Ask Aunt Fattie: What do I say when people compliment my weight loss?

Dear Aunt Fattie,

Over the past couple of months, I have embraced HAES, starting working on my negative body image, bought some pretty clothes in my correct size(s) (including new bras that actually fit), and got a great (shorter) haircut. Moderate exercise energizes me and makes me give off a rosy endorphin glow. In short, I look good and feel better that I have in 13 years. People have started to notice and compliment me on my transformation. It’s all good, right? The thing is, my new intuitive eating and exercise habits have resulted in the loss of a very modest amount of weight, so modest that it would go unnoticed if it weren’t for all of the other changes I’ve made. (The only reason I noticed is that the nurse told me at my last check-up.) What do I tell people when they ask the dreaded questions, “Have you lost weight?” or “How much weight have you lost?”

People want to say nice things to me, and I want to let them know that I appreciate the comments, but I don’t want to talk about my weight. Or, perhaps I do want to talk about my weight, but only if it is going to be in a FA context. Specifically, I’m looking for responses for a) my husband, b) my co-workers, and c) my girlfriends (only one of whom I’ve ever known to diet).

Any suggestions?

Signed,
Never learned how to accept a compliment

You are searching for something even more elusive than well-fitting bras: a response that conveys at once appreciation for an attempted compliment and complete indifference to the content of that compliment. Your husband is presumably aware of the provenance of your newfound glow (and the personal sturm und drang that probably preceded it), so with him, only gentle candor is needed: “Honey, you know I’m trying to move on from caring about my weight, so can you compliment things I’m really proud of, like my clothes or my haircut or my biceps?” With your girlfriends, you can skirt the Diet Talk canyon by focusing on the real issues: “have you lost weight?” is met with “mostly I got new bras, let me tell you about how amazing it is to have a bra that fits!” But what to say to coworkers and casual acquaintances? You don’t want to lie and say that you haven’t lost weight, but at the same time you want to downplay the importance of weight loss and, if possible, demonstrate the virtues of fat-positivity. And talking about your underthings is probably crossing a line.

Aunt Fattie’s recommendation: variations on the theme of “really? I hadn’t noticed.” For people who are keenly attuned to others’ weight fluctuations, this is guaranteed to blow their minds. It is not rude or dismissive, but the genuine indifference not to the weight loss compliment but to weight loss itself alerts people that something unusual is going on here. (In order to show that you are not indifferent to the compliment, it may behoove you to add something like “are you sure you’re not just noticing my kicky new ‘do?” In other words, acknowledge the attempt at telling you that you look good, and guide them towards the kind of compliment you care about and want to receive.) Thus, you are not only sidestepping an awkward conversation; you’re also quietly, non-confrontationally challenging people’s assumptions that weight loss is always deliberate and desirable.

If your coworkers and acquaintances are intrigued by your response, you can gauge whether you want to engage them in a more in-depth discussion of Health At Every Size and what it’s done for you. But remember that you are not obliged to discuss your body or your health choices with anyone unless you want to. If someone asks whether you’ve lost weight, and they are genuinely trying to compliment you, it’s polite to acknowledge their good intentions — but you are under no obligation to answer their question or, having answered it, to give more detail. Visibility does not make your body public property.

If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatshion, fatiquette, self-esteem, or body image, send them to auntfattie@gmail.com.

148 thoughts on “Ask Aunt Fattie: What do I say when people compliment my weight loss?

  1. That is good advice about what to say to the coworkers, because if they thought you were trying to lose weight, or that you wanted people to notice they would most likely (if they are like people I know) continue to ask you over the next weeks and months “have you lost any more weight?” “how’s the weight loss going?” “oh, you’re eating cake?”

    If they keep asking you, then you can tell them about your new bras and maybe that will keep them quiet.

    And for those of you reading who have not had a properly fitted bra, get yourselves to one of those stores who have the little old ladies measuring you – it is fantastic to finally have a bra that fits once you realize that you have been wearing the wrong size, not having enough support and that you are in fact a 38DD (or whatever.)

  2. Good answer!

    My boyfriend’s Grandma tells me I’ve lost weight every time I see her. It’s never a question, just a statement of ‘fact’ which makes it hard to respond to. I never actually have lost weight when she says this, and I’m never dieting or anything, so I don’t know where it comes from.

    If I thought about it more I guess I could be insulted, but I think she just uses it as a sort of generic compliment for women. She tells my boyfriend he’s put on weight in the exact same friendly tone. Ha ha.

  3. I love this line — your husband is presumably aware of the provenance of your newfound glow.

    Ah, marriage. The man who should have noticed before suddenly notices now. Better late than never, I say. Embrace it and thank him. Men compliment more often when their compliments are received with appreciation.

    Or you can respond the way I normally respond, which is the hallmark of passive-aggressiveness. “Oh you noticed? My other husband noticed how awesome I am weeks ago.”

  4. If they keep asking you, then you can tell them about your new bras and maybe that will keep them quiet.

    Hee!

  5. I particularly like the idea of suggesting an alternate compliment, a la “maybe you are noticing my new ‘do?” Because that is applicable even when we haven’t lost any weight – it’s pretty damn guaranteed that when I wear certain styles someone will comment that it looks like I’ve lost weight. “Well, no, these jeans are just seriously stretched out because I haven’t washed them for five wearings” is usually a bit more info than people really want. *snort*

  6. She tells my boyfriend he’s put on weight in the exact same friendly tone. Ha ha.

    Okay, that is really funny. All-purpose gendered compliments! Inappropriate for any occasion!

    The only thing that I can imagine going wrong with the response AF suggests is that if a particularly clueless and/or socially inept coworker doesn’t pick up on the paradigm shift and instead decides it’s her job to convince you that you have lost weight. “Oh you hadn’t noticed? Well, just look at your cute little waist” and that sort of thing. If that scenario arises (and I’m probably being paranoid imagining it, but people get so weird about weight), I think Aunt Fattie’s general advice still holds: saying something like “I appreciate that you think I look good, but I’m just not into focusing on my weight right now” might work.

  7. I have the same problem. I really want to focus away from the weight I’ve lost and on the other things I’ve accomplished.

    This is especially hard with my mom, whenever I say anything she replies with “but I’m proud of you! Don’t you want to acknowledge how hard you’ve worked?” Great, be proud of me. That doesn’t mean everyone else needs to know. Especially when we talk numbers.

    And I’ve tried asking her to acknowledge my academic and professional changes instead, but for some reason the only thing she’s so proud of that she needs to share with the rest of my family, her friends, the doorman, or random people on the street is the weight loss. Not my appointment as an editor of my school’s paper or my new internship. Or even the simple fact that I finally figured out wtf I want to do with my life. Nope, just the pounds.

  8. People say that to me all the time. I usually just smile and say “I don’t know. I don’t weigh myself.” If they keep insisting, I say “Not as far as I know – my clothes aren’t fitting any differently.”

  9. My BF’s mom did this to me over the weekend. I was all “Oh I don’t think so… no seriously, I’m pretty sure I haven’t lost any weight at all. But thanks for the compliment.”

    She lives in a strange world where she thinks she is giganticly fat, and is in fact only normally fat for lady approaching 50. Her mom is the exact same way. They both seem to think they could fit into my clothes! Which is HILARIOUS because they are both half a foot shorter than me and a good deal narrower.

    I think AF’s advice is lovely as always.

  10. This brings back bad memories of the time, several years ago, when I was seriously ill for many months, unable to eat, and not sure whether I would live or die — and a ‘friend’, visiting me while I was sick and housebound, kept complementing me on the weight I had lost.
    I think that was among the turning points in my journey to FA.

  11. I agree about the comments to close friends and family members (particularly husbands), and while I like the idea for comments to co-workers, etc., I have another suggestion, too. How about:

    They: “Gertrude, you look wonderful! Have you lost weight?”
    LW: “Thank you. I’ve been having so much fun with my new workouts (or my new haircut, or my new clothes…) I guess that’s just an unexpected side effect!”

  12. This is my textbook response:

    They: Have you lost weight?
    Me: Well I sure haven’t been tryin’!

  13. Heh. My mom has heard me on a FA-inspired rant more than once, so she knows how little emphasis I put on weight loss.

    So, if we happen to come across someone we haven’t seen in a while, and they’ll comment off handed about how much weight I’ve lost and how great I look now (as opposed to like, a year ago, I reckon), she’ll head em off by saying: “Nah, that’s just confidence you see.”

    One of the many reasons I love my mom so much. :D

  14. Actual conversation I had with a co-worker not long ago:

    Her: You look good. Have you lost weight?
    Me: No! But I did start wearing make up!

    For some reason, people seem to ask me this a lot. I think they are confused by the fact that sometimes I am slobbing around in old t-shirts with unbrushed hair and sometimes I am dressed in nice, form-fitting clothes with hair done, etc. Weight loss seems to be the default question when someone is thinking, “she looks better, is something different?” Maybe because weight loss is widely considered an achievement and hair brushing isn’t.

