When you arrive back from holiday, there's 101 things going through your mind as you prepare to reenter reality. I've had a fairly smooth transition back into the real world; the jet lag hasn't been too bad and, frankly, it's great to be home.
But there's one thing everyone is saying that is really getting under my skin. It usually goes along these lines:
"Wow! You look great! I can't believe how much weight you lost while you were away!"
It's said with a smile, with the speaker meaning it as an honest compliment, but I just wish people would stop saying it!
My reasons are two fold:
1) I am not trying to lose weight and dislike the fact that this is a go-to compliment when a woman changes shape.
2) The weight I have lost is weight I didn't want to lose and it wasn't lost in a healthy manner either!
So, without further ado, let me get specific. We'll start with reason one.
We live in an incredible fat-phobic society, where the only socially acceptable way for fat bodies to exist is if they are actively trying to be skinny. Despite some small steps forward in regards to body positivity movements, there is still a social assumption that 'being fat' is equal to being unhealthy, ugly, unloveable or any other negative connotation you would like to attach. Even if a body socially seen as 'fat' is perceived as trying to get 'skinny', the owner of that body is still seen as an object for public consumption (and often ridicule) regardless of their lifestyle habits.
Think of the viral videos that do the rounds on social media every so often, usually captioned with 'How to motivate me to exercise' or something else just as cringe worthy. They usually show a person seen as 'fat' either being given an incentive to exercise - such as the woman running after the car being handed money; or being humiliated and/or punished, often publicly, for not being able to exercise hard enough - think the woman walking on a treadmill while a man stands behind her holding a cactus. While there are those of us who find these videos amusing, I dislike them because of the message they send: that it's OK to ridicule someone based on the way their body looks, even that it's OK to hurt them, even if they are seen to be doing something socially acceptable, such as exercise.
Now, I'm going to say that I have thin-privilege (yes, it's a thing) and have never been seen or considered as fat or plus-size. I'm a size-12 girl who enjoys physical activity and, regardless of dips and drops in the amount of exercise I do or the type of food I eat, I have never gone up a dress-size. I'm lucky in that regard and I'm going to do my best to stay in my box and not 'thin-splain' fat-phobia. In fact, I'm not going to say much more on it; but you need to understand the social background to the so-called compliment of 'losing weight' before I go any further.
In our fat-phobic society, and fat-phobia (like most forms of abuse and prejudice) is primarily aimed at women, we are geared to assume that weight loss is automatically a good thing, especially in women, and something that should be noticed and commented upon in all circumstances.
If someone is actively trying to lose weight and you know this for a fact (it's not enough to assume) then, by all means, compliment them on it. Making the decision to lose weight in a safe and healthy manner is great and every accomplishment should be celebrated. Know your friend who has been working with a trainer and eating well lost two-kilos? FANTASTIC! And when they tell you 'It's only two kilos' make sure to show them this picture, won't you.
If your friend is not trying to lose weight, but they looks great and you reckon they've dropped a few kilos, find something else to compliment them on. Just a simple 'You look great' will do. Particularly if someone is working out regularly, they may not be losing weight at all, but instead putting on muscle and shedding body fat. Weight loss is not the only goal of healthy eating and physical activity and it's certainly not the only way for a body to change shape either.
Yet, fat-phobia abounds and we compliment any change that leads to a seemingly 'thinner' physique as weight-loss, regardless of the circumstances or the reason behind it. 'Fat' does not equal unhealthy and 'thin' does not equal healthy, because these are both socially constructed concepts and everyone will have a different definition of these two things.
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, as does health, and it's none of your business what someone else is doing with their body or what it looks like; so unless you know someone is trying to lose weight and doing so in a healthy way, find another way to compliment their awesome physique and all-round amazingness.
So, that's point number one covered; onto point number two.
During my time in Europe I didn't have much opportunity for structured exercise. No pole dancing and a few ad-hoc weight sessions with whatever was available in the hotel gyms.
I missed my exercise and, while I still managed to get in a bit here and a bit there, it was nothing like I wanted or was used to.
And my physique suffered for it.
I lost a lot of muscle during my month in Europe, and (for interest's sake) I did lose some weight, but it wasn't fat, it was muscle I'd worked for and tried so very hard to keep.
So when people look at me and say 'You've lost weight' all they are saying is 'Congrats on losing muscles you worked your ass off for!'. I know full well they don't mean this, but it hurts all the same.
The other reason my physique suffered in Europe? I didn't eat well.
For various reasons, I didn't always have access to as many meals as I like to have a day, and those that I could eat were not always the most enjoyable. Due to food allergies, I was often heavily restricted when I went out to eat, and several of the apartments I stayed in, while advertising kitchens and cooking facilities, either had sub-par facilities or didn't have an essential piece of kitchen equipment, such as a working stove top or an oven. I also had issues with money when I was away and didn't always have enough to go out to eat all the time, which led to skipping meals occasionally or snacking on junk from the nearby Tesco or lollies from the mini-bar.
That is not to say I didn't eat while I was away. I certainly did and had some lovely dishes too, but I didn't eat as much of my kind of food and that led to unhealthy weight loss which I didn't want.
So, in summary, when you see me next I will have recently come back from a month-long trip to Europe. I have lost muscle and haven't eaten as well or exercised as regularly as I would like to and my body composition has suffered for it. I have lost weight, but I didn't want to and I'm not happy about it. So please, find something else to compliment me on. If I look great, you're welcome to tell me, in fact, you will probably make my day, but keep your thoughts about weight loss to yourself. Because the moment you add that onto your compliment it becomes meaningless, fat-phobic and expresses congratulations for something undesirable to me.
But, on the positive, I'm back home now and getting back into a routine, eating my kind of food and getting back into pole dancing again, with some more structured weight training coming soon. I'll get those muscles back and (fun fact) my weight will probably go up, but people will still look at me and say 'You've lost weight!' because we don't know how to compliment a change in physique any other way. So here's an idea: compliment strength, beauty, intelligence, mastering a new skill, working hard to get somewhere, or anything but someone's weight. Because, when it comes down to it, it's actually none of your business anyway.
You don't have to like me. I'm not a Facebook post.
Me With No Apologies.