I don’t need to hear backhanded compliments about my weight loss

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Dubai last March, many of us were left wondering what to do in lockdown. What’s more, our work moved into the living room, classrooms moved into our bedrooms, and we were even grocery shopping on our smartphones. Needless to say, our sense of normalcy was gone.

For me, my schedule was left relatively empty, as I was devoid of my kid’s birthday parties or school commitments. Since I was able to work from home, I also no longer had long commutes or in-person work meetings. So, I tried my hand at something I had been looking to accomplish for a few years: weight-loss.

Over time, I eventually achieved my weight-loss goal. However, even though the results looked how I wanted, the reaction I received from others sought to damage my confidence. Here are some of the comments I’ve received since losing weight.

Your face is so thin now, it’s sagging!

I won’t lie and say people’s words didn’t affect me because they did. I understand the pounds I shed were noticeable, but based on people’s reactions, I felt more self-conscious than ever. For example, after hearing a comment such as this one, I would contemplate saving up money for fillers or trying face exercises to rectify a “problem” surrounding my physical appearance that other people frequently brought up.

But mostly, these comments distracted me from the original purpose of my personal weight-loss journey. My perception of losing weight then became striving for a perfect appearance, instead of me simply trying to be healthier overall.

You look older.

The last time I was slim was five years ago and before I had two kids. So yes, I’ve definitely aged as well as changed in physical appearance over time. But weight loss has had little to contribute to my aging. Obviously. I especially detest the sympathetic head tilt that accompanies the reminder, “the plumper the face, the younger you look!” I guess I didn’t realize dropping some pounds would add a decade to my age. Thanks for the clarification!

But you were always so confident with your body.

Well, I still am. I’ve always been into fitness, and I didn’t lose weight because I was self-loathing. Part of the reason I decided to shed some weight was so I could more effectively run after my kids. Anyway, I don’t think changes, or lack of, in weight should alter a person’s confidence. Of course, everyone has days they feel more or less confident compared to other days, myself included.

Ultimately, however, weight, body, or beauty standards shouldn’t be a defining point of anyone’s confidence, happiness, or self-fulfillment.

I bet you’re starving. 

Trust me, I am not starving. Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I did what was best for my body. Maybe I had low days during my weight-loss journey. Maybe there were times I messed up. But, I set my own goals, and working towards those goals will be an ongoing process for me as bodies often fluctuate in size and appearance with time. It’s just frustrating to justify my actions to others.

Notably, I don’t need compliments or judgment. Just say “hi” the next time you see me, as the size of my body has nothing to do with how well I’m doing.

You’re so strict now. 

Honestly, I can be guilty of this. Though, being on a strict schedule does not mean I can’t “let loose” as much as I could before. I just have certain boundaries now. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not fun. You can still ask me out and I promise to be my usual pleasant self, whether I get fries or not.

I know many of these comments may come from a caring place, but it’s frustrating to tread through passive-aggressive comments that are also so personal. Our bodies are not open for debate or up for judgment. Instead, people should focus on discussing topics that are actually beneficial to improving the lives of themselves or others like effective and healthy self-care techniques or discovering better mental health outlets.

I know, being of South-Asian background, that our community has historically been so tight-knit; consequently, however, we sometimes forget boundaries with others we may not know that well. Ultimately, we don’t need people mentioning how our bodies look at any stage.

I would recommend that whenever you feel the need to give someone a compliment, mention a non-physical trait. For example, compliment an aspect of their personality, something they just achieved, or something they’ve shown interest in. Or, your safest option is to just keep your comments to yourself to avoid the possibility of making anyone else feel self-conscious.

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By Sarah Khan

Sarah B Khan is a published short story writer based out of Dubai. She has written for publications such as HuffPost, Prohze and Desi Writers Lounge to name a few. Sarah has worked in Advertising for over 13 years and enjoys flexing her creative muscles both when writing for clients and crafting compelling fiction. She has a BA from the University of South Florida in Mass Comm and Creative Writing.