  15. How about…

    Them: You look great! Have you lost weight?

    You: I don’t think so, but thank you for the compliment.

    You’re thanking them for saying you look great (whether it’s your workout glow, or your haircut) and you’re waving away the weightloss question.

  16. I’m in exactly the same boat, and it’s very awkward because you feel like a traitor for having lost weight – like the “after” picture in all the diet ads who is implicitly mocking the “before” version.

    I started riding my bike to work a few months ago because I’m not interested in paying $4 a gallon for gas. It’s a fairly long ride – about 11 miles each way. Which means effectively I’m exercising for 2 hours a day 5 times a week. On top of that I can’t eat any heavy food because after an hour riding in 90 degree weather I don’t feel like the usual stuff I would have – rice, broccoli, and lentils really hit the spot though.

    Anyways, I lost 40 pounds in 2 months. Now all of a sudden I’m the poster boy for “diets and exercise DO work!!! Look at Mike!!!”. My doctor raves about how healthy I am and how my cholesterol has dropped 30 points. Coworkers say they love the “new me”. It’s getting old pointing out to people that I’m exercising for two freaking hours a day, and that that’s just not realistic for the average person, or even for me once gas goes down.

    So what’s the best strategy? Just ignore everyone or keep pointing out that this is an extreme case?

  17. I’m exercising for two freaking hours a day, and that that’s just not realistic for the average person

    I think this is the perfect response.

    And seriously, good for you — for taking one more car off the road. I was just talking to my coworker about how I’d ride my bike at least to the subway if I weren’t such a fraidy-cat, but I am. (And I’m way too scared to ride it all the way to work, which involves a lot of city streets.)

  18. FJ, ditto. I love riding my bike in quiet residential areas, but I’m new to my huge city (well, Toronto is the biggest city in Canada, even if it might be small by American standards!), and I’m terrified to ride on busy streets during rush hour, even though I’d love to try riding to work.

  19. I would love to bike to my train stop, I hate waiting for the bus, plus, the bus is often late, which means I have to wait another 20 minutes for the next train. Sucks to not have a bike. (Being in the 3xx range, I think I would just crush most bikes pretty quickly. But perhaps that is my paranoia.)

  20. shinobi, Dan weighs just under 300 and he bikes to and from work every day. His bike needs a little more care than a lighter person’s — he eventually just learned how to true his own wheels instead of taking it in all the time — but he’s had the same bike for a long time now. Once you’re a pretty good rider, you don’t actually put most of your weight in the seat anyway.

  21. I hate this. I hate being noticed and I hate, especially being noticed for weight loss, as if that is some great, profound accomplishment. No matter that I’ve been working in the HIV field for going on 20 years. I find that, due to whatever circumstances, if I lose weight, I tend to start wearing baggier clothes so that people won’t notice/comment. Of course, that could possibly be the eating disorder speaking but FSM, I wish I had a sign I could hang somewhere that says,

    “Comments about my body are not appreciated.”

  22. I would love love love to ride my bike to work… but I work 35 miles from work. I don’t know exactly how fast I peddle but we’ll say between 5-10 mph so it would take 3 1/2 to 7 hours =\

    Though people mentioning the weight lose I do have a question on it… What if you’ve lost a great deal of weight due to illness, specifically an eating disorder?

    When people ask I have the urge to get very rude and angry though I know they mean well

  23. Erin, that depends… how much do you want to get into it with them? It’s perfectly kosher to say “yes, I’ve been ill.” Questions about the nature of the illness can be answered or brushed off with “I’m sorry, I’d rather not discuss it” as you prefer.

  24. Sweet Machine, I was going to suggest the same thing — sometimes people get super insistent that you MUST have lost weight (“I can see it in your face!” or other body parts). In this case I’d say a little white lie is an okay response, something like “Nope, it’s just my haircut/new foundation/collared shirts.”

    Actually I can remember having gotten that line in my pre-FA days, when I’d lost maybe 5 pounds (starting from 250), and was jumping on the diet-talk-as-camraderie bandwagon. I didn’t see any difference in my face so I’m pretty sure that line was intended as encouragement or approval of a positive life change — which may be where the LW’s coworkers are coming from, too.

    So, go Aunt Fattie! Great advice. :D

  25. Shinobi- you’d almost certainly be fine. There was a time when I was within spitting distance of 300lbs and I rode my regular old hybrid bike without thinking about it. No problems at all. You can also retrofit a regular bike with wheels that are sturdier, thicker spokes and such. Just ask about it at the bike shop. Or, they do also sell bikes that can support up to 650 pounds.

    http://www.supersizedcycles.com/bikes

    and

    http://tinyurl.com/2a77qu

    and

    http://www.industrialbicycles.com/INB%20BICYCLES.htm

  26. Wow, RoseCampion, those Industrial Bicycles are even priced reasonably! And with baskets so Dan wouldn’t have to strap whatever thing he nonsensically decided to carry home (50 pound power supply, e.g.) onto the back of his bike! I’m bookmarking that site for when he needs a bike replacement.

  27. Oh bother, it’s a coaster. Oh well. Some fat person reading this thread who’s not as reliant as Dan is on gear changes will still be very grateful for the link.

  28. Comments like these used to rile me up a bit because of the whole – why is anything to do with my body your business -angle. But then I realized people usually just use “lost weight” as their default compliment. Now when people say that to me I just say: “Nope, I guess I’m just getting hotter.” ;-)

  29. In high school (25 years ago), I described a family friend as looking “better” because of her substantial weight loss. Her father informed me that she had Crohn’s disease, was in constant pain and needed surgery. Ever since, I have never commented on someone’s weight without her (usually her) initiation.

    Meanwhile, if people ask me if I’ve lost weight, I often respond by saying “I haven’t lost an ounce. But I might be redistributing.” For some reason, that tends to work. And sometimes it’s true, if I’ve tried some new exercise.

  30. I always like the original Emily Post advice on compliments: say thank you if it’s a polite compliment, and ignore it if it’s a rude one. Your diet, where you get your clothes and makeup etc are not public property, even if someone else wants them to be.

    And seriously, good for you — for taking one more car off the road. I was just talking to my coworker about how I’d ride my bike at least to the subway if I weren’t such a fraidy-cat, but I am. (And I’m way too scared to ride it all the way to work, which involves a lot of city streets.)

    I do a fair bit of city riding. It is very counterintuitive, but if you take your lane and refuse to share, drivers tend to treat you better. It’s a real confidence building exercise. The more firm you are about “I’m real, I exist, and you do NOT get to squish me!” the better people tend to treat you. There will always be some jackasses, but very few drivers really *want* to hurt you… if only because they know they’ll pay through the nose for causing an accident. (and there are some people who are *too* nice, to the point where it’s dangerous for you and them… it’s usually possible to convince them to be law abiding so both of you can be safe)

    It does take practice, just like any other skill. The pay off is worth it IMO.

  31. I do a fair bit of city riding. It is very counterintuitive, but if you take your lane and refuse to share, drivers tend to treat you better. It’s a real confidence building exercise. The more firm you are about “I’m real, I exist, and you do NOT get to squish me!” the better people tend to treat you.

    That’s what my dad – an obsessive bike freak who is literally writing a book on biking in American cities – always says. And also, that it’s much safer to do that because you’re much more predictable for cars.

    I still have never gotten the hang of city riding though – it’s on my goal list, though, for the next year.

  32. say thank you if it’s a polite compliment, and ignore it if it’s a rude one.

    That’s what’s so tough about “you’ve lost weight” compliments to a fat activist, though — we recognize that comments on people’s body size, shape, and composition are rude, but we also acknowledge that in a weight-obsessed society, praise for weight loss is meant to be polite (or at least nice). So you don’t want to smack someone’s wrist for talking about your body, but you also don’t want to condone and possibly perpetuate their behavior by merely saying “thanks.”

  33. Whenever I get comments like those, I tell them I’ve just washed my hair. That usually puts a stop to the diet-talk.

  34. she’ll head em off by saying: “Nah, that’s just confidence you see.”

    FashionableNerd – your mom is awesome!

    A couple years ago (shortly before I discovered HAES) I started doing Pilates to strengthen and support my lower back. In 4 months I went from a 20 to a 16 without any appreciable weight change, but people noticed and commented.

    Random Person: “Oh, you’ve lost so much weight!”
    Kallipygia: “Nope, just rearranged it.”
    RP: *jawdrop* “No, you must have lost, what, 20 or 30 pounds?
    Kallipygia: No, I’ve been taking Pilates classes. Let me tell you about (how much I love Pilates, how much I love shopping for new clothes, etc.)”

    Nowadays I can add HAES to the discussion if I consider it appropriate.

