I’m at work, and my new coworker sees my driver’s license photo, which was taken over a decade ago.
“You’ve lost so much weight!” She exclaims.
“Yeah, well, I experienced traumatic injury and illness this year…”
“Congratulations!” She hasn’t even heard me. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’ve lost weight. “I want to do that, too.”
Between the loss of an actual extremity, stress, emotional distress, and a vicious C. diff infection, I lost about 40lbs in the course of maybe 2 months, and I had no power over that at all.
My relationship to food and eating after both intense trauma and gut infection has completely changed, and I have a genuinely difficult time consuming all the calories I need. This is important because I work my ass off at the gym in my ongoing attempts to build the strength and endurance I need to function as well as I’d like with a prosthetic foot.
Today I managed to get down:
- 3 bites of cereal
- a mocha
- part of a bag of chips
- several determined bites of chicken and rice
- part of a slice of bread
I can’t tell you how much I would love to have been able to eat even one full meal. I continue to have very little power over my weight or how much I lose, and that is something I am working on (this is not an invitation for advice, either).
This isn’t every day. Some days I manage 3 squares. Some days I manage seconds (this happens almost never ). Most days I average 1-2 meals.
Every time somebody compliments me on my weight loss, I am reminded of days spent in the hospital unable to find my appetite through the physical agony and emotional shock I endured. I am reminded of days spent unable to function, unable to eat, in despair as I lost even more control of my life and my health. I am reminded that I have not fully recovered, that I am struggling with this daily.
But the fatphobia in this world is so intense, so hardwired, and so fucked up that it would never occur to anybody that my weight loss was anything other than desired.
The entitlement people feel towards the bodies of others is so automatic, and has gone so unexplored, that it is not the fact that they have commented on my body that goes questioned, but the fact that I am struggling to respond graciously.
And the entitlement people feel to graciousness upon the “gift” of a compliment, however unwanted or unasked for, ensures that I must either do the emotional work for them—of fielding their ignorance, their insensitivity, their not-so-subtle programming in patriarchal values—or have my attitude questioned (rarely a safe option for a queer genderfluid person of color) and work harder all around.
This is bullshit.
Fuck your fatphobia. Fuck your concern trolling. Fuck your entitlement to my body and how it looks. Fuck you for not stopping to think for a second that there are so very many reasons a person might lose weight, and actually setting out to is only one of them.
It’s time to stop remarking on other people’s bodies, especially when you don’t know the whole story. I would say it’s time to stop making assumptions, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the ability of folks to make that leap. So let’s start with shutting the fuck up and letting people move though their day and their lives without wondering who is going to comment on their bodies next.
As a post-script to the fedora-wearing motherfuckers who think people should just be happy to get a compliment and will comment here and on FB to that effect:
For various reasons I am not going into right now, I lost a little over 30lbs over the course of the last several months. End result, simplified? My knees hurt less and my pants don’t fit. I should note that, as a person who will never, ever be “skinny” and never plans to be, I find myself caught between two body weight dogmas. The first tells me I am just buying into systemic fatphobia and the diet industry. The second tells me I should lose weight because pretty=skinny.
Neither is true for me, but it makes me profoundly self-conscious about a personal decision I have made about my body and what I choose to do with and to it. But that’s not why I have decided to write this post.
I have decided to write this post because people keep talking to me as if this weight loss is the Accomplishments of Accomplishments. They exclaim over it with greater enthusiasm than they offer over the fact that I have a law degree, that I know Latin, that I am brilliant, hilarious, and great in bed. Okay, I do get some outright skepticism over that last claim, but whatever. Ladies, you can approach that claim scientifically if you like. My number is [redacted].
I hate being told that I should be super proud of my weight loss. I hate people acting as if it’s the best fucking thing I have ever done. I hate people asking how I feel, as if they have just handed me a fucking Oscar and I am supposed to make a fucking speech.
You know how I feel? Fat.
You know how I would feel if I lost another 30lbs?
The fact is, I’m pretty much okay with this. I’m okay with being fat. I’m less okay with how society has made me feel about being fat. I realize this is something of a contradiction. If I am okay with my body, then why the issues? It’s complicated; I’m a multifaceted Whiskeypants. Let’s leave it at that for now.
What gets me is how much people are not okay with it. How eager they are to praise me for my recently pronounced cheekbones and the fact that I can barely keep my pants up, even with a belt.
What gets me is how they say, “Sweet! You can go shopping now!” —as if all of my body image issues have disappeared and standing in a fitting room no longer sets off every single issue I still have, no longer fills me with anxiety, no longer makes me wonder why designers won’t even acknowledge people above a certain size. As if pride in my body is directly correlated to my weight loss. (Hint: It isn’t.) Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of what I have accomplished, here. But not because I look 30lbs “better” according to society’s fucked up standards.
What gets me is how they think that my reward for losing weight is getting to wear smaller clothes. Shopping for clothes. Trying on clothes that were designed for people 1/2 my size and never my shape. Buying the clothes that look the least stupid on me.