In her new Shondaland newsletter (which you should definitely subscribe to), TV queen Shonda Rhimes writes on all manner of important topics. This week, she opened up about something pretty personal: her weight loss. Specifically, she spoke about people's reactions to her weight loss, and how these reactions reveal our internal bias and actually do more harm than good if they're not coming from the right place.
"Women I barely knew gushed," she writes. "And I mean GUSHED. Like I was holding-a-new-baby-gushed. Only there was no new baby. It was just me. In a dress. With makeup on and my hair all did, yes. But…still the same me. In one of my same dresses (cause why am I gonna buy a NEW dress when I can take this to a seamstress and she can just make it smaller? Who am I, The Crown? No, I’m from the Midwest, baby, and I come with coupons). Women gushed anyway."
And it wasn't just women. Men also approached Rhimes differently after she lost "closer to 150" pounds, and it wasn't as flattering as they thought.
"And men? They spoke to me," she continued. "THEY SPOKE TO ME. Like stood still and had long conversations with me about things. It was disconcerting. But even more disconcerting was that all these people suddenly felt completely comfortable talking to me about my body. Telling me I looked 'pretty' or that they were 'proud of me' or that 'wow, you are so hot now' or 'you look amazing!'"
These words may sound like compliments, but all they do is emphasize that these people in her life, whether they knew it or not, valued Rhimes less when she weighed more.
"I discovered that NOW people saw me as a PERSON," she wrote. "What the hell did they see me as before? How invisible was I to them then? How hard did they work to avoid me? What words did they use to describe me? What value did they put on my presence at a party, a lunch, a discussion? When I was fat, I wasn’t a PERSON to these people. Like I had been an Invisible Woman who suddenly materialized in front of them. Poof! There I am. Thin and ready for a chat."
This essay is important for two reasons: first, people who've experienced the same thing know they're not alone, and second, those who haven't can reexamine their reactions and perceptions, and think twice about their compliments the next time someone in their life has lost weight. Win-win.