Note: Because of the tragic self-violence of disordered eating, I refuse to more “gracefully” word that.
While many people who have lost a great deal of weight are happy to have lost it, feel good about having lost it, and have lost it under medical supervision and/or through a healthy way, please always consider the possible ramifications of telling someone “Wow, you look so good after all that weight loss!” or tbh, commenting on people’s weights at all.
For me, today someone close to me commented in a way that was actually very considerate and was not at all hurtful to me (but validating instead). She had noticed the rapid weight loss and was concerned for me, knowing why it has been happening, and she treated it compassionately.
But I can’t tell you how many people have seen me in the past month and told me, “Wow, you look great now! Look at how much weight you’ve lost!” to which I must stifle a frustrated “I’ve lost weight because my body literally won’t allow me to eat and drink due to medical problems and I am so hungry and thirsty and miserable.”
The fact that I haven’t been able to leave the house much and so I haven’t seen many people is a true testament to how painfully common this response is.
When I struggled most with disordered eating as a teen, I was already thin. I lost no more than 30 pounds and it was throughout the course of many months. (I kept yo-yoing with numbers. No surprise now – due to endometriosis – that I’d regularly gain a whopping 10 pounds during/around ovulation despite keeping my ridiculously low intake the same.) Because of the yo-yoing and me being thin prior-to, no one really noticed. I was a pariah in that town, but my weight had never been part of that, and the two people in my life who mattered most at the time and were the only ones calling me fat still kept calling me fat when my bones were jutting out. I do wonder, with so much depression and pain (both mental *and* physical) in me then, had I been overweight to begin with and had it been made an issue by as many people who made my eccentricities and sensitivity an issue, would I still have eventually realized how my worth as a person and the numbers on the scale were not at all connected? It would have definitely impeded recovery at the very least.
I love my body now.
It has its faults and is imperfect like every body. It has medical problems, it is often difficult to move and in great pain, and that is frustrating at best. But that is not its fault. It carries who I am inside of it, allows me to experience the beauties of the world, as well as the ugliness. It allows me to have a place here, on this earth, and allows me to hug my loved ones, pet my babies, laugh and smile and cry and communicate. And all of this, in spite of the 400+ scars I have intentionally given it, the abuse I myself used to put it through, my direct attempts to murder it, and the fact that it’s been broken into, damaged, drugged repeatedly and heavily by drug pushing doctors (of all kinds), used, and abused, it still loves me unconditionally, trying to keep me here in this world even when it has endured horrible things, and I myself also did horrible things to it in order to leave, or punish it for things that were not its fault.
I had a friend in my teens, a real friend, who called me beautiful, and even encouraged me to model (which would’ve been a probably literally grave mistake for me, but she encouraged me to do so because she thought others would find me beautiful too.) She initiated taking photographs of me she put effort into stylizing even though she was never interested in photography herself. But moreover, she encouraged me to eat when I didn’t want to; to lay off the exercise when I was clearly tired and physically hurting. She told me I had worth, a future, inner beauty and believed in me, and that’s the kind of support someone suffering from disordered eating often actually needs, because (most people do not know this) eating disorders often start with weight loss but by the time they become disorders, they are no longer about weight, even though that’s what the focus *seems* to be on. When someone ties their physical form to their integrity or character value, that is when they have an increased likelihood of intentionally harming their body, and devastatingly, society encourages this connection all the time. You can want to lose weight to improve your health – or gain weight to improve your health, build muscle to improve your health, etc. But when you do it in pursuit of becoming a person of “value” or increasing your worth as a human being, that is when you are really hurt inside, and you need to begin healing yourself.
June 3 was Wonder Woman Day. I am actually not a big fan of superhero stories, (except Buffy – huge fan of Buffy, and a fan of Deadpool by proxy but he’s an antihero so), but I know this because that is that friend’s birthday. I miss her and think of her daily still because she was such a beautiful human being and positive influence in my life. We are no longer friends as she changed too much, and I changed too little, and wedges were driven into our friendship by others that were probably there in the first place (due to my behavior) and I just naïvely overlooked them. I still will never forget her support in helping me through times in which I was psychologically very ill, and very much alone.
That being said, I am extremely grateful for those who are also supportive and in my life now. Most days, despite the limitations and pain of my medical illness, I am psychologically in a much better place than I ever have been. I am actually very much truly happy a good portion of the time which I think is pretty rare for most people, even those who have very different struggles. Even at the start of this blog, I was not truly happy ever, although I could feel the rays from that developing light. I have learned a lot in my short life so far about people, the world, and myself, and am deeply grateful for both the good and having learned proactively from the bad.
True support is very crucial in all of this, regardless of the kind of illness(es) a person has. Most people who are sick will not tell you unless they know you very well and even then, many people try to hide their symptoms from others.
It is important to take this into consideration then. One of my favorite quotes is,
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – paraphrased from Ian MacLaren (probably) although often misattributed to Plato.
But true kindness does require thought and sometimes, specific customization depending on the situation and the person it’s directed to.
“You lost a lot of weight – you look great!” is often intended with kindness and can often be received that way (although even objectively it is kind of a backhanded compliment no matter what tbh.)
But you never really know why or how someone lost so much, or if they are going to keep losing it. For those of us who are chronically ill, (obviously not limited to but also including mental illnesses), saying something like that can be a dangerous gamble.
If you do still want to compliment someone on their appearance after losing weight, I’d recommend a gentler, “You look very nice!” followed by something like “It’s good to see you,” so that you can still lightly compliment them on their appearance but casually compliment them on their actual worth, as well.
I always welcome thoughtful comments but would like others’ opinions on this thought especially, as I am well aware that one person’s story is not all stories.