Weighty Matters

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Appearance and Attention

on April 19, 2012

I know I still need to get some pictures up and I promise that’s one of my goals for this weekend.  I have some fun ones from the RT Convention.  I am finally, finally, really seeing the weight loss in myself.  Friends and family who haven’t seen me since the surgery can really notice the difference, too.

Obviously, I’m thrilled with the positive progress.  At the same time, I’ve reached the point where the loss is beginning to get a lot of attention.  To an extent, too much attention makes me uncomfortable.  There’s a fine line to walk.  The positive reinforcement is helpful, but when someone goes too far overboard with their enthusiasm, I cringe inside because I feel like the reaction focuses everyone’s attention on me — even people I don’t know but who happen to be around at the time.

I’ve tried to gently draw some guidelines and boundaries.  My friends at work know that I’ve designated Friday as the day when I’ll report how much weight I’ve lost.  So, they don’t ask me all of the time and that’s really helpful.   I’ve tried to gently explain to one person that I appreciate her exuberance and joy for me, but could she please not express it in front of a large group of strangers.  Unfortunately, she forgets and has been known to call out, “You’re just melting away” from a distance of ten feet when she sees me.

It’s hard because I really, really, really do appreciate how terrific everyone is toward me.  I don’t want to be rude or ungracious.

I need to accept that this might be something that I can never change and instead work on why I cringe and get uncomfortable.  This could be more negative effect from my rotten body image.  See, although I’m 65 pounds lighter, I’m still obese.  I can’t help but imagine strangers looking at me and wondering why people are complimenting me for looking good.  If that’s truly the root of the reaction, then it should improve as I lose more and more weight, right?  Eventually, even I’ll agree that I look good instead of always qualifying it in my head as, “I look better than I did, but I still have a long way to go”.

In the meantime, I guess I can try again to establish what type of support is most helpful, but if someone doesn’t get it, I just need to work on smiling and saying “Thank you”.

7 responses to “Appearance and Attention

  1. hoperoth says:

    You don’t just look better, you look GOOD!

    If it makes you uncomfortable, I’ll stop commenting on your pics on Facebook. But I’m just so happy for you, I get a little carried away. :p

    • Mary Stella says:

      No, it’s okay, Hope, really. I appreciate it. I think I need to adjust because I’m not used to compliments. Besides, the ones who see me on FB are friend’s and family. That’s different than someone making a huge statement in a room full of strangers.

      Thank you, Hoper!

  2. pinkpelican says:

    I get a huge amount of positive support from my friends and family, which is wonderful. I get lots of compliments on how I look, as well. I even get many comments that I’m “an inspiration”. Many people tell me how beautiful I am (and I know they mean it in a good way, not that they thought I was ugly before, but that now they see things they didn’t before – my high cheek bones, my increasingly long neck, the fact that my eyes are bigger in proportion to my face and my features are more defined – they always say “You were beautiful before, just in a different way”, and I truly believe in their sincerity when they say that because I have AWESOME friends and family).

    Because I’m working on the head stuff, on my self-image, etc., I have learned to accept compliments gracefully, and to appreciate them for the lovely sentiments and the support and care that is behind them. I’ve learned to say an equally sincere thank you.

    The “inspiration” part does tend to make me uncomfortable. I’m just one more person trying to be healthier in mind and body. I don’t think I’m any more or less special than any of my other friends who are working to achieve the same goals. Plus, while I have lost a LOT of weight in the past 9 months, the actual physical weight loss has been rather effortless. I mean, in the first year, the surgery makes the weight loss pretty much a sure thing, so long as you adhere to basic common sense changes in lifestyle, & those are a lot easier to manage because of the physical limitations on volume and the almost complete loss of hunger sensations. (There are other, hard stuff to figure out & deal with, but the actual physical weight loss is honestly the easy part.)

    So I find it terribly strange and somewhat uncomfortable to called an inspiration. However, what I’ve also learned is that sometimes the compliments aren’t about me. They are about something the other person feels, and needs to say. They are about the other person needing to share their support for me. Sometimes, something that I’ve talked about during this journey has resonated with another person and given them a new way to think about things, and that’s what they are trying to express to me. It’s so bizarre that little, often mundane pieces of our lives can (sometimes powerfully) impact other people’s lives.

