Monday, October 6, 2008


Emmy over at frozen.oranges posted yesterday about a conversation she had with a friend. While talking about her efforts to gain weight, he interjected that he'd noticed she'd put on a few pounds. She took it positively. I admire her for that, because I have trouble doing the same.

Comments like this are tricky. Weight is widely accepted as a topic of conversation: people talk about their weight, celebrities' weights, that friend who's really let herself go, you know. Eating disorders are damn awkward. People don't know what to say, and in those situations it's not unexpected to flub. When someone starts to gain, people want to let her/him know that they see the hard work she/he has done. The intention is to compliment the person and recognize the effort.

However, even the best of intentions can fall flat. As I've said, recovery is a process - there are good days and bad days. A comment at the wrong time can send someone into a tailspin. Are they saying I'm fat? Are they looking at what I'm eating? What do they mean by that? Well, just to be safe, I shouldn't eat that cookie. The commenter, of course, did not mean to elicit that response.

I understand the impulse to tell someone, hey, you're not skeletal anymore, you look better. At the same time, I urge caution. In Emmy's case, weight gain was already the topic of conversation. If the person in question starts talking about his or her weight, let them talk - gauge how they feel about it. If they seem positive, then I think it's okay to comment. If they seem ambivalent or distressed, it might be best to say, "I know you're working hard," or "hang in there, it's tough but so are you." I'd advise against just blurting something out upon seeing someone.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. For example, my mom, my sisters, Jim, and my roommates can talk about my weight without me bringing it up. They know me really well and have been essential to my recovery. And since I usually talk about my weight gain positively, it's okay for other friends to say something if it comes up. But if a comment comes out of the blue - it doesn't always go well, even if I know the person meant well. It has everything to do with my own mental state and nothing to do with their intentions.

How do you all deal with comments?


licketysplit said...

this is definitely a tricky topic... personally, i would prefer that no one comment about my weight other than my doctor or psychiatrist. Otherwise I can tell you right now that even if it is in a positive way, it will be misconstrued. I think it's very admirable that Emmy was able to see it in a positive light. In the past I have pretended to be pleased while inside I was screaming...

OldeWhig said...
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bob said...

I understand exactly what you are saying. After I complimented you, or so I intended, I realized that your reaction could be exactly how you described it in your blog. I apologize.

Tiptoe said...

Weight comments are hard. I'd rather no one commented at all. Most times, people are asking me if I lost weight which is rarely ever the case. Then, it makes me wonder if I was fat before. Ugh! You can go in circles with those comments.

emmy. said...

hey, i saw that you linked to me and was honored that you posted based off of one of my entries :)

it definitely is a process. one very common pattern with eating disorders is that it is very difficult to accept a compliment, let alone something that maybe meant as a comment, but maybe not construed as one. that takes a lot of work as it is. what helped me was learning how to get out of my head and hearing words for how people were saying them.
when a good friend of mine cheerily says, "you don't feel as bony!" my head used to want to tell me, "it means your all pudgy and crap." but, my head isn't the one that gave me the "compliment." my friend, who loves me, is. she's proud of me for the weight that i've worked so hard to put on. and i *have* worked hard.. i'm glad that it's showing.

everyone tends to hang in their own head a lot, eating disorder or not. even if someone came up to me and said, "hey, you're a fat pig," i would laugh at them and say, "hey, thanks!" because the truth is.. they're only thinking about what they want to come out of their own mouths. they're not thinking about how it may affect you or that it is or isn't appropriate to say that to someone.. and i know it's not true. sticks and stones, right?