biggest reason body questions and their implied compliments bother me: Why are you noticing my body so much anyway? It’s mine. It’s not public property to be assessed or graded or assigned value. It’s my body. It’s strong and capable and gave birth and fed babies and I’m very proud of those things, but it does not mean that it’s any better than anyone else’s body or that it’s any better when it’s smaller than when it’s larger.
Food, movement, and body size have been the focus of much of my life. They have been present in my own thoughts, in statements made to me, and in the culture I’ve lived in. It’s remarkable that anyone comes away with any sense of normalcy these areas. I’ve spent money and time in counseling, reading, working with a life coach, and on diets and exercise plans and Bible studies, and . . and . . and . . . it just keeps going on.
I’m turning 50 this year and I’m tired.
I’m tired of thinking about food and whether or not my body should be different. I reached that point a couple of years ago. I’m just done. It takes way too much emotional and spiritual energy.
Instead, I’m going to do what I love. I’m going to keep practicing yoga. I’m going to dance when the music is good. I’m going to walk outside when I can. I’m going to eat yummy, amazing food, and wear clothes that make me feel good about myself.
And if my body winds up changing somehow and you ask me if I’ve lost weight, I’ll tell you the truth: I have no idea. I have no idea and I don’t really care.
PS: if you are interested in learning more about body acceptance, please check out Amber Karnes and her Body Positive Rebellion. I’ve been following her work with body positive yoga for several years and am also participating in this online event. Having these thoughts refreshed within me is part of what inspired this post.