  35. I’ve been dealing with this too, rather unexpectedly; I’ve lost just a half-smidgen of weight, probably from discontinuing an SSRI and from seriously overbooking myself with enrichment classes this summer (including ballet…omg, sooo much fun and more FA-positive than I imagined!), so little that I never expected anyone to notice. But they have. I’ve just been brushing it off when people comment as, “Oh, who knows, I’ve just been running around way more than usual lately,” which seems to work to kill the weight discussion. I just find it really disconcerting that coworkers, for example, take more notice of the size of my ass than I do.

    And I too am scared to ride my bike in a busy suburban area. *sigh*

  36. On a side note, am I the only one who’s surprised by how quickly many people notice weight fluctuations? I’ve never been able to spot them unless they’re drastic and even then I’m second guessing myself thinking “Oh, maybe they were just dressed differently.” I wonder if it’s a side effect of my not being a particularly visual person, or what.

  37. Liza wrote: This is especially hard with my mom, whenever I say anything she replies with “but I’m proud of you! Don’t you want to acknowledge how hard you’ve worked?”

    I finally had to ask my mother point blank to stop mentioning it at all. She would call me things like “skinny” (which is NOT true) which were just as hurtful as fat names because it meant that my body was more important than the person I am inside. It seems to have worked – the last visit, not one word was said about weight. It made it a lot less stressful than it could have been.

    I’ve pretty much dealt with things the way Aunt Fattie suggests – by downplaying the whole weight thing and redirecting the compliment. But I’ve always been careful not to make the person feel bad about wanting to give me a compliment – there are not enough compliments in this world.

  38. Great advice from Aunt Fattie, as usual!

    I realized people usually just use “lost weight” as their default compliment. Now when people say that to me I just say: “Nope, I guess I’m just getting hotter.” ;-)

    Ami – I love this and may have to steal it!

    My colleague has lost some weight and I noticed it last week. She’s not mentioned it or talked about trying to lose weight, but I’m amazed at how hard it is not to comment on it. My FA angel is saying “Keep your mouth shut!”, but it’s weirdly difficult not to say anything – I think because of the point Ami made that weight loss is now the default compliment. It seems almost rude not to say anything given how highly weight-loss is valued in our culture (I know how stupid that sounds).

  39. I pick and choose where and to whom to drop my political bombs. If I don’t know someone, they get a polite “thanks.” If it’s someone I trust, I say thanks and let them know I’m NOT dieting.

  40. Liza–let me just say that that editorship looks fabulous on you. And is that a new internship? :) I know exactly what you’re saying.

    Good question, good answers. I just lost weight after going off prednisone and people in my workplace seem to want to talk constantly about my body and my weight. I’m sure they did before, too, just not to my face. I generally say that I don’t know if I’ve lost weight or how much I’ve lost and people always look incredulous and ask me again. Phhbt.

  41. I now exercise regularly, but as a result of reading FA I’ve been buying clothes and actually eating healthily/taking care of myself whereas before it was out and out neglect and yoyo dieting/comfort eating.

    I’ve not lost any weight, and sometimes I still look at myself and see such a different person to the one in my head that I want to go hide, but the result of working out for 30mins-1 hours 5 times a week has had enough of an impact that someone at my daily bus stop (who is there pretty regularly) did notice. I just said that I hadn’t lost any weight, but yes my body is changing and I’ve been exercising a lot. I’m definitely happier and more confident than I’ve ever been right now, and I think that is what is showing.

  42. Many people simply have a problem sorting out what has changed about an individual’s appearance, and their guesses may be wild, clueless, and perhaps innocent of bad intentions. Here’s a variation:

    At one point, my husband had a beard for around 25 years. No one where he worked (for around 20 years) had seen him without it. One Sunday, he shaved it off. On Monday, several people — especially men — stared and stared and said they couldn’t figure out what was different. One asked, “Did you get a haircut?”

    The prize: one colleague asked “How did you grow that big mustache over the weekend?”

  43. I was getting really good at being a city bike rider and then I put my bike up for the winter and I still haven’t gotten it back out. I totally lost my courage. But in my defense, there have been three cyclists killed in my neighborhood by buses this year – that’s only one area of the city and only one type of vehicle mind you – which stacks the odds a little high against me for my particular taste.

  44. My all-purpose answer is a noncommital “No, I don’t think so,” and I try to look as if it were the most boring subject in the world. So far it’s done the job.

    The few times I actually had lost a visible amount of weight, I’ve gone with “Eh, sometimes I eat more, sometimes I eat less” (truth: topamax – no way to explain that one to my boss). And the most surreal moment (I had done a lot of work on my binge eating and had also been exercising regularly):

    her: You lost weight!
    me: Yeah, I have
    her
    me
    her You look great!
    me: Oh, thanks

    I honestly hadn’t realized it was supposed to be a compliment. I was feeling so centered at the time that I just took it as a statement of fact with no good/bad value, just as if she’d said, “your hair is brown.” I really liked the feeling of being so detached from the whole weight issue that I wasn’t even understanding the subtext.

  45. Oops, the bracketed comments got lost. It was:

    her: You lost weight!
    me: Yeah, I have
    her: [ waits expectantly ]
    me: [ looks puzzled ]
    her You look great!
    me: Oh, thanks

  46. Two responses I’ve made, depending on my sitch:

    Q: “You’ve lost so much weight! How did you do it?”

    A: “I had a really crappy six months.”

    or

    Q: “You’ve lost weight. You look great.”

    A: “Oh no. Really? Seriously? Shit. I have to get on that.”

  47. I love the comments I’m reading here.

    I often use the, “Actually, no, but I’ve finally found clothes that really fit.” or “Actually, I’ve gained some, but I finally gave up wearing men’s shirts with breast pockets!”

  48. Ok, but what if you’ve lost enough weight that you can’t pretend like it didn’t happen? If I’ve lost a couple of pounds and people comment on it, I feel comfortable saying “Nope, I just bought new pants” or something, but I’ve dropped several dress sizes since I’ve seen some people, and then I just awkwardly look at my shoes when they comment and change the subject. There must be another way!

  49. I’ve started noticing this a bit recently – now I’ve shifted away from dieting and have taken on Intuitive Eating and HAES. People have said to me, “Have you lost weight?” and my responses tend to be, “Man, I wouldn’t have a clue, it’s been that long since I’ve stood on a scale.”, or, “If I have, I’m not really bothered. I’m more focused on training for my [insert triathlon/running race/ocean swim/bike race here].”

    Although!

    I realized people usually just use “lost weight” as their default compliment. Now when people say that to me I just say: “Nope, I guess I’m just getting hotter.” ;-)

    THAT is genius. Will be stealing! *yoink!*

  50. cagey, yes, you could say “oh, I hadn’t noticed” (or some variation — “hmm,” “no kidding,” “you don’t say”). That doesn’t need to signify “I truly had not noticed”; it signifies “this thing is not something I keep track of.”

  51. oh- those are SO good! :
    “Yes, I’ve been ill.”
    “No, I’ve just washed my hair”
    I usually just say “Not on purpose!” or “I hope not, I’ll lose my job.” -but that’s a perk specific to being a fit model I guess..

  52. She’s not mentioned it or talked about trying to lose weight, but I’m amazed at how hard it is not to comment on it. My FA angel is saying “Keep your mouth shut!”, but it’s weirdly difficult not to say anything – I think because of the point Ami made that weight loss is now the default compliment. It seems almost rude not to say anything given how highly weight-loss is valued in our culture (I know how stupid that sounds).

    Dude, I hear that. There’s a waitress at a restaurant I frequent who’s lost weight over the last several months, and every time I see her, I feel half-guilty for not mentioning it. I know she saw the RedEye article about the blog, so at least she probably has some idea of why I’m not busting out the champagne, but I always feel a little like my not mentioning it comes off as rudeness or, at best, obliviousness. It’s amazing how deeply ingrained the thought that weight loss is a major accomplishment that must be validated is.

  53. My co-workers are too polite to comment on appearances, but back when people I knew did comment “oh you’ve lost weight” I used to say “Could be; I don’t have a scale”. The trick is to acknowledge the friendliness behind the compliment I think but without encouraging more weight talk.

    If people had wanted to talk about why I didn’t have a scale I would have happily told them that I didn’t want to obsess about my weight but I don’t think anybody ever asked me.

  54. I get mad when people mention my weight loss because they’re still happy about it even though I lost it in an unhealthy way. Every time I go through some type of emotionally stressful and/or traumatic period, I lose weight. When people comment on my weight loss, I usually say something like “Yeah, I’ve been really stressed out lately.” Then they’ll say something like “Well, at least something good is coming out of it!”
    It boggles my mind sometimes.

  55. I remember being in this exact situation a few years ago, when I got my hair re-styled, started wearing makeup again, and buying clothes (and bras!) that fit. “How much weight have you lost?” people would ask over and over. It was so frustrating. I always replied, “Oh, I don’t pay any attention to my weight,” and if the person would insist I’d lost some (which I knew damn well I hadn’t), I would just say, “Well, I haven’t really. It’s probably these new clothes.” But inwardly, I’d be seething and thinking, “Is my weight really and truly the first thing you notice about me?”