    So it’s important to find a way to balance the strangeness and the discomfort I feel, with accepting the positive regard they are offering me, and not dismissing the needs and emotions behind their compliments.

    So I always say “thank you” with sincerity, and I appreciate them, and then I usually try a little diversion, ask them questions about how they are doing (very directed if I know some of what’s going on in their life — how’s the new job, did your husband’s doctor visit go well, how was little Susie’s play). Because I have this need to start bringing things back to a degree of normal, and in the normal world, everything isn’t about me. This way, I get to show them I care about them, too, which I do, and we both share the spotlight, but they still get to express what they need to express.

    The comments about “beautiful” are odd as well. I was fortunate that I was raised in a loving family who always emphasized my self-esteem, confidence, etc. I’ve always known I am pretty (I have excellent genes) – for me, it was always kind of shock to pass by a mirror and see an image that was so different from the “pretty” in my mind.

    But pretty and beautiful are not something I DID. They are part of the genes passed down by my mom and dad. So those compliments are something I had to figure out how to process.

    Now, what I tell people is (usually with a little laugh), “Well, I didn’t have anything to do with the cheekbones — that’s all mom and dad — but I’ll take credit for the work I’m doing to make them visible again, and thank you so much for noticing. And where did you get that shirt, because I’m totally stealing it when I go down another dress size …” This way, I’m not dismissing their compliments out of hand and I’m not denigrating myself, I’m accepting congratulations for the thing I can control without letting myself get wrapped up in “physical beauty”, which is something I have no control over and something I REALLY don’t want to get too caught up in, and then I turn the focus back on them so we all have a share of the spotlight.

    It took a while to figure out how to deal with the barrage of attention and compliments; even positive supportive comments can be overwhelming. it really did help when I realized it WASN’T all about me, it was okay to accept the compliments sincerely, and it was a good thing to cycle the conversation around to other people so they felt cared for and supported as well.

    We each figure it out as we go. Sounds like you have a definite handle on your feelings about this and how to cope.


  3. Rose says:

    It’s difficult. There was a time in my life when I lost a lot of weight over a period of about a year. I loved the physical changes, but I think a part of the reason I put it all back on (and then some, almost needless to say) was that I stopped being invisible, to all people, and especially to men. And I had been invisible — I’m invisible now, even at 6’2″ and 390 lbs; I take up a lot of space, but people don’t see me, they look around and away. For me, I know that the weight must serve an unconscious purpose, and that’s why I gained it and why I hold onto it. My low-level depression manifested the most strongly it has ever done when I was close to the lowest weight I achieved. I had stalled out at about 210, and was slowly starting to put weight back on. Physically I was in the best shape of my life, but mentally I was a mess, angry all the time, crying inappropriately and often, in a menial job I hated, and paying money I didn’t have for 3 times a week personal training that was no longer working to make me lose weight because I was eating too much crap. I think I had expectations that when I lost weight, my life was supposed to be perfect, but I was about 40 pounds away from my goal weight and light-years away from a perfect life. Then I started getting sexual attention I didn’t feel ready for, and I started taking antidepressants and stopped going to the gym, and 11 years later I have diabetes and sleep apnea and can’t walk the boardwalk at the beach without having to stop and rest, and a foot problem that won’t heal because my feet have to carry around too damn much weight.

    I’m sorry, this comment became All About Me. If only understanding my problem were the same as changing. But I understand being uncomfortable with attention.

    • Mary Stella says:

      Rose, please don’t apologize. It took guts to share your story and I know it was helpful for me to read it. I hope it helped you to speak from your experience. I hope you can lead yourself to a place where you’re willing to once more try to make positive changes for yourself. Big hugs and thanks!

      Everyone, I think you’re all formidable women and you comment with open honesty. I’ve said it before but I’ll keep saying it. I appreciate all of you!

  4. lora96litdiva says:

    I have a lot of trouble with deflecting myself. Also, it’s kind of awkward for me to accept a compliment about weight (don’t get those now as am wildly overweight but used to) because to me they always sound like, ‘babe, you were massive’ to me. Like it’s an insult to me in the past. I have zee issues, no?

  5. That “thank you” is tough for me, too. I always want to deflect, or deflate. My husband reminded me the other day to accept a compliment with grace, because it makes the giver uncomfortable if I don’t. Point taken. Keep up the good work-your journey is inspiring!

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