If I Don’t Congratulate You When You Tell Me You’ve Lost Weight Here’s Why

This cat doesn’t have anything to do with this post but it’s cute face got me thinking: do you think cats congratulate each other about their changing body sizes? Do they notice when one of their litter mates has put on a few ounces? I doubt it.

A Reputation for Knowing all things Weight Loss

 

Long before I became a health coach I had a reputation for being knowledgeable about weight loss, for being well versed in healthy or lower calorie eating, and for knowing all the ins and outs of dieting and lifestyle change.

I had lost large amounts of weight several times in my life and people who knew me “before” and saw me now, began to seek me out for help with their challenges in losing weight. I had a food blog that was dedicated to turning my favorite comfort foods into lighter and “healthier” versions as I learned how to cook for the first time. I made internet friends on diet tracking sites who turned into real life friends. I lived, breathed, read and consumed all things health and fitness.

And even when I gained a lot of weight back (again, several times), people still asked how I had done it, the weight loss that is. What did I eat? How much did I exercise? How did I stay on track? I had all the answers, or at least I thought my answers were helpful, and I was more than willing to share them. I became obsessed with the subject.

I was always interested in talking about bodies. What I didn’t like about mine, what was ok about mine, what I wish was different, how bummed I was that I had gained weight back, or how I still felt fat despite being the smallest I had ever been in my adult life. I felt closer to friends and family when we commiserated about our shared body, weight or food struggles. My interest and the ability to bond with others on the same journey is certainly a big reason why I ended up taking steps to become a health coach.

The majority of conversations I’ve had during my life have had at least one or two references to diets, unhappiness with our bodies, gaining weight, weight loss etc. sprinkled in, regardless of the subject. I was a super willing participant and often I was the one leading these kind of conversations! And it wasn’t all that long ago that there was still a part of me who thought that reaching and maintaining a certain number on the scale was going to bring me the happiness, acceptance and health security that I was after.

 

How Confusing it is to Navigate an Appropriate Response When You are OVER Weight Loss

 

I am so over it. Weight loss isn’t necessary for a happy life or a healthy one for that matter.

I’ve been “over it” for a while but have been trying to gracefully navigate my current feelings about it and my super ingrained normal response to this stuff.

It’s not going as gracefully as I’d like.

So if you tell me about you weight loss and you don’t get a “Wow! Congrats!” from me, I want to share where that’s coming from.

My current feelings are that I’m no longer interested in discussing or living a weight loss motivated lifestyle. I’m no longer taking on clients who are specifically looking for weight loss (which reminds me, I have a lot of old blog posts that I need to edit that say otherwise!). And I believe that keeping so much of our conversations on weight loss and dieting is harmful, especially the way we treat it like the cure for all health concerns.

If health is important to us, we should focus on eating a well varied diet, getting regular activity, managing stress in effective ways, strengthening social relationships that are important to us, developing a spiritual or creative practices that renews us and finding meaningful work or hobbies that bring us life satisfaction. In this way, you can be any size and be healthy (if that is your goal).

My normal (“super ingrained” as I said earlier) response when people talk about weight and dieting has been one that feels almost automatic because of my long history of being immersed in this stuff.  In social situations I might join in or laugh at jokes about weight that I don’t actually think are funny anymore, nodding my head in agreement when someone makes a comment about wanting pizza but they can’t because they’re on a diet, or congratulating people when they share their weight loss success. It’s easier to participate in the way I’ve always known how and go through the motions, even when I am cringing inside at my own response.

I know better! Why can’t I just not laugh when someone makes a self-deprecating joke about their body? Why can’t I walk away from the conversation when it turns to weight loss? Why can’t I just tell people how I feel and why talking about this stuff all the time is a problem?