    Over the last year, I have lost a lot of weight – no idea how much, since I really DON’T pay attention to my weight, but I know it’s a lot b/c I keep having to buy new clothes. It’s mainly due to a kidney infection that almost killed me, followed up with a diagnosis of PCOS and thrice-daily medication with metformin. So when people say, “Oh, you’ve lost weight!” I can’t deny it. But I don’t make a production out of it, either – I usually am pretty casual and dismissive: “Mmmm? Oh yeah, I guess I have.” If they ask how I did it, I’m very blunt: “Illness and medication.” That shuts them up pretty fast. Maybe it’s cruel, but ya know, what if I was losing weight b/c I was dying or something? Part of me just wants to say, “Fuck off.”

  56. Now when people say that to me I just say: “Nope, I guess I’m just getting hotter.”

    Ami, that’s awesome. I’ll need to remember that one. Possibly with the added clause, “as I get older” on the end. ;)

    I temporarily lost 7 pounds in a week at one point because of a vicious episode of food poisoning (folks, if you’re puking/crapping like that for over 15 hours, go to the ER before you pass out from dehydration! Just a little tip from me to you). That generated a lot of unintentional hilarity since it was the week before semester started and I hadn’t seen a lot of people in weeks, and as they went for the default “Wow you look good, have you lost weight?” observations and I whipped out details about the puking and diarrhea and driving myself to the ER and nearly getting killed because I couldn’t see straight to drive, etc.

    Kind of took the emphasis off the temporary weight loss though. *g*

    DRST

  57. For those of you dealing with the “losing weight from illness” fun times, you may have missed my very first! post! ever! on SP, which was about that very thing. At the time, I hadn’t quite figured out the appropriate response, but I have since. If someone says to me, “You lost weight! You look great!” I usually say something like, “Actually I was really sick for months, but thankfully I finally have a diagnosis now and am working on feeling better.” This shuts a lot of, but by no means all, people up. For those that keep trying to say something about weight loss being a side benefit, I say, “Yeah, well, if you don’t mind intense pain, a restricted diet, and constant medical tests, I guess — I’d rather just skip all that and keep my 30 pounds.” I think if you lost weight from illness or depression or medication or whatEVer, if people insist on being invasive, you can just TMI/snark them right back.

  58. Erin:
    I tell it like it is. It hasn’t happened to me in awhile, but the last time I lost weight because of ED, a manager at work asked me how I “stayed so skinny.” I looked at her point blank and said, “I have an eating disorder.”
    She was horrified, natch, but apologized and another co-worker who happened to overhear congratulated me on being able to be honest about my illness. She, too, dealt with ED.

    Not everyone can do that, though, nor should they have to…our illnesses and bodies are our own, and if we want to keep them private, we should.

  59. I always feel a little like my not mentioning it comes off as rudeness or, at best, obliviousness

    I hurt people’s feelings this way all the time. One of the strangest things about me that no matter how judgmental I can be of my own body, I never notice other people’s weight changing. I’ll be the first to compliment a dashing new barrette, but I just can’t see weight gain or loss, and never could, even back in the Jahiliyyah when I was purposely dieting and explicitly accepted the idea of size beauty standards.

    I remember how angry a colleague got when we were discussing (pre-HAES in my case) her giving up sugar, white flour etc. I said “Do you feel different?” and she stared at me for a second before reproaching me, “I’ve lost 30 pounds!” From her point of view, my failure to notice her weight changing meant that I didn’t even care about her enough to look at her. But since I have always hated having my body evaluated, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that body scrutiny is many people’s idea of good manners.

  60. Great advice, Aunt Fattie!

    I think my mom has a picture in her head of me as just SLIGHTLY larger than I am, so pretty much every time I see her, she tells me I’ve lost weight. I haven’t: I’m one of those weird people who basically don’t fluctuate at all, so I’ve been exactly the same weight since I reached my adult height. It’s always kind of awkward, because I can’t help wondering if she thinks I *should* be losing weight. But all she means is that she thinks I have a nice figure and I look good and she hasn’t seen me for a while. So I’m like, “No, I haven’t, but thanks, Mom. You look great, too!” And then she tells me she has to lose weight and I tell her she doesn’t and then she pokes at her fat to make a point and then I wiggle my butt at her. It’s always the same. Argh!

  61. I totally agree, emilymorgan. It drives me nuts when people I see only sporadically tell me I look like I’ve lost weight, especially my hairdresser. And I’m convinced it’s because they remember me as larger than I am, for some reason.
    I love it when my frends tell me I look ‘great’ in general – no commitment to any particular feature, not my hair, or clothes, or, God forbid, weight.

  62. When I got on the Body for Life program, I lost two dress sizes and not an ounce. When people asked about my weight loss. I told people that I wasn’t forcusing on my weight any more so had no idea. I was focusing on improving my health and feeling better. That seemed to divert the conversation to healthy eating.

  63. Hi,
    I’ve recently lost a fair amount of weight due to being poor, being sick, and trying to be healthier. I ran into a problem with compliments recently that almost had me abandoning going to the gym.
    Thank you so much for this post.
    As someone who grew up with “Smile and say ‘thank you'” I rarely even hear the compliments I get anymore. However, they get through even my thick head when they’re near constant.
    It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who isn’t always grateful for compliments. Usually, I feel awful when I’m not thankful for getting a compliment.
    Thank you for showing an alternative way to handle things.

  64. Fashionablenerd: Nah, that’s just confidence you see.

    Amazing. That’s PERFECT.

    I had an opposite-of-compliments moment today, where a nice, chatty older man in the line behind us at the supermarket checkout told my son that he ‘shouldn’t want’ those chocolate almonds he was carrying to the till, because they’d make him ‘fat and old like me’ (meaning himself). He was so nice up til that point that I just said, “There are worse things to be”. But he was cool, and said, “You know, you’re right. I didn’t mean that”, and we both smiled.

    Sometimes I love my town!

  65. I lost a bunch of weight a while back and, to avoid weight conversations, I just give them a hearty “Thanks” if they’re being supportive and a “Yeah” if there’s a bit more incredulity than compliment. Then I take charge of the conversation and steer it toward something else.

    It’s not fun when people (mostly strangers or new friends) see my old IDs and exclaim about how they wouldn’t even recognize me. That’s when I heave a hearty sigh and says “thanks” as flatly as possible,

    The worst, however, is when people ask you to stop losing weight, or ask if you’re ill, or ask if you’re anorexic. I have taken to challenging these people to feed me at expensive restaurants, but it hasn’t stopped one of my older coworkers. Every time I see her she accuses me of losing more weight, bemoans my “body image problem”, and hopes “to God you don’t die an ‘anorectic’.” -_-

  66. “I love it when my frends tell me I look ‘great’ in general ”

    Oh yeah, absolutely!

    Though I did have one awkward experience with that. I saw a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen for a year or two, and I told her she looked great. She looked happy, and she was wearing a pretty dress, etc. THEN I noticed she looked extremely gaunt, as if she’d been ill and lost a lot of weight. Part of me thinks what I said is ok, but part of me was really kicking myself- if I’d been dangerously ill and lost that much weight, I might take a compliment like that to be a comment on my weight loss and I can see myself getting pretty upset about it.

  67. Sweet Machine — I always wanted to respond to people with a comment like yours, even if it’s not true. People always say “You’ve lost weight” as if the losing is the accomplishment. It just always ascribed a fat=bad, skinny=good assumption that I’ve been trying to reject. I’d accept it a lot easier if at least they added, “and you look fabulous” at the end. I lost a lot of weight a few years ago. When someone said “you’ve lost weight” the smartass part of me wanted to turn around to them and say, “Yeah, that flesh-eating virus really melts away the pounds!”

  68. Emilymorgan, for years when I would go home to visit, my mom would ask me wonderingly if I’d somehow grown taller (even though I was well into adulthood). Every single time, it was because I was wearing boots — the same pair of boots! — with 2″ stacked heels. She just could not get over that initial reaction of “You’re not that tall!” in comparing actual me with her mental image.

  69. I get an alternate version of this.

    My mother is going through a divorce which seems to have triggered an eating disorder. (Or maybe reignited it – she told me that in high school, she had a friend with whom she would have competitions. They would try to best each other, to see how long they could go without eating.)

    She has been “dieting” for months – though she’ll eat in social situations, she once mentioned to me that she’ll eat nothing all day if she knows she has a social engagement where there will be food. People are falling all over themselves to congratulate her on her drastic weight loss – weight loss which is scary to me. She, of course, likes he compliments.

    But then, sometimes it even seems like people are congratulating *me.* They lean over during dinner and say, “Your mom looks so great! She’s so pretty! I’ve never seen her look better!” This horrifies me. What am I supposed to do? Say, “actually, you’re getting all excited over the results of an undiagnosed eating disorder, and your enthusiasm is exacerbating the problem,” right there at the dinner table?

    Instead I’ve been remaining silent, or saying something non-committal like “oh, uh, yeah, lots of changes lately.”

