Why ‘You’ve Lost Weight’ Is Not The Compliment You Think It Is

It would be a lie to say that I don’t care about my weight. I’d love to be able to truly rise above the stereotype of scrutinizing my body in a full length mirror from every conceivable angle, furrowing my brow at all the different parts that look worse than I would like them to in some way or another, but that practise is at least a bi-weekly activity for me. How horrifyingly Bridget Jones of me.

Why 'You've Lost Weight Is Not The Compliment You Think It Is'
What your body looks like when you’re too poor to eat properly (August 2012)

I do feel guilty about the preoccupation I have with my appearance. Oddly, it’s usually worse when I’m wearing clothes as opposed to when I bare all (or most) in front of the mirror. I think it’s probably because our identities and self-expression are intrinsically linked to our wardrobe choices. It’s a sign of the consumer society we live in that we feel obliged to choose the perfect jacket and t shirt combination to really express who we are as people, rather than simply just.. being. My chest size to body size ratio comes into it quite a lot as well. No matter how much I feel like a massive slouchy t shirt is perfect in saying what I want to convey about myself (or if I just want to be vaguely comfortable), my body shape simply doesn’t agree. And so I’ve been propelled into a world of clothes that suit the physical embodiment of me, but these restrictions mean that I sacrifice a chunk of self-confidence that comes with being dressed the way you want to be dressed.

circa October 2012 – my 18th birthday

But coming back to the guilt. I feel guilty for having such an appearance-focused attitude towards myself, and in some ways, others. When my less curvy friends wear clothes that I love, but would make me look like a beached whale in a dress, I feel a pang of envy. These feelings are definitely not unique to myself, but what accompanies them is the knowledge that this kind of mentality is incredibly damaging – to myself as well as those around me. It’s harmful to place such a high amount of focus on someone’s appearance, when there are many more things of value about a person than simply the way they look.

Please ignore the idiot behind me and the (very yellow) bedroom

This is why the ‘you’ve lost weight’ comment is an uncomfortable non-compliment to me, no matter how well-meaning the person saying it might be. Even if I am feeling like ten fire emojis in a row, I don’t want to feel like my body is constantly under scrutiny by others and being compared to its past various shapes. The people who make these comments aren’t by any means bad people, but I feel like their placing of such a high value on something as arbitrary as the amount of fat on someone’s body is a harmful mentality for themselves as well as the people they comment on. And when I do lose weight, it’s never conscious – usually just an indication that I’m in a better mental state and actually leaving the house a bit. There is no achievement in there. I would much rather be complimented on the aspects of my personality that I’m proud of: my practicality, my honesty, my wit. I like when people tell me that they like talking to me, that I’m the kind of person they enjoy the company of. I think there is vanity in that, but it’s a much more fulfilling aspiration than wanting to change the shape of my body.

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