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No More Compliments

In recently reading Teenage Waistland by Abby Ellin, I was reminded of something that I had encountered along my own weight-loss journey but had forgotten over the last 10 years: all the compliments I used to receive. Before I started losing, it never occurred to me that so many people would notice or remark on my weight changes, or that I would almost get addicted to it, but that’s what happened.

A sampling of some of the more memorable comments, mostly from my co-workers:

  • “You’re my inspiration.”

  • “You should be on a Subway commercial!” (Minor drawback - I wasn’t eating Subway sandwiches to lose weight.)

  • This in an e-mail: “I just wanted to send you a note to say that I am incredibly impressed at how WONDERFUL you look – I don’t know what you’re doing or how you’re managing to do it, but you look great! I have infinite admiration for what you’ve accomplished… keep up the good work – you are amazing!!!”

  • “I passed you the other day when you were standing at the bus stop, but I almost didn’t recognize you because there’s so much less of you!”

  • “Look at you. You don’t have a butt anymore! I mean that in a good way.”

  • This from someone in the neighborhood: “Are you the one I’ve been seeing walk all winter? You’ve lost a lot of weight. You look good.”

The problem is that you get to a point when there are no more compliments. When you stop losing, the new you becomes the norm, and people no longer remark on it. This can be a let-down and potentially make it harder to stay motivated on maintaining. In Teenage Waistland, Anne Fletcher described it this way: “‘When it’s new everybody notices, it’s so exciting. “Look at you! You look like a new person! How thin your face is!” But what happens two or five years into maintenance? It’s deadly boring.’” (p. 210)

I didn’t even think about this aspect of things until I left my company right after achieving my weight goal. As I wrote in my memoir about starting my new job, “It wasn’t until I got introduced around that the new reality of my situation occurred to me: these people had never known me when I was heavy. They weren’t going to greet me by saying, ‘You look great!’ or asking how much weight I’d lost.... [It] meant that I would no longer get compliments on a regular basis, which would take some adjustment.”

And it was an adjustment. Every day I went in, maintaining my 130-135 pound loss, but it didn’t matter anymore, at least not to the outside world. Even when I returned to my former company, the most I could hope for was the occasional, “You still look good,” comment from someone I hadn’t seen in a while. It was disheartening. After all, who doesn’t like to hear such wonderful comments on a regular basis?

What helped was the fact that I hadn’t lost weight simply to please other people or get those sorts of compliments. For me, that was an added bonus. And by the time I had gotten to my goal weight, my happiness with everything I could suddenly do - from little things like crossing my legs to big things like climbing mountains - carried me through until that weight became my new reality and I didn’t think of it as a struggle to maintain.

Remembering all this made me wonder - would I want more people to compliment me on my weight loss these days? The answer is no, for two reasons. One, because I’m okay with my daily interactions not being focused on my weight anymore. And two, because now if someone does compliment me after hearing my story, it’s a surprise again instead of being expected. And somehow that makes it sweeter.

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