After I lost the first 10 pounds, when people exclaimed, “You’re looking great!” — or some variation of this — I didn't mind. The complimentary statements didn’t feel weird or inappropriate; in fact, they actually served as friendly, little reminders that I was making progress. The casual (and sincere) encouragement pushed me to continue along the path I was on. But, when 10 pounds became 20 and then 30, the comments became...well, they became more specific. Intrusive.
While I'd mostly been enjoying kind comments from others that served as further weight-loss incentives, I was not prepared to deal with people making insensitive, impolite remarks that made me feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. When I reached the minus-20-pounds mark, coworkers who rarely spoke to me would see me slicing an apple at 3 p.m. and tell me that I was "doing good!” It felt strange to suddenly be seen and affirmed by people who usually ignored me. Did my smaller size somehow deem me worthy of conversation?
When I was down 30 pounds, people began to scan my plate at parties to see what I was eating. Suddenly, acquaintances were wagging their fingers and asking if I was “supposed to be eating cheese” with a warning tone. Standing on the other end of those accusing fingers made me feel like I was failing — like I was somehow doing something wrong.
When I had officially lost 40 pounds, the lady at my local coffee shop warned my boyfriend that if I lost any more weight, he’d have to start worrying about other men trying to snatch me up. I started to inwardly fume. My man, gentleman that he is, politely explained that he’s always been worried about that. I smiled at him gratefully, but that comment echoed in my head for weeks. Did she think I was with my boyfriend because he’s the only one who would have me? Was she implying that I’m only now becoming desirable — now that I've lost some weight?
Then, I hit the 55-pounds-down mark and stayed there. People started to get used to my weight. The comments stopped — but the silence was just as loud. People who used to comment on my weight every week became, apparently, at a loss for words. In their silence, I could hear judgement and the dreaded fear that I will (gasp!) gain it all back. As much as I hated all of the insidious comments from people I barely knew, I had begun to depend on them for validation that my healthy lifestyle was working — and I longed to hear them again. I actually started to avoid running into people because I was frustrated at my lack of noticeable "progress."
I ignored the fact that I had started a thriving plus-size fitness community, that my PCOS symptoms were under control, and that my ankles were no longer swollen at the end of the day. It no longer mattered to me that my skin was clear and my endurance levels were through the roof. I never would have thought that losing weight would make me more aware of the way people see me as a plus-size girl, but in a weird way, that’s just what happened.
Good health has always been my main goal, but somewhere along this road, I allowed myself get caught up in the hype of skinny. When people thought I was headed towards skinny-ville, they celebrated me. But, now that they see me as plus-size woman who's lost weight but still has a long way to go, the celebratory comments have ceased. And, this change has affected me.
I guess this is when I remind myself that having — and embracing — healthy curves at every size is my true goal; moreover, reaching that goal is not defined solely by my dress size. If I make my fitness journey about pleasing the people around me, I’ll never succeed or even feel partially fulfilled. I can’t please anyone but myself. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to do that, but I'm learning. In the meantime, I'll continue to celebrate my small victories, keep my exercise and healthy-eating commitments, and love my body.