Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Keeping it Private

Last week, a person who I have been doing business with approximately twice a month for the last two years said, "you lost weight". Since I have been dealing with her during the transition from 380 lbs. to around 180 lbs., it seemed like an odd thing to suddenly mention. I've said before that I live in a cultural environment which is more discrete about such things and doesn't comment as freely on people's personal lives. I wondered why she "finally" said something about a matter which I assumed was rather obvious given my transformation.

I do not mention my weight loss to anyone except my husband. In fact, I think it's very important not to discuss it with people because once you involve them in the process of your own volition, they become a part of the equation. Since I don't want their input, I don't talk about it. In fact, I've already decided when I go home that I will refuse to engage in casual discussions of my eating habits or weight. I will talk about it with people who have a problem and need or want help, but I won't discuss it from any viewpoint other than a psychological one when it comes to me. I've read far too many accounts of people having their food habits picked over and bantered about by people who are simply bored and have nothing better to focus on. This is not a trivial matter to be discussed in a coffee klatch.

Getting back to my associate who mentioned my weight, since I have never talked about it with anyone, the timing was odd. She said that she really noticed that my face had gotten thinner in the last month. Usually, she sees me every fortnight, but this time there was a longer separation. I mentioned in a previous post that, though my weight had not changed from one month to the next, I was sure I'd lost body fat because I'd see changes in my overall shape and size. Her comment bore this out as she saw new cheekbone definition in my face (that I also had believed was there) and remarked on it. She said, "your face is returning to what it was when you were young," as she'd seen pictures of me at my all-time lowest weight in 1988.

I told her that she was only the third person to mention it even though I've been losing for two years. She looked a bit blank and said, "really?" I pulled up some pictures of my face on FaceBook which coincided with when we first met to show her. She was surprised. She genuinely had not noticed that I'd gradually lost about 200 lbs. because she was in my life at regular intervals during that time.

The interesting thing is that one of the other three people who mentioned my weight loss also did so after an absence from my life of approximately 6 weeks. She said, "you lost weight", and I thought she was finally recognizing the elephant in the room. She even asked if I'd lost it because of stress. I realize now that she noticed the short-term loss, not the long-term one. At the time, I also thought this sudden utterance was odd, but now I'm beginning to understand that she really hadn't noticed the gradual changes all along.

The only one of these three people to really notice was someone who hadn't seen me for five years. She prefaced it with, "don't take this the wrong way..." at which point I said, "I've lost a lot of weight." She then said, "so much healthier" and we dropped the topic. There was no need for me to go into details about how or why I lost it.

I've been very fortunate that my weight loss hasn't been a topic of public discussion for the most part. I believe the biggest reason for this, as I mentioned before, is that the only person I discuss it with is my husband. Another is that the people who see me frequently either aren't noticing (yes, it is possible that they mind their own business or the losses were so gradual that they didn't see it) or have enough respect for my privacy not to mention it. Now that it has come up a few times, I've found that the best way to continue to keep it private is to address it minimally and move on in a polite, but perfunctory fashion.

A lot of people complain about people noticing or not noticing their weight loss. If they don't notice or say anything, they get upset that the changes aren't significant enough. I'm here to say that the changes can be huge (I've lost half my body weight now) and people won't notice if you are losing slowly. I'm also going to say that I believe that if you draw attention to it overtly, then you're going to get more interference and its best never to talk about what you're doing (including how you eat). The people who deal with me do not see what or how much I eat. When they remark on my weight, I confirm that I've lost it and they say, "congratulations" (which I feel strange about hearing) and then we move on to another subject.

Of course, some people believe that weight is a topic that should be discussed openly and frankly. I don't have a problem with this as long as the discussion is objective and impersonal. I have a problem when it turns into people kibbitzing in my business, which more often than not any discussion of weight (loss or gain) turns into. Once you open the door to people being involved in what you're doing, they feel they have been invited to comment on your behaviors and that introduces a whole new wrinkle into the process of trying to change your relationship with your body and food. And, like most wrinkles in life, it's almost always unwelcome.