Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Have you lost weight?"

A little backstory. For all of my childhood I was a little barrel, a chubby kid, a little tub of lard. I stayed pretty much the same for adolescence, young adulthood, my twenties, my thirties, you get the drift. It affected my self image all my life and my understanding of how other people saw me. It defines me and always has.

In the last twelve months, for various reasons, I've lost a couple of stones and I weigh less that I have done at any point in my adult life. I'm not thin now by any stretch of the imagination, just less fat than I used to be. This, of course, leads people who I haven't seen in a while to say "Wow, you've lost a load of weight." This has happened a few times in particular with people I don't really know, who I might see a couple of times a year or less.

The implication in my defensive mind is "Wow. You used to be a really fat fucker, now you're less so"

In my head there's always a flicker in their eyes, almost a moment of disbelief, an element of "what happened to you? You're less of a stereotype that I used to think you were". I can never take it straight up, as if it were intended that way. Why?

Why can't I take a compliment the way it's intended?


  1. Ach, weight comments are loaded.

    At least people don't say, 'Jesus, you're so fat' (well, except my 'stepmother' to my husband, the stupid bitch).

    Skinny people get berated for being skinny and not eating all the time, mostly because us fat people resent them :) 'Jesus, look at you, there's not a pick on you, you're so skinny, Christ, look at your stomach, where's your arse?

    You'd never say the reverse to a fat person.

  2. It's the classic Irish automatic mechanism of self-depreciating oneself.. First the paranoia, then the disbelief. I think we do this to a certain degree. And maybe not weight-wise, either. We react like this to pretty much any compliment.

    You're certainly no alone on this. Don't we all find it difficult to accept compliments.

  3. I remember getting my first compliment on my looks (apart from those from doting aunts) when I was about 16. I was described as gorgeous by a female friend who would have previously seen me as about as good looking as an Argos bookcase. I was shocked. I was embarrassed and I was overwhelmed with pride. I know it's wrong to rely on others to boost your self-image and self-confidence, but there you go. My confidence sprouted from these roots.

    As the years went on I got used to hearing it (I'm sorry if that sounds too egotistical). I take compliments quite well now.

    I was lucky to grow out of my awkward gangly looking self and become someone I'm very proud of. I know I can be very superficial, but this stems from being called ugly, nerdy, anorexic, freaky for years when I had no friends, and then getting endless compliments and come-ons as soon as I started gelling my hair and walking without a hunch.

    It's a sad fact of life that people do judge us on the way we look. Do I hate it? Yes. Do I buy into it? Sadly, yes. I think that's why I enjoy meeting people online so much. They get to know the real me, and I, in turn, get to know the real them.

    SL, I have no advice, no words of encouragement. Just my story, which though different to yours still highlights the weight people place on looks. It's a sad and true fact of life.

  4. Yes appearance will always be there. I have philosophical difficulties with the fact that everything else in nature that contains aesthetic qualities is praised for beauty but in human biology it's viewed as lewd or a vice. It's a gift like any other people have and should be praised. It does have power and people can deny it but it will always be there.

  5. (posting all over the place today - stupid people using my computer and damaging my beloved internet connection)

    As a woman I am forever on some diet or another and I feel like jumping around and hugging people whenever they comment that I have lost weight - but that's what I am going for.

    I never thought men were as preoccupied with their weight as women but I am starting to realise thats not the case.

    I would just take the compliment and go with it. Be proud of your new svelte self!

  6. If you've been heavier than is ideal, I think you (I should say 'one') look more like yourself when you lose weight. You're clearer, less encumbered, and that's what people are responding to. Not really saying 'oh you were a fatster before'.

  7. Compliments are hard to get used to. But try. I've been fortunate to have a good friend actually TRAINING me to handle compliments. In a good way. I used to respond to compliments by sort of neutralising them with some remark putting myself down.

    Can't say I'm up there with Darren yet. But I do feel happy when complimented. And very surprised. Every time.

  8. Having thought about this I probably do the same as you Dolly. I am trying my best t just say thank you and accept compliments graciously.

    Darren has exceeded the point of gracious acceptance and now proceeds to tell people just how wonderful he is. We have a friend who gives him a blank birthday card each year and allows him to fill it in himself so that he can "do himself justice"

  9. Hee.

    Perhaps we should just start complimenting you on your impeccable taste in boyfriends :)

  10. My advice in a very brutal fashion is to quit moaning, if they didn't say anything you'd wonder if they hadn't noticed and why they hadn't said anything!

    I am a bit cynical about this whole losing weight issue as I have a few friends who perpetually diet but end up not losing weight. The reason? Because they TALK about dieting but don't actually feckin do it and then moan about how they try so hard.

    Sometimes I just feel like screaming PUT DOWN THE CAKE.