You've Lost So Much Weight

I've never liked seeing a woman who's recently lost a bunch of weight being cooed over by other women.

You know how it is, folks say, "Oh my gawd! You've lost so much weight! You look amazing! I can't believe it! You look soooo much better!"

I've found that whole thing incredibly annoying in my own life because it's always felt like what's being said is, "You looked like crap before, but now... now you're worthy!" So, as a rule, I avoid commenting on the weight of my friends and acquaintances.

I know through my own experience that sometimes people don't have time, or don't make time, to exercise or eat properly, or else they going through things emotionally that make their weight go up or down. I'm fine talking about those sorts of things and trying to help folks (or myself) out in that regard, but I'm not one to say, "You look amazing!" just because someone's thinner. Whether they're fatter or thinner is really none of my business and there's enough other people to coo about their weight, especially here in LA, that I don't need to add my two cents.

However, this morning, my resolve to not comment about another woman's weight gain or loss was really challenged. After dropping my kids off at school I ran into another mom that I've been a little friendly with over the past couple of years. She looks like a totally different person.

Last June she was weight-wise, like a really big Rosie O'Donnell. But now? She's lost like half a person in three months. She's quickly lost the kind of weight that most folks who've called Jenny and weighed in at Weight Watchers only dream of. No, she's not Posh Beckham thin, but she's ALOT thinner.

I confess I only half-listened as she talked about her eldest daughter finally going to high school and all the drama with teenage boys calling the house. As she talked, I found myself wondering if perhaps she'd had gastric bypass, except she was never morbidly obese so how could she even qualify for that? Then I started wondering if maybe she'd gone down to Mexico to get gastric bypass... because I've known plenty of folks over the years who've gone home to Mexico to get medical care.

She talked about the new park by our neighborhood school and I mentally mulled over gastric bypass /vs/ some sort of hard-core Atkins regimen /vs/ master cleansing /vs/ drugs. And, just when I was reminiscing about the girl I knew in college who lost 20 pounds over Christmas break by taking speed, this mom says to me, "It's just been a hard summer. We haven't had any money."

She went on to tell me how her husband got laid off from his last construction job back in the middle of May and she hasn't been able to find steady work either. They've been getting by on unemployment.

I asked her whether she's applied for food stamps and she told me that she tried but she's had major problems filling out the paperwork, missed some sort of deadline and got discouraged. I have no idea how to apply for food stamps so I was as good as useless as far as advice goes. We kept talking and as I listened to her share a bit more about what their financial difficulties have been, I started to form another opinion about why she's lost so much weight.

Without my asking, she smiled as she said, "You see how thin I am? It's the thinnest I've been my whole life. It's cuz I give all the food to my husband and my kids."

I can't tell you how glad I was that I didn't say, "Oh my gawd! You're soooo thin! You look AMAZING!!!" when I first saw her. This was no situation where someone's trying to lose some pudge just to look better or fit into a smaller size of clothing. Far from it. She's not eating because she's giving all the food she has to her four children and her husband... and she's probably too stressed to eat anyway.

We talked for a few more minutes and then I told her to take care of herself. She assured me that she was going to go to some food banks or churches for help. And then we said goodbye.

Sadly enough, now I find myself wishing that I could break my rule and compliment her being thinner. I wish I could hear how she's lost the pounds because she's given up carne asada for tofu, or because she's eating salads every day. But in this economy, that is not to be.


Wow Liz that's terrible. That mom is totally stressed. These are the people (I'm including myself) who really need help - like NOW. It really pisses me off how we're getting the great snow job perpetrated by the media on behalf of the Republican party. Not that I don't the Democrats responsible for aiding and abetting, but still.
Anonymous said…
I pray things look up for your friend in the near future.

As far as the cooing over weight loss- as a person who has had an extremely difficult time losing weight I do compliment because for most of us its an incredibly difficult task to accomplish. I see why you don't want to personify the weight obsession that the media constantly portrays, but for many people getting healthy is such a struggle an encouraging pat on the back can help keep them on the path of good health. I tend to be an over-encouraging sort of cheerleader in general though so I can't help myself :)
Liz Dwyer said…
Oh my goodness, the lying farce that passes for most of our media is killing me. Blatant lies are being said and they're not being blasted for being lies. Oh wait, I guess that's why we're in Iraq in the first place. Ugh. And people really do need help, especially because prices keep going up for everything. Even folks who have a little extra cash are cutting back, food-wise. It's no joke.

I hope things look up for her as well. I feel you because staying at a healthy weight is a struggle for me. I have to exercise constantly or else I look like I'm four months pregnant! Here in LA though, I see weight-obsession to such an extreme, and have both experienced and observed the insane fawning over people who are slimmer. It becomes something inhuman, objectifying and totally sickening.
Anonymous said…

I listen to all the politico talk about the 'fact' that everyone has insurance and anyone who wants a job has a job. I think about all (and it's alot) of the bs I've heard about my Denver Cereal characters behavior (based in their poverty).

And reality still shocks me.

If I wrote something like this? No one would believe me.
Jessalyn said…
How sad! Next time you see her, maybe tell her about Angel Food Ministries. You get a big box of food for $30. There are no income requirements, no applications, and you don't have to belong to any particular church or religion to order the food. I hope her husband is able to find a new job soon.
the joy said…
You are breaking my heart these days Liz.
just sad.

Meanwhile we have a candidate making snarky comments about community organizers.
Anonymous said…
"A mother is someone who, upon seeing there are four slices of pie for five people, declares that she never really did care for pie."