It’s not that easy. For starters, in our culture, it’s the NORM to be participating and living a lifestyle of always wanting to be in a smaller body. I’ve been living in that culture (and full on participating) for over 35 years. Some responses are learned over time. Another reason is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that disrupting people’s beliefs in most social situations does not go over well. It either causes an argument, makes someone feel badly, or will make you seem totally out of touch with the group. And since connection is an important part of human needs, I’m interested in fostering connection, not preventing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been one to speak up when it comes to doing the right thing or when something is important (and I don’t intend to stop that) but when it comes to something as personal as body image, weight and food beliefs, I prefer to handle that on a one by one, case by case basis. I’m not going to launch into a diatribe in a group about how diet culture has brainwashed you into thinking your body isn’t already bikini-worthy. You have to know your audience. Everyone is on a different journey and people know what I do for work now – when they’re ready to walk away from that stuff, they know where to find me. I don’t need to preach about it in socially.

One area I have gotten much better in is in not making jokes about my own body. If you’ve read my stuff over the years, you may remember this post. It’s taken a lot of self awareness (some might say I’m overly self-aware, but it comes with this territory) but I feel I’ve reduced the jokes at my own body’s expense by at least 75% of where they used to be. That is no small feat and feels really good. But changes to conversation like that, and in working to be more true to my current feelings about weight and body image mean that I find myself more silent in social situations than I used to.

For awhile I was chalking it up to working from home (a major blessing that I’m thankful for but also one that has taken any social awkwardness I had and multiplied it by 5) but I think a lot of it is just that so much of conversations with women seem to be about hating our bodies or wanting to reduce our size and I just don’t want to take part in it.

I think there’s so much more to us than our size or shape and I’m working to break down my own biases about weight and fat bodies (that I have carried my whole life). I personally care about living an active lifestyle and eat a variety of types of food but I don’t think I’m a better person for doing that. And I don’t value you less or more based on your interest, willingness or success in doing that too. I want other women (and men and children too) to feel that they matter for who they are, not for what they look like. I want the conversation to be about all the other interesting things we have going on in our lives, all the things we are challenged by, looking forward to or geeking out on. I want body fat to go back to being a part of our bodies that protect and insulates us, not something that we need to feel ashamed about.

So it’s for all these reasons that I’ve gotten a little more quiet when it comes to congratulations and participation in normal diet and weight related stuff and I guess I’ve been feeling the need to explain myself (blogs are great for working through that!).

 

I Swear I’m not Trying to Be a Rude, Disinterested B*tch (and what I’m working on right now)

 

If you tell me about your weight loss success, your newest diet and the new size you are fitting into and I don’t say anything about it, please know I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just that I want you to know that your weight doesn’t matter to me. You matter to me. By saying “Congrats” I would be reinforcing the idea that weight loss is something worth congratulating and I no longer believe it is. It might be the right thing for you and I know there were too many times in my life when I felt it was the right thing for me. I don’t want to praise weight loss anymore. It is not the life-fixer we think it is and it’s not indicative of our health or value.

That’s all. That’s where I’m at. My response has nothing to do with my feeling about you or my desire to see you happy.

So just to share, here are a few things I’m personally working on as I continue to navigate this new (and somewhat lonely) place:

  • When giving compliments, I’m trying to come up with something that doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss or physical looks. This is harder than you think when all the compliments you’ve received or given your whole life have been in those categories!
  • Remembering to just say “Oh” or “How do you feel?” when people look for praise or feedback about their weight loss or diets. It’s not the response they are looking for but it’s one I can give without feeling like I’m encouraging a focus on weight.
  • Being forgiving to myself when I do fall back into old ways of responding and interacting because of a situation that is familiar (i.e. conversations about diets or weight loss). I’m human and it’s taken me this long to get here, it’s going to take a bit longer before I iron out these conditioned bumps!

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and trying to understand my perspective as it continues to change! I’m still coaching women whose goals are not weight loss. Instead it’s better health through lifestyle changes (that may or may not affect their weight ever) and focusing on taking radically good self care of ourselves. My coaching programs teach women how to step away from dieting, understand and manage emotional eating and treat their bodies with the respect it deserves (and weight loss doesn’t need to be a part of that).

How do you feel about this subject? Do you feel weight loss is something we should applaud in our society? Do you think a lower weight automatically means a healthier person? Are you fed up with diet and body talk and food fears in your own social circles? What do you think makes a person healthy? And do you believe that we can see if someone is healthy by what they look like?

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