Three things to consider about the risky business of discussing someone's body.
This is so useful! I am a recovered-ish anorexic who has been having an insanely difficult time navigating the weight loss of a few different important people in my life:
1. My dad, who lost a lot of weight a couple years ago for health reasons that resolved with weight loss & who since then has become extremely rigid and restrictive about food and exercise;
2. My partner, who was on Ozempic for a few months due largely to pressure from her abusive parents to lose weight, discontinued due to horrible side effects, and who over the past year and a half has completely changed her relationship to food and gotten really into weight lifting and playing a sport... and dramatically improved her metabolic health while losing only (?!) a small amount of weight;
3. My best friend from college, who lost a lot of weight over the course of the past year in what seems like a healthy and sustainable way, as part of her recovery from a binge eating disorder -- but who I'm having a really hard time not projecting eating disordered behaviors and thoughts onto.
It's all really complicated, and I have such a hard time distinguishing between what's triggering to me personally and what's actually harmful. Being anti-diet was so essential to my eating disorder recovery that I'm struggling to assimilate new information about how intentional weight loss has actually improved the lives of some of the people I care about... even as I'm also seeing how horrible medical and familial fatphobia are, and how weight and health are not necessarily linked, and about how weight loss undertaken for legitimate medical reasons can still set people on a path to restrictive disordered eating and misery.
Anyways, sorry for the incredibly long comment! Even though we often land in different places on this topic, you're one of the few people I've found who is really exploring the different things that weight and weight loss mean to different people, and I've been really grateful for that (in between obsessively reading people on the r/Ozempic subreddit discussing how satiated they are by a single slice of bell pepper and people on Substack talk about how discussing the nutritional content of any food is fatphobia). And I appreciate the practical guidance on compliments too!!
I love the third point! I also relate to the reinforcement of “thinness” you felt. I used to work at a public facing job and when I was going through a phase of working out a lot and not eating much, I got compliments all the time. My grandpa would bring it up every time I saw him. It was a lot, especially because my family looooveesss talking about weight.
So now, years and a pandemic later, I’ve gained some weight back and I fear that being pointed out like how my weight loss had been. I’m still really triggered by talks of calories and how many “steps” were put in for the day. I’m trying to find a balance myself of getting back into a healthy work out routine and not obsessing. I’m all about the woo-woo ness of it all and thankfully I have a partner who supports this and helps me clear the cobwebs of Numbers and comments on the body we don’t ask for.