that awful, plague of a question

Have you lost weight?

I hate this question. It’s supposed to be a compliment. It’s not. Inside it are a slew of horrific judgements beating down upon you. With this question comes the implication that the questioner noticed your physical appearance “before” and compared it to “now” and decided the difference of their perception was how much poundage you carry on your bones. It’s a question that implies you were fat “before” and you are less fat “now” when the only real difference is their perception, which doesn’t take into account any number of other factors.

Like wearing your hair differently. Like wearing different clothing. Like having a healthier psyche that results in you standing a little straighter because you’re moving forward with confidence. Like wearing a smile because you’re having a great day. Like the million other little things that can affect your appearance that have absolutely nothing to do with how much you weigh.

Last year, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I had none of the typical symptoms. I wasn’t overweight and within the realm of normal for my BMI. I didn’t feel sick. I don’t look diabetic. My condition is entirely genetic and it sucks. What works for normal Type 2 Diabetics doesn’t always work for me. Medications always have side effects and dealing with them emotionally and physically is difficult.

Seven months ago, I started Kung Fu. Best decision of my life. Soon I will be learning how to climb up bamboo trees as I beat down bad guys. When I started, I was in an average physical condition. Two years ago I ran a marathon and while I didn’t run as intensely, I kept up an average amount of exercise. Over the last seven months, my body has gone through a physical change.

But I have not lost any significant amount of weight.

Because muscle weighs more than fat. Because what you weigh and how you carry it are complicated nuanced things. Because scales and your BMI can’t tell the entire story of who you are existing in this physical state we call life.

Can we stop asking such a rude question? If we must comment on the physical difference we see in other people, can’t we say something to the effect of:

You look so beautiful today! Tell me your secret!

My solution isn’t perfect, I realize this, but maybe, if we spoke with the intent to truly uplift other people, we’d find more personal happiness and the world would be a less awful place plagued by such despair.


4 Responses to "that awful, plague of a question"

  • <3 I started thinking about the loadedness of questions like that when learning particles in Japanese class once. The "wa" in "Kyou wa kirei desu" actually emphasizes "today" and implies that it's different from other days, allowing the listener to think that other days she is not pretty. Our consensus in class was that "Kyou, kirei desu" was less pointed and more acceptable.

    I do wish that people would consider the implications of things that they say about another's appearance, and whether those implications are something the other would like remarked to them. A simple observation about the glowiness of one's demeanor instead of a guess at the cause would be a nice change.

    (It would save a lot of argument on the flip side, too. Instead of saying "Is it that time of the month?" it would behoove people to say something more like "I'm sorry you're having a rough day. What can I do?" Unfortunately, that's never going to happen.)

    1 Brittany said this (September 24, 2012 at 17:35) Reply

    • I <3 your Japanese example. It reminds me how you can learn so much more about yourself and your own culture when looked at through the lens of another language. Goodness, I miss learning Japanese...

      You're so right and those are really good points. How much happier would everyone be if we took time to consider the feelings of others?

      2 Gwynne said this (September 24, 2012 at 20:37) Reply

  • I think this is a really interesting discussion and truly says a lot about our culture. As if losing weight was the best possible explanation for someone looking good. I get this question all the time and I find it extremely ironic, because I’ve actually gained 15 lbs since the last time they’ve asked or noticed.

    I’m sorry this is bothering you. The more I notice it, the more I realize how frustrating Western culture can be.

    3 Erin said this (September 25, 2012 at 10:37) Reply

    • As if losing weight was the best possible explanation for someone looking good.

      I think that’s what happened to me. On Sunday, one of the Bishopric Wives came up and asked me if I’d lost weight because she hadn’t seen me in a couple weeks. Didn’t tell me I looked good, just that it was obvious I’d lost weight. I just smiled and said no.

      Because when I get on a soap box, I get bratty.

      4 Gwynne said this (September 25, 2012 at 16:00) Reply

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comments RSS Subscribe to the Comments RSS.
Trackback Leave a trackback from your site.
Trackback URL: