One of the unexpected side effects of losing weight over these last 12 months is handling people’s reactions, especially if I’ve not seen them in a while.
Wow, look at you! You look great! You’ve lost how much weight?
When I first started working out with Matthew R. Lister at Align, I welcomed and cherished those reactions. I was in such scary, foreign territory, and I was working so hard and felt so sure I would fail, because I’d failed at every other attempt to lose weight.
I needed external validation that my hard work and sacrifice were paying off, and my results were showing. I didn’t trust my mirror, or even my increasingly baggy clothes. (Which reminds me, I bought my first pair of medium workout pants today to go with my medium T-shirt.)
But as time passed, and I grew more comfortable in my shrinking skin, the more uncomfortable I began to feel about people’s observations about my body. In fact, the more effusive the compliment, the more embarrassed I felt about how awful I must have looked before.
Back when I was heavier, people either said nothing about my body (which is probably a good policy anyway) or they’d flat out lie, with enthusiasm, as if trying to convince us both. “You look great!”
It’s like that line where the wife asks the husband if she looks fat, to which he replies, “Do I look stupid?”
I did not look great.
Funny thing is, there’s no societal taboo about commenting on people’s bodies if they’ve lost weight, or if they’re skinny (I’m not in that second category – yet 😉 ). In those cases, people feel free to verbalize their observations, and might even say something like, “You’re too thin,” or “Go eat a cookie!”
One of my workout buddies and I were discussing this recently at Align (as we did three sets of 2-minute planks). She’s lost more than 60 pounds, and frankly, I never thought she needed to lose that much in the first place. But she did lose weight, and I will say she looks awesome and fit and is on her way to having enviable Michelle Obama arms.
She’s hearing a new twist to the comments, and she doesn’t quite know what to do with it.
“People are starting to tell me to quit losing weight, that I am looking too skinny,” she said. “They ask me when I’m going to stop the program.”
Of course, neither of us plans to stop the program, because this is a lifestyle. But if you turn the tables on what people are saying to her, I cannot imagine a similar statement to an overweight person.
Hey, you should lose weight, because you’re too fat.
Only three kinds of people (other than physicians) would dare say that: the cruel, the mentally challenged, or children. Kids have no problem stating the obvious. Because they lack filters, they are brutally honest.
Case in point was years ago, when I was helping out in Joe’s first-grade class, where I noticed that one little girl was staring at me. I imagined that she was looking at me for any number of reasons. Maybe she thought I was pretty. Or maybe she liked my outfit. Or maybe she was admiring my shiny hair. When she finally spoke, it turned out there was another choice I’d not considered.
“You have lipstick on your teeth.”
I was reminded of the topic of brutal honesty when I kept my grandson overnight Sunday, and then he spent the day with me Monday delivering holiday baskets. With both kids, when they spend the night we have a precious little routine where I sing “good morning to you,” (to the tune of “Happy Birthday”) when they wake up. I am certain they cherish this special time as much as I do.
After my song was over my adoring grandson gazed into my eyes and finally spoke his first words of the day.
“Noni you have a little dried thing in your nose.”
The rest of the day was as I expected: busy, but manageable. We were in and out of the car, dropping off baskets, many of which were delivered to offices. All these drop-offs required lots of chatting, which is why the process can take so long. After our last stop we returned to the car. I glanced in my rear view mirror, and then screamed.
My grandson looked up, alarmed, from his wolf book in the back seat.
“What’s wrong, Noni?”
“Oh my gosh! There’s a goober (that’s what we call it in our family) poking out of my nose!”
“Noni, I told you that this morning.”
Then he returned to his book.
Sure enough. He had told me. And, of course, I’d looked in the mirror when I’d brushed my teeth and applied make-up and didn’t see anything. But darn that “little dried thing” – because it must have retreated with inhales and emerged on exhales. All day. At every stop. With every conversation.
Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! In goes the goober. Out goes the goober.
I would have obsessed about that goober malfunction during the whole drive to drop off my grandson at his home, except we were nearly run off the road by a young guy in a beater car that decided to overtake and pass all the cars in our merging lane, only to get at the front of the line and then slam on his brakes. I yelled, more out of reflex, “Ass hole!”
I regretted it immediately.
“What?! Wait, Noni, what did you say just now?”
Damn! Busted by a 6-year-old for swearing.
I apologized, and said I shouldn’t have cussed. I explained I was scared, and I’d reacted by saying something I shouldn’t have. But as it turned out, it was my lucky day. My grandson had been so engrossed in his book that he hadn’t actually heard what I’d said. Just the inflection. He asked me to repeat it. I refused.
So for the rest of the 20-minute drive he created a cussing version of Rumpelstiltskin and tried to guess what terrible thing I’d said. I told him I wouldn’t say it, and I didn’t want him saying all the cuss words he knew just to guess, either. His biggest concern was that I’d tell his parents if he cussed. I said we could avoid that if he didn’t cuss.
Then he settled on spelling cuss words – but just a few letters from the words, so it wouldn’t be exactly like spelling the whole word. He’s an excellent speller. Finally, within a few miles, he knew he had me.
“Noni, does it have an “s” and an “i” – because if it does, I think I know the word. It’s stupid, right?”
Truth, or dare to lie?
“What a clever guesser you are. You are absolutely correct!”
Yes, I was dishonest, but it was for his (and my) own good.
Later, when I dropped off my grandson at his house I picked up and said hello to his sister, my little granddaughter, who was still talking excitedly about her Sunday dance recital; her first. She named all the people who’d brought her flowers, and then asked a question.
“Noni, why didn’t you get me flowers?”
Knife. To. The. Heart.
It hadn’t dawned on me to bring flowers to a 3-year-old’s dance recital. I felt horrible, not just that I hadn’t brought her flowers, but that she had thought about it enough to mention it more than 24 hours later.
Luckily, children get over things quickly, only to move on to the next pressing thing that pops into their little brains. She wrinkled her nose a little before she spoke.
“Did you brush your teeth today?”
That was it. Sometimes there’s only so much honesty a person can take, even when it’s for her own good.
I’m posting a photo of me now.
Feel free to tell me how awesome I look. Unless you’re a kid reading this. In that case, you can keep your brutal little opinions to yourself.
To everyone, I wish you a magical, wonderful Christmas and holiday season. I hope you get your heart’s desires, and that you are surrounded by adoring – beautifully tactful – people.