    I’m too chicken shit to say anything to my mother other than, “mom, you should eat.” She waives off my suggestions and looks of concern, which is of course much easier for her to do when everyone is so excited about her weight loss.

  70. Best response ever: “Well, I’ve stopped dieting!” Yay points for Lume.

    I visited my family this weekend and my mom said: You look skinnier. I shrugged: I haven’t lost any weight or anything. Later that day my 3 year old niece exclaimed: “Our Heather is fat!” And I laughed and said, yes I am. Over the course of the weekend she also said I was “byooootiful”.

    Her 12 year old brother told me, “(S) weighs 60 pounds.” I said, “And?” He said, “That’s only 20 pounds less than me.” I used Joy’s people come in all shapes and sizes mantra on him and he shrugged and went back to his Nintendo DS, soda and bag of cheetos.

  71. But then, sometimes it even seems like people are congratulating *me.*

    Hm. Yeah. The more I think about it, I realize that sometimes it’s a “compliment” for me, but sometimes it’s a prompt to publicly show support for my mother’s weight loss. I just about died the night my grandmother, at a dinner party in honor of my engagement, was like, “Your mother is so good, she wouldn’t eat a thing all day, and I’m just a fat cow in comparison! Don’t you think your mother looks beautiful, Jessica?”

    oh. my. god.

  72. Well I’m going to read SweetMachine first.post.ever but I think the situation is a little different. I still have a very active eating disorder so I’m not about telling the world yet (though I kind of just did) But I’ve lost a great deal of weight to the point it’s beyond obvious.

    That’s also very hard with an ED when people are telling you how good it is, all the time. (I’ve been struggling silently with mine for over 8 years, finally admitted and getting treatment for mine since I started reading FA blogs so thanks guys)

    Haha typing that made me cry but thanks guys for the advice

  73. Erin, I definitely agree that the situation with an ED is different and leaves you vulnerable in different ways if you divulge that information — my thoughts above are more about losing weight from a less psychologically fraught illness.

  74. The ONLY problem I have with the “I’m just getting hotter” comment (which I probably butchered, sorry!), is that it plays into the idea that we are better looking the smaller we get. As if we aren’t hot when we’re fat. I get the reasoning behind it; I also see how the person who truly thinks that telling me I look smaller would think that I felt prettier because of that fact.

    This post is great. I think about this a lot. I am on the low end of the economic scale, and while my husband and I are in school, the financial aid gives us a boost. I would really like to start working out again because I am one of those people who actually enjoys it (most of the time), and because my last pregnancy left me with some body issues (physical pain, not body-image) that I really want to fix. I am scared to death of what will happen when/if I lose weight. When I work out, I tend to gain muscle very easily and things tighten up, though I don’t usually lose weight (I just look different). I expect the comments to roll in, seeing as most of my friends are thin and/or makes fat comments about other people (not me, of course), and because I am on a college campus where thin is in. This has given me some good ideas for dealing with other people, seeing as I am a loud mouth and will say just about anything to my friends. :-) Luckily (ha), I’m pretty big, so any change may not bring on the comments that they did 100 pounds ago… Then again, maybe they will…

  75. jessica, that seems like a lot for just you to have on your shoulders. do you have any trusted family members or family friends to talk to about it? (and to maybe talk to your mom, so you’re not the only one giving her healthy messages?)

  76. The best generic compliment I got was from someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, and the last time she had seen me I was pretty strung out on stress. She said “You just seem so perky now!” and I said “Thanks! I’ve been in therapy!” Made for an awkward moment, but I was pretty happy about it, actually, and once she realized I both meant it and didn’t mind talking about it we were cool.

    I’ve had the odd opposite thing happen a few times – my weight has fluctuated a lot in the last 10 years, and I’ve had people who I see on a regular basis come up and tell me I look great, have I been losing weight? No, actually, I’d gained 30 pounds in the last 6 months. Eh? Maybe the better-looking clothes had something to do with it.

  77. Of course, part of me thinks that somehow people are complimenting me just because they did notice that I gained weight, and they’re trying to “encourage” me to get my butt in gear and lose it back again, and that pisses me off until I remember that the entire world is not Machiavellian.

  78. The ONLY problem I have with the “I’m just getting hotter” comment (which I probably butchered, sorry!), is that it plays into the idea that we are better looking the smaller we get.

    Oh man , I didn’t read it that way at all… I read it as “you assumed I lost weight because you think people are better looking the smaller they get, but I’m not smaller, I’m just better looking.”

  79. Ah, fillyjonk, I totally see that, too. Hmmm. This reminds me of my first visit with my midwife this pregnancy (after 8 years). She gives me the whole, “Wow, you look great. Slimmer than last time.” I said, “Actually, I’m 30 pounds heavier now.” Suddenly she slips into, “Oh, well, how is your diet, is your BP okay?” etc. So strange what a number can do to people.

  80. LilahCello, I can see how the comment can be taken that way, but I did mean it in the way Fillyjonk described. On the days I glitz it up a bit more than my comfy clothes I always seem to get the weight loss comment. And it is ridiculous because it seems like people automatically equate weight loss with everything. More well-groomed=she’s lost weight, new makeup=she’s lost weight, cute new scarf=she’s lost weight. I’m not sure if it’s about the perception of fat in the culture or if people think that is the ultimate compliment to give a woman. Maybe a little of both and sad either way.

  81. when people have asked me how ive lost so much weight, ive just answered, “Poverty.”
    they either laugh or are puzzled; either way i just walk on.

  82. Not to be pedantic, but isn’t pretending you haven’t noticed your weight loss just as dishonest as saying you haven’t lost weight?

    I haven’t been in the position of the original poster in quite a while, but for me, if someone I’m not close to asks ‘have you lost weight?’ I reply, ‘I’d rather not say, but I have been updating my wardrobe. What do you think?’ (or something like that). If it’s ‘you look like you’ve lost weight,’ no comment is necessary, beyond a polite, ‘oh, do I?’

    Not only is this honest, it lets people know your body is private property.

    For those I’m close to, if they comment, I can go ahead and remind them that I love myself regardless of my size, and that I lost some weight ‘by accident,’ and prefer not to focus on it.

    Just my $0.02.

    Minerva

  83. #LilahMorgan, on July 7th, 2008 at 6:24 pm Said:

    “On a side note, am I the only one who’s surprised by how quickly many people notice weight fluctuations? I’ve never been able to spot them unless they’re drastic and even then I’m second guessing myself thinking “Oh, maybe they were just dressed differently.” I wonder if it’s a side effect of my not being a particularly visual person, or what.”

    This reminded me of something really — well, I guess it was funny, to me anyway: A friend of mine lost something like 50 pounds last year, gained it back, and is now in the process of trying to lose it again (believe me, I’ve tried to talk her out of it, but, you know). The other night I mentioned to my spouse that she was dieting again, trying to lose the 50 pounds she’d lost, and he looked at me and said, “She lost 50 pounds? I never noticed.”

    So. YMMV. For real.

    Minerva

  84. Re: Topamax. I’m not sure what other medical conditions it is prescribed for, but it’s prescribed for both seizure prevention and migraine prevention. You don’t owe anyone an explanation if you have lost weight, but as someone who has lost weight on while on Topamax, I feel zero embarrassment telling anyone that I take it and that I get migraines.

    I have used all of the following in response to people commenting on my (60-65 pound) weight loss, especially when they ask how I did it, but dependent on my relationship with the commenter and how much I feel like disclosing. All of the statements are true.

    I’ve been ill.
    I have an eating disorder.
    I assure you that this isn’t a diet you want.
    I’m on medication that affects my appetite.
    I get a lot of exercise.
    This seems to be where my weight has settled right now; I can’t predict what will happen in the future.

    A few times I’ve just said thanks, but I guess I’ve been cold about it and it’s been clear that I did not feel like it was a big compliment, because one time someone commented that my reaction was not what she expected. Then I was able to explain how I think weight should be value-neutral, fat does not equal unhealthy, and that my weight loss was not a deliberate choice but a perfect storm of a depressive episode, a bunch of medications all with loss of appetite as a possible side effect, and an eating disorder from my teenage years that was lying dormant but clearly not completely dealt with 20 years ago.

  85. Is there a classy, FA-positive way to acknowledge someone’s weight loss? A girlfriend of mine from high school recently started a healthy eating/workout program after she realized how much weight she’d gained falling into unhealthy habits of emotional eating and being sedentary. I know it’s been a really big deal for her just to find a gym where she felt comfortable, etc., and I think it’s great that she is exercising and eating better (even if her goal is weight loss rather than HAES — that said, her weight loss goal is pretty modest). I want to encourage her, but I’m having a hard time formulating a way of doing so that doesn’t sound like I think there is anything wrong with being fat. I don’t, but I think being healthy is awesome.

