In the past six months I’ve lost 20 pounds. I’m pretty darn proud of myself. I’ve been eating less and exercising more. (The latter was easy since I barely exercised before.) I’m not only thinner; I’m fitter. I feel good about my body for the first time in years. But right now, at this moment, I’m not enjoying that. Right now, I’m angry over a simple exchange I had with a couple of other women.
We were talking about fitness and losing weight after having a baby. (Both of these women have had babies within the past year.) I quipped that I’m finally approaching my pre-baby weight, and it only took until my “babies” were six and eight years old! It wasn’t supposed to be a brag, humble or otherwise. It was just supposed to be a joke (albeit one based on truth), but the reactions I got were not funny. At least not to me.
What followed was a lot of “it’s not like you needed to lose any weight” type remarks. I suppose they were meant to be compliments, but what they did was make me feel like my hard work of these past six months wasn’t significant just because other people didn’t view me as fat.
To be clear, these women I was talking to are not much bigger than I am. It’s not like I was interjecting my desire to lose 30 pounds into a conversation with people struggling with obesity. In fact, I’d say that one of these women is probably thinner than I am even though she gave birth a few months ago. Still, although I’m sure it was unintentional, their remarks made me feel lousy. They erased the pride I had in my accomplishments. They made me feel like all my health and fitness efforts were meaningless.
At the time I let their comments go, but this is what I wanted to say:
I’ve hated my body for years. And hating my body made me depressed for years. It made me less confident, not just in my appearance but in all things. You probably didn’t notice because something I learned growing up as a fat, awkward nerd was how to fake self confidence. (It’s the one ability I am always confident about.)
By losing weight and getting stronger I finally started to regain my true confidence. I feel good about myself. Improving my body has reinvigorated my writing and my work. It has helped my marriage. Don’t you dare take any of that away just because you don’t think I needed to do this. You don’t know how much I needed to do this.
Please, if someone is trying to better themselves (physically or otherwise), cheer them on or congratulate them. Don’t tell them they were good enough to begin with. You may think you are being nice, but you are diminishing what they are working so hard to do. And that sucks.
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