Amy and I were having lunch the other day, and talking about our own personal weight loss journeys, when she said, “You know, it really irritates me when people congratulate me for losing weight.” Stunned, I pondered this for a moment, and realized that she was totally right. We’re conditioned to think that this is a fantastic compliment to give a person, when in reality, it’s more damaging than affirming.
Now, before you write me off as the PC police, hear me out. First, know that I’ve totally congratulated people on their weight loss, and I’ve also basked in the “compliment” myself. Heck, I'm not even above posting a good before and after photo. I’ve never meant ANY ill will by this statement, and I was only ever trying to offer a positive affirmation of their hard work. However, when you take a closer look, there’s an underlying message that can be damaging.
Amy went on to say, “Did I look terrible before? Am I somehow more worthy in a smaller body? And what happens if I gain it back? Are you going to think less of me?” Her thoughts mirror what society is already telling us about thin bodies being better than fat ones, but what makes this so much worse, is that this statement is usually coming from a person close to you. It’s one thing to not care what “society” thinks, but it’s a whole different bag when it’s a person close to you.
I just want to mention here, again, that I completely acknowledge that the majority of people probably mean no harm in this, but that’s why talking about it is SO important.
In our cases, Amy is making healthier choices as she and her husband prepare to start their family, and my journey is all about health. The weight loss is a side effect, not the goal.
I’ve dieted for weight loss several times in my life, and let me just tell you, I was MISERABLE. I was hungry and cranky all the time, I would feel tremendous guilt for any “slip up,” and I was teaching myself to be at war with my body. My body wasn’t “OK,” so I was going to force it into submission.
I had a moment of clarity one day about three years ago when this photo was taken, and I made a choice to focus on health, not weight loss. I want to be strong and healthy to see my amazing goddaughter (look at that face!!) grow up. I want to travel without ever worrying about physical limitations. I want to accomplish amazing things, and I need my body to do them. Now, my body and I are on the same team. I feed it good, nutritious food, we exercise, we meditate, and we work together in harmony. And, I still eat ice cream and I never feel guilty about it. I've made great strides in those three years, I've gotten my blood sugar under control, my skin looks amazing, my hair is growing in healthier, my PCOS symptoms have become easier to manage, I can run three miles straight, and I've lost 52 pounds. While it's a nice side effect, the weight loss is the least of these victories.
It bears mentioning, that weight loss isn't always a good thing. Sometimes it's from a bad drug interaction, or stress, or disease. You wouldn't congratulate someone on how much weight they've lost from chemo, right?
Finally, can we just stop commenting on people's bodies? Thinner doesn't mean healthier. Thinner doesn't mean happier. Thinner doesn't mean more worthy. A person's appearance NEVER tells their whole story, so stop making assumptions.
One of the best compliments I've ever received, was when an acquaintance called me brave. I was like, "Yeah, I am brave! And that's pretty badass!" What if, instead of commenting on appearance, we said things like:
I really admire your confidence
I feel so good being around you
I love your enthusiasm
Your energy is infectious
You inspire me
You're a great friend
You're such a badass
I'm so glad I know you
You make people feel so good about themselves
I love how passionate you are
You make a difference
Talking to you always makes me feel better
In my businesses, I tell women all the time that they're beautiful. Not because they are physically perfect by modern cultural standards, but because they exist on this planet, and are worthy of love. They are unique, and they are worthy, just as they are. Beauty, true beauty, is so much more that physical appearance. It's your kind nature, your infectious laugh, the way you make people around you feel safe. It's your whole package. Let's celebrate the whole package, and not just physical appearance, because I know that I, would much rather be known for my compassion than my appearance.
What I look like right now, writing this blog. Crazy, naturally curly hair, just chillin' in yoga pants, and living in my body.