  86. Great advice and a great thread.
    I find that people are so used to any change = weight loss that I get the “have you lost weight, you look great” comments even when I’ve gained – which I find terrifically funny and use to my advantage. I respond “Nope, put on (however many) pounds, looks pretty good, eh?” Freaks them out totally and they rarely comment again…

  87. emilymorgan, thanks for the concern. mostly i’ve been “dealing” with it by trying to avoid dealing with it, but probably i should talk to a family member, or talk to my mother frankly. there’s all sorts of anxiety associated with that. probably the internets has advice for the daughter who wants to broach the subject of eating disorders with her mother.

    dread, dread, dread.

  88. i should explain that that “poverty” crack was only funny because it was said at work, where we are all underpaid & abused by the 21st century robberbarons in charge now.

    and work is the place where i find this whole issue problematic. especially with other women (who are by & large the askers). you have to watch what you say so you dont piss them off; and for some reason a person’s privacy is seen as snobbish to a lot of women, ive noticed. so i make a crack & evade it that way. it’s none of anyone’s business. my body is none of anyone’s business but mine; id really like to tell some people to fuck off, but i cant at work. it never fails to disgust me how someone else will be watching my body so closely—WHY?? why are people like this? especially women, i have noticed? It’s really sickening how people feel they have a right to comment on your body. i lost 60lbs a few years ago & i couldnt get 4 feet in a day without someone swaming me to ask all the same fucking question that were none of their business. it never made me feel good, always made me feel anxious. because these same people all wanted to be my friend then also. they didnt give a flying fuck about me when i was 60lb up; they were either dissmissive of me, disgusted of me, or cruel to me then. after i lost the 60, i got beaming smiles, offers to fix me up with their sons & friends, offers of friendship & inviations, people looked me in the eye when i spoke, beamed at me….it was a real eyeopener for me. It was REAL insulting to me, as a person, because *i hadnt changed* only my body had. I was still the same person & these people were saying openingly & smilingly to my face, You were nothing before; you were horrible before –a blight on humanity. But now look at you! YOu are now good enough, fully human enough!, to be with us!

    so many people are truly sick, in mind & spirit. i’ll never give them the satisfaction. i have something they never will: dignity.

  89. I am fond of the absurd/unexpected answer, having been answering “why do you wear so much black?” for a couple of decades now. (My favorite answer: “It makes laundry day so much simpler!”)

    I have not been accused of losing weight lately (wait, yes I have, about a month ago – gosh, it’s easy to forget when you disengage from obsessing over it as a compliment!), but when it’s happened, I tend to respond along the lines of “Huh, must be my new earrings!” or “well, I guess that’s what I get for eating so many cookies!”

  90. Thanks for this! My self esteem went through the floor after my road accident and piling on more than my original body weight in the space of a year. I tend to respond to compliments by either not eating (and piling weight on) or porking out (and piling weight on!) – and thanks for the reminder to get fitted for a decent bra again!

  91. My response is always no, I got a haircut, dyed my hair, bought new clothes, or just had a good weekend. Once to a friend I grinned and declared “Nope, I got laid!” and we had a good chuckle. People notice that something is different about you, and weight loss in their minds is tied in with dramatic change and looking better.

    I like any excuse to change the conversation to shopping.

  92. Elusis, I LOVE that response “I guess that’s what I get for eating so many cookies” I need to use it next time so that I can WATCH the bafflement ^^

    I’ve noticed that in the past; usually people will comment that I’ve LOST weight; only when I’ve actually gained (unless we’re talking a year since I’ve seen someone and one of the drastic weight losses I had during dieting hell phase of my life). So I would truly be baffled by compliments. And you know; what they were likely complimenting was how HEALTHY I looked. You know; well fed, good night’s rest, happy flushed complexion…all those things I lacked while dieting and losing weight.

    So in a way; they didn’t realize but, those comments sorta helped guide me to FA….if I only LOOKED better when I actually FELT better then maybe all that damned starving and self-hatred was unfounded…weird to look back on it and see that now.

    :D

  93. Not to be pedantic, but isn’t pretending you haven’t noticed your weight loss just as dishonest as saying you haven’t lost weight?

    You have absolutely no obligation to be honest with people who are asking invasive questions about your body.

  94. Is there a classy, FA-positive way to acknowledge someone’s weight loss?

    “Exercise makes you give off a rosy endorphin glow.”

    But seriously, some variation on “you look healthy,” “you look great,” “your gym program seems to be really agreeing with you,” etc. Focus on healthy, energized, happy. She will probably take it as praise on her weight loss, but there’s not really anything you can do about that.

  95. My husband’s aunt has been seriously ill for the past 6 months or so. She wasn’t able to make it to our wedding last week, but people were talking about how great she looks b/c she lost a lot of weight. I saw her this weekend at a 4th of July party, and didn’t even recognize her at first. Not because she was so OMG! thin, but because she looked so sick and frail. It blows my mind that people were saying she looks great. My heart goes out to those of you struggling with illnesses. I can’t even imagine how hurtful the weight loss “compliments” must feel.

  96. But seriously, some variation on “you look healthy,” “you look great,” “your gym program seems to be really agreeing with you,” etc.

    Dude, I have to disagree. “You look great” is… great, but I feel like “You look healthy” too easily translates to “…because you’re thinner!” And commenting on the gym program specifically is borderline for me. It’s really sad that “healthy” is such a loaded word, but out in the non-FA world, telling someone who’s lost weight that she looks healthy (even if she does) is too close to reinforcing the idea that weight loss = health.

    I’m a big fan of compliments like, “You look happy,” and “You look like you feel good,” as well as a simple, “You look great.” It gets the message across that you’ve noticed a change, but it takes the focus off the body.

  97. I feel like “You look healthy” too easily translates to “…because you’re thinner!”

    Yeah, but if someone is trying to lose weight, anything you say about her appearance is going to be translated as either “you look thinner” or “you don’t look thinner enough.” (Including “you look great,” which is often deliberately used to mean “you look thinner.”) Unless you really want to get into it with them, the trick is to find a compliment YOU can live with.

  98. Every few years, my body decides to spontaniously redistribute my fat despite no changes in my diet or exercise, and seemingly does it overnight. I also usually gain some weight immediately after. Overall, I end up looking thinner and going down a clothing size. I always thought that it was bizarre – I never knew it happened to other people!

  99. April D, when I first started dating Mr Machine, I was complimented nearly every day for “losing weight” — when in fact, the only difference in my appearance was that I was happy and excited every day. It was like every woman I knew had a mental filter that translated “looks happy” into “got thinner.”

  100. At first, I thought the “I’m getting hotter” comment was great, but the more I thought about it, the worse I began to feel about what that statement could imply, which is similar to the sentiments of LilahCello. To me, that statement implies that I wasn’t great looking before I lost the weight, which feeds into the diet/be thin culture.

    If I were gutsy enough, if someone said “Wow- did you lose weight? You look great”, I might reply “I’m not sure- but gosh, was I really that horrible-looking before?” I think that might make a person think about what their words might unintentionally mean to someone else.

  101. I used to do the “oh really? I hadn’t noticed” act, but I can see someone taking it as “wow, she’s clueless” or “oh whatever, she’s just trying to appear humble.” That’s not what I want to get across at all. Honesty feels a lot easier to me. So now I just tell people that I appreciate the intention behind the compliment, but that my weight is not an issue for me. And then if they express interest in understanding why that is, I go on with the rest of it.

    What I don’t quite know how to deal with is my discomfort over people having an opinion about my body at all, and assuming I want or need their approval.

  102. To me, that statement implies that I wasn’t great looking before I lost the weight

    I believe the person who suggested this comeback hasn’t actually lost weight.

  103. What I don’t quite know how to deal with is my discomfort over people having an opinion about my body at all, and assuming I want or need their approval.

    Linda, this is exactly how I feel and what I was trying badly to articulate before! The sometimes seemingly universal assumption that thinness is everyone’s goal and that my degree of conformity is everyone’s business is seriously annoying.

  104. “You have absolutely no obligation to be honest with people who are asking invasive questions about your body.”

    *applause*

    Yes, Sweet Machine, yes yes yes.

    Alas, I have no witty retort to contribute to the subject at hand, but if you’re ever pregnant or with babe in arms and someone asks, “Are you breastfeeding?” I highly recommend answering “Not at this very moment. Why? Are you thirsty?”

    GOD, I hate pregnancy. “Hi! I’m obviously busy doing something that – as hard as it is to believe – is unrelated to my maternal status, but BY ALL MEANS intrude upon my space to touch me or to ask me, without any words of introduction or greeting, when I’m due or if I know what I’m having or if I plan on breastfeeding or doing Bradley. BECAUSE I’M NOT A REAL PERSON, AFTER ALL, JUST A BABY JAR!” And that’s what I get being married, white, and economically well-off, so other than the mom olympics I don’t get most of the crap that’s hurled at mothers.

    Sorry, that was kind of an unrelated rant. Somebody complimented me the other day on losing the baby weight, and I said, “Well, I’ve been working out because I enjoy it. My goal wasn’t really to take up less space.” I’m such a bitch sometimes.

