On Weight Loss As ‘Winning’

The Christmas holidays are, for a lot of people, the time when you catch up with friends and acquaintances that you haven’t had a lot of time for during the year. Parties are thrown and lunch dates are scheduled. This is the way it is for me, and it’s great. I’m excited.

But then I find those inevitable thoughts creeping in.

Am I fatter or thinner than I was the last time I saw them? Will I be fatter or thinner than them? Have they been dieting/going to the gym? Will they judge me because I haven’t? Will they talk about losing weight and make me feel awkward? Will the conversation turn to the

What this boils down to is: Have I won or lost? If I appear thinner than before, I am congratulated, I have won. If I am fatter, I have lost, I have to congratulate someone else and then they have won. Whoever at the table is occupying the least physical space holds the power.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t actually think this way. I do not look at a friend who has lost weight and think her life must be going really great!, just as I don’t look at a friend who has gained weight and think the poor girl, she must be having a terrible time. I hope my friends don’t do the same to me or to each other. Still, there is the overbearing women’s magazine idealistic idea of weight loss as a way of impressing other people. It’s like the way that tabloid papers will laud praise upon female celebrities who have ‘slimmed down’, and tut over them like disappointed parents reading a report card when they ‘pack on the pounds’. From this, I have got the message that weight loss is impressive, and weight gain is a bit sad. I can’t help but feel that when I sit down at the table, I have to justify or discuss my weight and how it has or hasn’t changed.

So, I’m going to ignore that gut feeling this year. I’m going to put on my best frock and head out to my lunch date and feel fabulous, and not concern myself with what the number on the scales might be compared to everyone else*, and ultimately not concern myself with my appearance or anyone else’s.

Let’s not talk about how much we’ve gained or lost, let’s talk about what we’ve been doing. Where we went on holiday. Reminisce about the old times. Tell me about your love life. Jump for joy and tell me how well your life is going. Cry on my shoulder and confide that something’s wrong. That’s okay too. Tell me about your plans for Christmas, for New Year’s Eve, for next year, for your life. Let’s make wild and unrealistic plans about living together in a Spanish villa when we retire. I want to hear what that crazy lady on the bus said to you the other day. How’s the job hunt? How’s your dissertation going? I want to know what book you’ve been reading. I want to know if you’ve been watching Pan Am. (I’m going to tell you about how I’ve been watching Pan Am.) Tell me about how you’ve taken up Japanese cookery, the amazing clothes you’ve been buying, or the new fantastically fun dance class you tried. Just let’s not start on your new diet, what size your jeans are, or how many hours you’ve spent in the gym.

If you say, ‘Emily, I lost X amount of weight and I feel a million times healthier and happier’ I will congratulate you. On your happiness and your health. Otherwise, I will not. I don’t know why you’ve lost weight – read this to see why unsolicited praise can be very inappropriate, and why I won’t be handing it out.

(I’d just like to point out that I don’t have any kind of eating disorder, and I don’t think the thoughts I’ve expressed here are a real cause for concern. I have a confusing and sometimes difficult relationship with food, and with my body, but unfortunately this is not at all unusual. I’ve internalised a lot of messages from the media and cultural narratives and I’m trying to sort it all out in my head, just like a lot of other people.)

* I still haven’t weighed myself since this post! Go me! It’s definitely helped me to separate the numbers from how I’m actually feeling, health-wise.

loveyourself

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10 thoughts on “On Weight Loss As ‘Winning’

    • I honestly didn’t think it would be my cup of tea, but I ended up watching one episode on tv because I was too lazy to turn it over… and I LOVE IT! It’s so exciting. People keep saying it’s sexist but I don’t really see how the programme itself is sexist.

  1. This is FABULOUS, weight gain/loss really shouldn’t be the topic of discussion around the holidays! I want to catch up with my friends about their lives, not their bodies.

    • ‘I want to catch up with my friends about their lives, not their bodies.’

      So, so true! Discussing weight just makes everything awkward, and it’s awful how it sometimes seems to eclipse everything else that is happening in someone’s life.

  2. This is a great post and really spoke to me. I ran into some old school mates last Christmas and they all commented on my weight loss, which made me feel good, but kind of uncomfortable as well because I don’t really like talking about my body.
    I’m very fortunate that my uni friends are very unconcerned with diet and weight, so it’s never even mentioned in conversation.

  3. I agree with this so much; I heard a story of someone being congratulated on her ‘amazing weight loss’ in public; she turned around and told them she had cancer and was dying. It seems to be a problem with objectifying ourself; we think we can label everyone and all their separate bits and aspects like we have the wholly right to. My friend once called out to one of my friends that ‘My, you’ve filled out a lot, haven’t you know?’ And watching his face fall and his cheeks blush was one of the most horrible experiences. These are grown up people who still haven’t learnt how to respect someone else; and it makes me so sad.

    • That’s the kind of thing that makes me feel so sad. The idea that you can be terminally ill and yet somebody else will think ‘go you, you’ve lost some weight!’ I don’t understand how most people are taught, while growing up, that making personal comments is rude, yet weight talk is so commonplace.

  4. This is really funny/crazy that we all think this way. Good for you for admitting it and putting it into words for the rest of us. Great ideas for what we SHOULD be talking about instead…especially the wildly unrealistic plans and dreams. That part is my very favorite.

    • While I was writing it I had a moment of panic in which I thought ‘is this how everyone thinks, or does this only happen in my own twisted brain?!’ so I’m really glad people are agreeing with me. I love making crazy future plans with friends :)

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