It’s been a minute since we talked about weight.
(Did your brain just jump to a picture of a scale? Hang with me for a minute; that’s not what I’m going for.)
‘Tis the season for delicious treats, festive drinks, and the softest of PJs. Unfortunately, it’s also prime time for diet talk, resolution pressure, and weight loss commercials.
Ahem. Has anyone told you how incredible you are? Let me interject that before the other voices continue. Don’t believe me? Your heart beats ~101,000 times a day, while you breathe about 23,000 times a day. Also, the muscle that controls blinking allows you to blink ~5 times per second. These are just three tiny things your body does involuntarily to keep you alive. All great reminders that you (and your body) are extraordinary.
We’re not quite in the season of weight loss compliments, but those will soon follow. Our culture has taught us to love when people compliment our appearance, so we follow suit. Just thinking about the deprivation and damaging self-talk that comes from this makes me cringe.
I haven’t posted much about my own journey since studying Intuitive Eating, mostly because it’s a happy side effect of NOT worrying about food. I don’t really think about it! I did have to make a few adjustments after some health challenges last spring, but it turned out to be a great educational experience for learning which foods my body likes to work with and which foods it doesn’t.
Since then, (and like Intuitive Eating told me it would) my body has returned to the size it likes. Also since then, the battery in our scale died. At this point, I literally cannot tell you how much I weigh—even if I wanted to. I have three different sizes of pants hanging in my closet—all different brands—so I can’t tell you that either. (Insert shrug.) Who cares, anyway?
I have to remember that some people do.
There is a loved one who I can always count on to bring up the weight topic. I will hear things like, “You’re looking so good. I mean you’ve always been a pretty girl, but now!” It has happened enough times that I spoke with my counselor about it. “I need help responding,” I said weighing (ha) my options:
- Denying it: “Have you lost weight?” “No, but thank you very much for drawing attention to my body.”
- Ignoring it: “You look so good.” (Insert silence… but when there is no response, others are enlisted for backup.) “Doesn’t she look so good?!”
- Succumbing to it: “I can’t get over how great you look!” “…Thanks?”
This clearly is not a strength of mine. I lean toward diffusing awkward situations with humor, but I’ve slowly been working on gathering strength in grounding my two feet and speaking truth into a conversation rather than slinking back into a self-deprecating retort.
There are some people though, loved as they are, that don’t really have the capacity to hear/understand the underlying emotional trauma of an eating disorder, let alone the time and journey it takes to heal.
I ran across a graphic the other day originating from a voice I follow (and often agree with) for her brave work in the body image space. The image showcased a handful of scenarios instructing how to respond to diet talk over the holidays. I would normally race to share, but something stopped me. Most of these suggestions felt uncomfortable; none felt kind.
I thought of my own situation: Would I really help anything by biting back in anger?
I’m reminded of our current relational climate – the rhetoric I’m seeing spewed on social media and the preparations I’m taking for protection from political jabs at every angle coming in 2020. It’s exhausting how fast we forget that we probably have more in common than the one thing we don’t; the one thing we’re most vocal about online.
Now, don’t hear me say what I’m not saying. Boundaries are healthy and important. We should set them and we should stand up for ourselves. But is it possible to couch our words with love? Is it possible to take our time coming to a conversation, after making an effort to try and understand another point of view?
My counselor and I considered this together. “I wonder if the fixation on your weight has anything to do with her own,” she offered. “Of COURSE it does,” I didn’t even hesitate. It made so much sense. I thought back to countless dinner table conversations and her own self-deprecating jokes and memes on social media. And then my heart broke at this realization.
I know how hard it is to be that obsessed with weight. I know firsthand the energy consumed by counting calories. I remember how it feels to harbor frustration for clothes that don’t fit like they used to and I certainly remember resenting others’ weight loss. I will never forget how it led to hating myself.
From that feeling, we landed on this suggestion together: “I appreciate your intention to compliment, but I’ve found that I can better focus on my health and how I feel if I don’t talk about weight.” Whether or not the other person is responsive is up to them, but at least I know I’ve tried.
So, what now? Eat the cookies and enjoy the cocktails. Listen to your body and stop when it tells you. And then, have a little talk about weight with yourself — not the scale, but the gravity of words. Focus on being present with those you love and savoring time with people who love you.
I wonder where we would be if we made a pact to build each other up in 2020? I’m all in for that.