  105. My planned response to “have you lost weight lately?” (if I ever get asked that again, other than by my doctors who want me to lose weight) is “Does it matter?” Sidesteps the question of whether I know, and implies that it is, at the very least, none of their business. I hope.

    On a side note, I’m now nervous about getting my headaches checked out (to see if they’re migraines), for fear of having to have the ‘and as a bonus, it’ll help you lose weight!’ medication conversation *again* with a doctor.

  106. I highly recommend answering “Not at this very moment. Why? Are you thirsty?”

    Nice! God, breastfeeding is such a fucking minefield. I have a good friend who fed both her babies only pumped breast milk, because it allowed her to express milk on exactly the same schedule every day — which was a big help in going back to work — get her husband to feed the kids as necessary, and feed them in public without worrying about logistics/nasty comments about boob exposure. (And probably for other personal reasons I don’t even know about.) But plenty of times when she did feed them in public, someone would come up and lecture her on how she should really be breastfeeding, formula (which they were not eating) is evil, etc. She could at least honestly say, “It IS breastmilk, so drop dead,” but what about women whose milk never comes in, you know? Really, you just can’t fucking win. If you breastfeed in public, you’re a selfish tramp, making everyone look at your boobs like that. If you bottle feed in public, you’re a selfish bitch who doesn’t care about what’s best for her child. And of course it’s all because women’s bodies are public property, especially if they’re raising children. BOY, SIGN ME UP FOR THIS MOTHERHOOD THING ASAP.

    Yeah, that might have been OT.

  107. c. Weight loss seems to be the default question when someone is thinking, “she looks better, is something different?”

    Unless you have a chronic illness, which trumps weight.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “You look/sound good. Are you better? You must be feeling better. [No. I’m just happy/pleased about x/having fun doing y/proud of achieving z …] But you look/sound so great. Aren’t you better? [huh?] You must be better. Yes, I think you’re better. [Whatever. But hey, thanks heaps for reminding me over and over and over again that I’m sick and that that’s all I should ever think about. Really cheered up my day.]

    Ferfuxsake.

    Ricky addresses this in her “Open Letter To Those Without CFS/Fibro”, and it could equally be tweaked to apply to weight-talkers:

    Please understand the difference between “happy” and “healthy”. When you’ve got the flu you probably feel miserable with it, but I’ve been sick for years. I can’t be miserable all the time, in fact I work hard at not being miserable. So if you’re talking to me and I sound happy, it means I’m happy. That’s all. I may be tired. I may be in pain. I may be sicker that ever. Please, don’t say, “Oh, you’re sounding better!”. I am not sounding better, I am sounding happy. If you want to comment on that, you’re welcome.

  108. “Are you better”? Like, “is your fibro cured”? Seriously??

    I shouldn’t be surprised.

    I suppose people might just mean “you sound better than last time I talked to you,” but you have to be conscious of your words in that case.

  109. A Sarah — I’ve totally found myself bewildered by the “are you breastfeeding” question because I think of breastfeeding as an activity, not an ontological status. in which case, if you have to ask, I think the answer is no. not right now.

    with pregnancy weight gain, what I *really* hated was the fact that my obgyn spent my entire 6 week checkup telling me about exercises that would make my abdominal muscles tight again. That’s without me even asking. In fact, I think she asked if I were concerned about it and I said no. Gah. I also really hate the whole must lose it all by child’s first birthday. I’ve found that there are significant changes in my body over the course of two years. after two years, I feel more like I did pre-pregnancy, with the caveat that my body is never going to be the same.

    I guess that’s part of the point, really. bodies change. and we don’t have as much direct control over how and when they change and what they look like and some people like to think.

  110. “I used to do the “oh really? I hadn’t noticed” act, but I can see someone taking it as “wow, she’s clueless” or “oh whatever, she’s just trying to appear humble.” ”

    I don’t get people asking if I’ve lost weight, since I’m on the far skinny end of things. But the nicer comments I get on my body tend to be along the lines of “How do you stay so thin!!!” (The meaner ones either tell me I need meat on my bones or are “concerned” about the apparently obvious ED that I didn’t realize I had.) The most recent time someone asked me How I Do It (a very nice and well-meaning nurse at a doctor’s office where I had to have checkups every month, so she saw me a lot), I just answered, “Genetics.” She acted like that was just the NICEST and most humble thing she’d ever heard (I believe she said, “Well aren’t you sweet!”), which was baffling to me. I mean, no, really, that’s what I “do” – I have thin parents!

    I get a lot of the “concerned” comments from nurses, actually. I know they’re health care professionals, but it really bothers me.

  111. “Are you better”? Like, “is your fibro cured”? Seriously??

    CFS, but yup. And they’ve been asking this for nearly four years now. All part of people thinking that they have the right (and sometimes, I think, even the obligation) to comment on other people’s bodily status or appearance, no matter how unwanted their comments are.

  112. #Sweet Machine, on July 8th, 2008 at 1:46 pm Said:

    “(quote)Not to be pedantic, but isn’t pretending you haven’t noticed your weight loss just as dishonest as saying you haven’t lost weight?(quote)

    You have absolutely no obligation to be honest with people who are asking invasive questions about your body.”

    Oh, Sweet, I totally agree with you! It’s just that the original poster was feeling iffy about lying.

    Actually, that’s an interesting subject as well… for me, I have a similar feeling as others have described here, that I have to be ‘nice’ about it, when really, internally, I’d like to just say, ‘none of your fucking business.’

    I was thinking about this last night, and I tried to imagine what I’d do in the O.P.’s place — what I’d *really* do, as opposed to what I wish I’d do — and if someone I didn’t know well asked ‘have you lost weight?’ I’d probably just mumble incoherently. It’s something I don’t really know how to deal with, honestly — nor the reverse, ‘have you gained weight?’

    In my imagination, where I’m a bad-ass, I’d say, ‘wow, that’s a really personal question,’ and then nothing else.

    Minerva

  113. onejewishdyke: I was taking Topamax for bipolar II disorder, as an adjunct mood stabilizer and to help with the co-morbid binge eating disorder. There was no way I was telling my boss that! If it had been for seizures, I probably wouldn’t have said anything either, unless I’d been unlucky enough to have a seizure at work and have it be public knowledge. Migraines – yeah, I would have been OK disclosing that.

    This was a boss who was extremely weight-conscious; she always noticed any fluctuation in my weight and always commented on it when it went down. She’s the only woman who’s ever blantantly given me one of those slow head-to-toe-and-up-again looks (ugh). She was always dieting and talking about it. Not the right person to confide in.

    Incidentally she found out several years later that she had hypothyroidism, went on medication and lost a bunch of weight. A lot of co-workers commented positively on it; I followed my usual policy of not commenting on anybody’s body, especially at work. If she’d asked, I would have told her that I was happy she had resolved her health issue, but by then she was no longer my boss so I had much less contact with her (whew).

  114. I guess that’s part of the point, really. bodies change. and we don’t have as much direct control over how and when they change and what they look like and some people like to think.

    Totally! Yes, totally. Hubris!

    We’re like, NATURE, DO WHAT I SAY! And nature’s like, “Okay, but fuck you.”

    And the body is nature! We’re like BODY, DO WHAT I SAY! And body is like, “Why you gotta be like that?”

  115. Actually, that’s an interesting subject as well… for me, I have a similar feeling as others have described here, that I have to be ‘nice’ about it, when really, internally, I’d like to just say, ‘none of your fucking business.’

    See, and the thing is, this is a totally gendered reaction. You are supposed to be nice and polite because otherwise you are being a bitch. Someone asking “Have you lost weight?” (especially a coworker or casual acquaintance) is actually being tremendously invasive and rude, but we’re taught to think of them as being really nice because they are complimenting how small we have become! And we’re also taught to respond to everything said to us with politeness, no matter the effect of the words we’ve just heard.

    I once watched a friend and classmate make a passionate argument to a group of fellow grad students that one of our professors had consistently treated her in a sexist manner, and then immediately upon finishing she apologized for being so rude.

    IMHO, we have an epidemic of women turning the other cheek in this culture.

  116. Sweet Machine: agreed. Like the time I saw a “Well behaved women rarely make history” bumper sticker. I thought it was cool and was telling my sister about it, saying I’d quite like one, but then I didn’t want to attract attention on the road. She laughed so hard, “Isn’t that exactly what the bumper sticker is about?” Embarrassing to be caught out like that :-)

  117. It’s something I don’t really know how to deal with, honestly — nor the reverse, ‘have you gained weight?’
    In my imagination, where I’m a bad-ass, I’d say, ‘wow, that’s a really personal question,’ and then nothing else.

    I had a friend who I hadn’t seen in a year ask, “is there a polite way to ask you if you’ve gotten bigger?” I told her I had, and that I’d quit dieting, but I’m clearly still rattled by it three weeks later because it’s still on my mind.
    I wish now that I’d said something like your bad-ass imagination self, Minerva.

