I never thought I'd be complaining about someone telling me I looked good. Then I started trying to lose weight. More to the point, I actually started admitting to people that I was actively trying to lose weight.
That's when the compliments suddenly rolled forth. "Oh, you look fine!" "But you're not fat!" "You don't need to lose weight!"
Folks! It may not be polite to tell someone they're overweight, but can we stop with the faux praise? You're not making things any easier on us!
I never really expected to stumble on compliments in my quest to lose weight, at least not at this juncture. Maybe six months down the road, by which point I hope to have shed a chunk of the more than 30 extra pounds weighing me down?
What I'm finding is a puzzling combination of the "fat acceptance" or "body acceptance" and politeness being used against women who are really trying to do something good for themselves.
The hard part of battling both is that neither is ill-intentioned.
Take the body acceptance movement part of it. Body acceptance is focused on empowering people, allowing us to love ourselves at every size. It's a great movement with a great message.
It only becomes a problem when it's misused, when it becomes less about loving your body than it does loving your size.
Confused? Maybe this example will help.
Since admitting that I am a recovering bulimic who is worried that even my attempts to lose weight the healthy way (lots of exercise, counting calories) could trigger a return to my old ways, I encountered one person who essentially told me I shouldn't risk it. My past eating disorder, they insisted, was an indication of a lack of self esteem (true), and what I really need is to grow said esteem and learn to love my body.
Not true. For the sake of my health, I need to lose weight. And while I need to learn to love myself, I don't need to learn to love my risk of heart disease or diabetes.
Body acceptance is not about trapping someone in any one particular body.
Then there's politeness side of it all. Some people simply don't know what to say, so they err on the side of praise. "Oh, you look great" is meant to make someone feel good. Unfortunately, it just makes you seem untrustworthy. And for a recovering bulimic, someone who has never known how to look objectively at my own body, it's confusing.
I was the girl who thought she was absolutely disgusting at 118 (on a frame that I should note really should carry around 130 pounds). I wonder:
Are they right?
Am I overreacting?
Am I doing it to myself again?
Yes, they meant well, but it backfired.
Do I need to hear I look great? From my husband, maybe. It would be nice to have the man I love tell me that he loves me no matter what, and that I'm still sexy in his eyes.
Buuuuuuuut ... the rest of the world could just can it.
When someone says they're trying to lose weight, they neither want nor need to hear that they shouldn't do it! If you really want to be nice, offer to work out together or just a plain old "you go girl."
That's enough, really.
You don't have to make us feel better about ourselves. We're already working on that.
Does it bother you when someone tells you that you don't have to lose weight?
Image via -PaulH-/Flickr