Why is it always the woman who has to sacrifice? Gawd, it breaks my heart that in America, this woman has to basically starve herself so her children can eat.
Anonymous said…
I do agree, Liz, that commenting on people's weight, sudden slimness etc can often be rude as well as being none of our business, and as you so vividly relate, it may be an entirely inappropriate comment. And what an extraordinary self-sacrifice, systematically giving food to the rest of her family. A terrible example of the stressful times so many are going through with little help available. But as Emm says, why is it so often the woman who's expected to deprive herself?
Mango Mama said…
Simply PITIFUL--- especially since we live in one of the richest nation on earth. Why can't this presidential campaign and news pundits focus on these real-life realities instead of the BS like lipstick-gate?
David Sullivan said…
I grew up thin as hell and I got the opposite reaction when I got older and bulked up through proper nutrition and weight lifting. People were commenting on how much better I looked and how they thought I was sickly...yeah I was fucking poor and starving!!! But what do you say, but "Thanks".
Wow. What a sad story.

And it brought back memories. During my first marriage, my husband didn't provide and I had two babies and couldn't work for lack of day care. Occasionally I begged money from my mother, and gave all the food to my children if my husband didn't get to it first. People thought I was anorexic but I was "just" malnourished (and naturally thin to begin with.)

So I also never comment on anyone's weight unless they ask me to. I hope that woman finds help fast for herself and her family.
Liz Dwyer said…
Well, what's actually a fact seems to be completely up for debate these days, sadly enough. The fact that people are unemployed/underemployed and are hungry seems to be so easily forgotten amidst the lies that being tossed around. The reality is truly chilling and requires change, and so perhaps our nation is actually more satisfied with lies.

Thank you SO much for that link. I will pass it along to her for sure. There's a lot in that box and I know it'll help. I hope her husband's able to find a new job as well.

The Joy,
I know. I keep observing and experiencing things that are quite "heavy".

Creating media storms over "pig with lipstick" -- seems to be what's most important in America.

The good thing at least is that now that school is back in session the kids can eat breakfast and lunch at there.

Mothers do sacrifice, don't we? Last night there was only one orange in our house and I really really wanted it, started peeling it for myself and my sons popped out and began begging for it. I ended up sharing it and they ate 90% of the slices. If my husband had had that orange, he would've told them to go away or go eat a banana. I guess it's because mothers have more compassion and nobility.

Regardless, no mother should be going through this, but I'm sure it's more common than we all realize.

I would definitely give food to my kids instead of eating it myself. Can you imagine any mother letting her children go hungry while she eats? I can't. I think we're biologically hardwired to feed our children before ourselves. The thing is that no parent should have to make the choice to do so.

Mango Mama,
I'd like to know that as well. I think it's because our culture is addicted to trainwreck antics/gossip and since the news media is mainly about making money, not sharing information, they are gearing the info about our candidates in that direction. It's all about ratings, not about information.

That's got to be weird to have folks complimenting you looking healthier when they had no idea why you didn't look healthy. For some reason your experience makes me think about the time I went over a student's house to meet with his mom and all they had to eat was boxes of ramen noodles. That was all they ate because that was all the food they had at home.

That must have been so incredibly hard. How did you keep yourself going? I can just imagine people gossiping behind your back about you being anorexic and being totally clueless about why you were so thin. So often there's something going on beyond what we can see.
Anonymous said…
Scary. Sounds like a future SNL Skit: "The new fad diet is living in a GW Bush Economy."

*sigh* on so many levels.
Jen said…

They'll help. If she can't afford the $40/month, she should call one of the numbers. They'll get food to her and her family via in-kind donation (ie. volunteering for a few hours).

Oh my goodness, my heart goes out to this woman and her family.

I have a lot of friends here in Michigan who are using their services.
Anonymous said…
Thtat is sad in so many ways. That she is giving up on food so her kids can eat because of our sucky economy, of course. And also because what the hell is her husband doing chowing down while she abstains?
Liz Dwyer said…
Seriously, I've heard people actually say that a good side effect of food prices going up so much is that maybe Americans will get thinner because they can't afford to buy so much. It's crazy!

I am definitely passing the info about Angel Food along to her. I'd never heard of it before but it sounds like a great resource. Nice to know that organizations like that exist. Wish they didn't need to though.

There's a lot of minimum wage jobs here in LA and that's not going to help someone too much given the cost of living here... and yeah, her husband. Last time I saw him he had quite a pot belly. For some reason, I think his will be more intact.
j'taimee said…
I heard a really profound presentation on Social & Economic Development recently. The speaker was talking about a farmer who, according to the agencies calculations, wasn't making as much as he might - he wasn't, therefore, as productive as he might be. When asked what was up, he said that his neighbor didn't have a job & had a family to feed :: so he hired him. ...and cut into his own profits. I find this to be extremely productive. I think that too many people forget that there is a social responsibility in development work....
But I really love this post - thank you.
Karen said…
Aw, jeez, jeez, jeez. What a story. What heartbreak. What a loving parent. I hope things go better for her soon. I don't know if one of their storefronts is conveniently located for your acquaintance, but the SOVA food pantries are a very good option (food and daily necessites, like diapers, toilet paper, etc, are free)--if you run into her again.
Lola Gets said…
Wow, life has really got to be hard if shes lost that much weight! I really hope that she follows your advice and calls some food banks. I also hope that she throws herself back into the fray and get back on the path to getting food stamps again! Some Americans (myself included) do eat too much, but starvation is not a healthy diet.

You know, you should tell her to try going to farmers markets too, at least here on the East coast, they can be cheaper than store chains.


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