  118. The only response I can come up with for that is “what do you think?” I mean seriously, if you have to ask if there’s a polite way to ask your question…

  119. A Sarah- Oh, jeez. I am totally one of those people who asks when women are due. Usually only women I at least sort of know, though. But I guess it can be really annoying. Thanks for letting me know!

  120. kristin, lol, not to enshrine my own personal comfort levels as gospel truth, but fwiw I wasn’t thinking of people I actually knew when I said that. I was thinking of complete strangers who should have been able to see that I was in the middle of something, and in any case didn’t even introduce themselves or say a single word of introduction before honking at me “SO WHEN ARE YOU DUE?” And I am about the touchiest, bitchiest pregnant woman you’re likely to meet, so YMMV. Thank goodness we’re done, because I think I would alienate everyone I know if we got pregnant again.

  121. “is there a polite way to ask you if you’ve gotten bigger?”

    OMFG.
    Correct reply:
    Is there a polite way to ask if you’ve gotten stupider?

  122. “is there a polite way to ask you if you’ve gotten bigger?”

    FN Response: *patent-pending bitchface*

    Clueless friend response: “ok, nevermind…”

    And seriously? WTF, yo?

  123. We’re like, NATURE, DO WHAT I SAY! And nature’s like, “Okay, but fuck you.”

    And the body is nature! We’re like BODY, DO WHAT I SAY! And body is like, “Why you gotta be like that?”

    I love this. My body and I are totally going to have that second conversation at stepaerobics this week, and I’ll be laughing like a maniac and everyone will wonder why. And my bio students and I are going to have that first conversation in every lab class all semester.

    “is there a polite way to ask you if you’ve gotten bigger?”
    “If there was one, you just missed it.”

  124. Ah, you guys rock. :)
    Fortunately, I see this “friend” rarely and we’ve gotten quite distant over the years, so at least her complete lack of tact isn’t an everyday issue.

  125. “is there a polite way to ask you if you’ve gotten bigger?”

    Wow. Just… wow. Especially given society’s current emphasis on weightloss as the best!thing!ever! for women under all circumstances, that was so bad mannered.

    I think it was one of the Shapelings who came up with the brilliant all-purpose response to intrusive remarks: “Wow, that was really rude. You must be so embarrassed.”

    I’ve used it a few times myself (and shared it on a few other websites, apparently to good effect) – it usually results in stunned gaping-goldfish-mouth, then a quick change of subject on the part of the offender.

  126. It seems to me that I have levels of comfort with compliments which closely correspond with the what my relationship is with the compliment giver.

    For example, if someone who I know loves me compliments me, even if it is a compliment about my weight, I can read the subtext and know that they are just trying to show their love for me. Then, it is up to me if I just want to say Thank You, or if I want to step in to the role of FA educator.

    BUT, if someone who I do not know well or am not so intimate with gives the same kind of compliment, whether it is my bitchy boss telling me that I’ve lost weight or some random bar guy saying what big titties I have it is perfectly okay to say: I think those comments are too personal for our realtionship, or Fuck off.

  127. This is such a good article. I’m not particularly overweight (size 6-8) but I do fluctuate season to season (between size 6 and size 8). Every year, fatter in the winter, slimmer in the summer. It’s completely normal, I eat less generally and more fresh in-season produce when it’s hot, and more comfort food and less running around in cold weather. Why did my loser, socially retarded biological father asked me in early spring if I’d gained weight or was expecting, while he KNOWS damn well I had my tubes tied a year ago, he said this while we were standing on a burial ground of his stepfather no less. I just said, whateva, and walked away so that I wouldn’t push him into the open grave. I was so irritated and it irritates me equally when he or other family members mention my seasonal weight loss. I don’t see why people’s size is such a big deal. I don’t however, think it is a “private” issue. I just think it should not be more important than any other thing such as a new hairstyle, outfit, etc.

  128. OK, this is WAY off-topic, but on the whole ‘politeness’ issue, re. feminism:

    For me, being polite is not (necessarily) about having been taught not to rock the boat, it’s more (sometimes) about wanting to be a better person than the rude dolt who’s just invaded my personal space. It seems to me that since a Certain World Leader was voted into office, his practice of just blurting out whatever stupid thing is on his mind is serving as a model to his countrymen & women, and I find the culture at large to be much the worse for it. All humans deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, even the clueless ones, and I, personally, have made it a practice not to engage with other humans who can’t be civil. I simply don’t respond to them (in my bad-ass imaginary state, anyway — it’s a work in progress). If we’re gonna share the planet, we need to be mindful of how we interact with the other humans.

    Yes, shit like what we’re talking about here can make even the most even-keeled person want to insert a red-hot verbal poker directly into the idiot’s laughably small brain, and y’know, if I give in to that, I’m fine with it. However, if the person is truly clueless, I try to remember that in my response. They have feelings just like mine, and are much more likely to continue their clueless behavior — and indeed, use my response as a justification — if I jump them.

    For me, feminism is about being who I am, and respecting who others are, too. Being kind doesn’t always mean that I’m backing down or not expressing my opinion.

    Minerva

  129. Fair enough, Minerva! I definitely think politeness is useful and indeed called for in most situations — but I think it can also be used as a silencing technique against women. Ideally, I’d like the whole world to be polite and respectful of each other, but since that’s not going to happen, I think answering rudeness with rudeness is occasionally a good strategy.

  130. I think it was one of the Shapelings who came up with the brilliant all-purpose response to intrusive remarks: “Wow, that was really rude. You must be so embarrassed.”

    Now I’d really like to see Joy Nash roleplaying all these situations and comebacks. That could be a fantastic educational tool.

  131. Actually, if Lisa’s father is someone who is slow at picking up on social cues, that might be one of the few non-offensive uses of retarded. Unfortunately, it’s still completely ok in our culture to comment on women’s bodies, so doing so isn’t typically a sign of social ineptitude anywhere other than in feminist or FA circles.

    Bald Soprano – get the headaches checked out. Just be ready to either confront or ignore the doctor who might very well say something about maybe Topamax will help you lose weight. My doc said that years ago when she put me on it. I went with ignore. Apparently a lot of women will ask docs for Topamax when they don’t need it for other conditions because of its potential weight loss side effect. What they don’t tell you is that a high percentage of people who take it don’t just lose weight, but develop anorexia. Even if the general population knew that, it still wouldn’t surprise me if people asked for it, since I work with someone who has watched me struggle with ED-NOS for close to a year now and still makes comments about wishing she were anorexic so she could lose weight because she can’t seem to stay on Weight Watchers. (“Maybe you should start accepting your body the way it is” sounds kind of hypocritical from someone with ED-NOS, so after I told her why wishing for anorexia was not desirable, I started ignoring her too.)

  132. Thanks for the info on topamax. (I’m even more worried about it now, but I will get the headaches checked out.)

    more on-topic (a bit), I have the reverse problem a lot of the time; I have difficulty letting things slide and not confronting people about them.

  133. Actually, if Lisa’s father is someone who is slow at picking up on social cues, that might be one of the few non-offensive uses of retarded.

    Maybe, but I think the phrase “socially retarded” gets its impact more from the association with “retards” than from the etymological accuracy. It still makes me flinch.

  134. Beginner’s guide to accepting compliments: say “thank you” and shut up. The advanced version: smile, say “thank you” and shut up.

    Beginner’s guide to answering nosey questions: say “I don’t know”. For the advanced version, smile while doing so.

    I’ve found the first is priceless advice. If someone is complimenting you sincerely, a sincere thank you will work quite well as a response. It shows you’ve heard them, that you’re acknowledging what they’ve said, and that you appreciate what they’ve said to you. It doesn’t comment on the sincerity or otherwise of the compliment – I’ve always figured it’s politer to take all compliments as being sincere anyway. If it wasn’t, just accepting it without other comment leaves the faux-complimenter with nowhere to go.

    It also means you’re not immediately counterbalancing the compliment with a negative statement about yourself (in an effort to prevent yourself from getting a swelled head or whatever).

    The second is the best answer (and in many ways the most size-positive answer) to questions about how much weight you’ve lost, whether you’ve noticed weight loss, or what you’ve been doing to lose the weight. Everything else sounds as though you’re either making excuses or bragging about things.

  135. The response I used was as follows:

    she: “You’re looking good, have you lost weight?”
    me: “I’m not sure. I think I might have gained a few pounds.”
    she: ” “

  136. I think this question is tangentially related to this post:

    I recently blathered on an on about my diet and weight loss to an acquaintance (husband’s friend’s wife, who I love socializing with on occasion) and I feel terrible and stupid for doing it. Would it be best for me to apologize or just not let it happen again?

  137. My mother-in-law used the “have you lost weight?” compliment on me over Easter, my reponse was “No, you just remember me as being bigger than I am. ” She looked taken aback and said “I don’t know how to take that” then wandered off. Victory!

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