On Casual Weight Comments

Discusses unsolicited body comments and unintentional weight loss, including ballpark daily calorie figures.

So I’ve been sick. Like, a lot sick. Not hospital sick or anything. But doctor sick. And miss work sick. And slow recovery, energy zapped, bark like a seal, and feel like a zombie for weeks afterward sick.

Co-workers at school know about my illness. For one, I mentioned it in taking one day and two afternoons off of work, not to mention some casual conversations in the back of the office (where we eat our breakfasts and smuggle one last cup of coffee) before school. For two, all of my hallway can tell that I am about to release an eight hour soundtrack entitled Mating Calls of the Slightly Congested Walrus. It’s going to be a hit, I tell you.

So it surprised me when, last week, a couple of other teachers grinned at me and said I looked like I’d been losing weight.

Have I? was my first thought. I don’t self-weigh, so I don’t know for sure. Nor had I noticed my clothes fitting particularly differently. Still, it’s not an unreasonable observation, even if I haven’t personally noticed it. I spent about two weeks with a markedly decreased appetite (like, by my best estimates, triple digit daily caloric consumption) and am only in the past few days re-approaching my normal. It would not be unreasonable to infer some noticeable if unintentional weight loss.

My internal reactions to these grins and congratulations, in order of rational processing:

  • “Well, yes. Maybe I am losing weight. Coughing up five pounds of neon green phlegm every morning might do that to a person.”
  • “Are you kidding me? I have seen my reflection in the mirror. My entire face is light grey, save for the darker circles under my eyes. And my nose, which is bright read. This is not a good look on me.”
  • “Are you kidding me? I have needed a nap after school every day for the past two weeks. Whatever poundage I have lost, I have lost in day-to-day energy. Even if I was looking to lose weight, this is not the trade I was looking for.”
  • “Are you kidding me? I do not remember the last time I was able to enter a supine yoga posture without hacking up a lung, let alone the last time I seriously worked out. How much of what I have lost is muscle mass? How much what I have lost is measured in cardio capability? If I’m losing what I want most in the positives my body size brings, what is the ultimate cost of this exchange? What is it worth”?

In short, complimented or not — and well-intentioned remark or not — this weight loss represents everything I hate about being this kind of sick. It is everything I cannot do with my body, everything I cannot do with my effort, my energy, my brain. No matter how well-meant, everything about this is hurtful — and nothing is a compliment.

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3 comments on “On Casual Weight Comments
  1. Caitlin says:

    I’m glad you’re feeling better, but sorry that feeling better had to come with a whole mess of weirdness on the part of your coworkers.

  2. G says:

    People are ridiculous. I’ve heard, in my life, enough people say “At least if I get sick I’ll lose weight” to know this. I suggest you respond with “If you want some of my snot so you can get sick too, I’ll be happy to supply some.” (This is gross, sorry.)

    Hope you continue to feel better!

  3. Jackie says:

    ugggghhh unsolicited “you’ve lost weight!” comments are the worst, I’ve been the same weight since HIGH SCHOOL (about twenty pounds over and short) and well meaning people, some of them close friends always feel compelled to comment how skinny I’m looking lately. I have PTSD(one reason weight loss is behind self-care on my priority list) and if I am having a really bad episode, I can’t eat, and I’ll lose like five to ten pounds in a week. I hate that people see that as me making progress. Not much else to add, just totally relate to the feeling. Hope you’re feeling better!

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