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Big Questions: The Dreaded “You Look Great, Have You Lost Weight?”

Big Questions with Zach Miko is the new advice column hosted by Zach Miko. Send him your questions on body image, insecurities, relationships, self-esteem and more by clicking here. Want more of Zach’s advice? Read past installments of Big Questions here.

Dan: I’m a bigger guy who lost a bit of weight over the past few years. Not because I was trying, it just happened naturally. I often have people tell me I look great and are surprised about how much weight I have lost. [It] kinda pisses me off because I feel like I looked great even when I was heavier. I get that they think they are being nice, but it honestly bothers me. What do you say to those people?

Dear Dan,

“You look great. Have you lost weight?” It’s a compliment followed up with an immediate backhand.

The sad part is I used to crave this statement more than anything else. When I was a teenager and in my early 20’s, losing weight may have been the one thing I cared about most. I was positive that if I made my body smaller, my life would be easier, people would like me more, and I would be worthy of love. So I did it. I lost weight, then I gained it back, and I lost it again. I spent my entire young life on every fad diet imaginable, scooping up every workout DVD that existed, and popping every brand of diet pill I could get my hands on.

When people compliment you on your weight loss, they usually have good intentions, but what they don’t realize is that when they say “you look good after weight loss” what our subconscious hears is “you looked like shit when you were bigger”.

First off, I applaud you so much for saying that you liked the way you looked before you lost the weight, It took me years to get to a point where I started feeling comfortable with my body. Every time I lost weight, I got that same compliment. It was the only time anyone ever approved of how I looked. When people compliment you on your weight loss, they usually have good intentions, but what they don’t realize is that when they say “you look good after weight loss” what our subconscious hears is “you looked like shit when you were bigger”.

From the time I was 5 years old, I knew that fat was bad, and skinny was good. No one ever told this directly, but I knew it as surely as I knew what gravity was. It just WAS. How did I know this if no one ever told me?

Zach Miko

We are bombarded with so many messages from entertainment, media, and fashion telling us we cannot possibly be happy as a bigger people, but as adults, some of us have grown to realize these are all bullshit tactics to sell to us. What isn’t as obvious is how deeply these messages have ingrained themselves into our psyche. With every comment about weight loss or gain, they are reaffirming the importance of your weight in your own subconscious. Each compliment or insult leads back to one conclusion in your mind: fat is bad. Fat is neither good nor bad. Fat is a descriptor, like green. Is green bad? No, it’s a description of that grass over there.

We have to be patient with people. Society’s view of weight is slowly changing. People have thought one way for so long that it’s hard to break them out of the cycle.  I know I thought that fat was bad for decades. I hated my body and hated myself, and it wasn’t until I started my own journey of self-love, acceptance, and understanding that my views changed.

So, How Should You Respond?

If someone you are close with comments about your weight, be honest with them. Tell them that when they glorify your weight loss, it makes you feel like the person you were before wasn’t good enough. If you notice they have their own biases about weight, talk about that. Dialogue is the most important tool you have with the people who love you, because they don’t want to hurt you. Everyone, big or small, has struggled with their weight and their own self-image in some way. Talk about it. Discussion is what changes the world. Grow with the people you love.

 Next time someone you aren’t that close with makes a comment about weight loss that bugs you, say to them “Thanks, I was sexy then and I’m sexy now”.  They’ll either laugh it off or get confused or politely agree. Ultimately, their reaction doesn’t matter very much. You’re saying it for YOU, not them. Remind yourself that your value as a person isn’t dependent on your weight. Reminding them of that as well is just an added bonus.

You look great, Dan.

Love,

Zach

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