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No, I felt fine before too

An odd sort of thing has happened to me recently. I’ve been losing weight, thanks to the low-carb diet and even though I don’t have a scale in the house, people keep commenting that I’ve lost weight, so I think it’s working on a noticeable level. And I was at a con, where people don’t see you for a year, so we all do the “Oh my god, you look amazing,” thing, too. (Lacking a scale, I can only go by the difference in occasional doctor visits, but probably somewhere around ten pounds at the moment. It all comes off the waist first, so I am an even more exaggerated hourglass than usual and my shirts fit like either Saran-Wrap or potato sacks. Losing weight is probably like crying--there’s like five people who can do it gracefully and the rest of us just lump it.)

That’s not the odd thing. Three or four different people have said “And I bet you feel better, too!”


About that...

They mean well, absolutely, and I know they mean well. They are trying to give a compliment. But...no? I didn’t feel bad before. Actually, the only thing that’s ever significantly changed how I feel physically is thyroid meds and having protein for breakfast. (The one time I dropped scads of weight thanks to a medication side-effect, my blood pressure went so low that I would gray out whenever I stood up, and then I menstruated for twelve days straight for no apparent reason. That felt awful.)

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I feel great. I wouldn’t do this if it made me feel WORSE. But I also felt great last month and six months ago and a year before that. I can sling mulch for hours in the hot sun. I have biceps. I do not run unless I am being chased by serial killers or trying to catch a plane, but I can amble along looking at birds in 110 degree weather all day.* My diet is pure vanity and a desire to get my boobs down to a size that is still measured in D’s and not distant, fearsome letters of the alphabet. (Yes, yes, I know, band size will shrink first so I will spend some grim time in the lands of F or possibly even G before it goes down, if at all.)

It’s stuff like this that brings home just how strongly fat = unhealthy is correlated in people’s minds. “You’re thinner! You must feel better!” Well, no. I feel exactly the same as I did before. It’s not like those ten pounds were actually made of slow-release arsenic or something.

I’ve tried saying "No, I felt fine before, too.” It has flummoxed some very nice people who were trying to be supportive, so it’s really not optimal. It’s just weird that this particular phrase keeps coming up over and over again.

*As long as it's a dry heat. I can do that in Texas hill country, but not quite so well in North Carolina.

XD *sympathies* I want to sling mulch with you! >.>;;;

YES! I have this very same issue going on. I went from having a desk job to a retail job and lost ten pounds, and while I was proud of that fact I still don't feel better or worse than when I had those ten pounds strapped around my waist. Yet the enduring commentary of certain people is always along the lines of "We just want you to be healthy/feel better." The real catcher is that I'm the only one of these certain well-meaning folk to have not suffered serious injury due to exercise or ended up in the emergency room. And I have the blood pressure of someone ten years younger according to one doctor.
Long winded comment. Suffice to say I'm still stumped at how to politely reply as well.

My inclination is to say it and let them feel flummoxed. They made it awkward for you by making the comment in the first place. I feel like it's in the same spectrum as, "You are glowing, when are you due?" in terms of awkward things to say to overweight people.

But then, you are a nicer person than I am.

Yeah, I'm all for demolishing preconceptions with, "Actually, I feel about the same!" It puts a chink in the assumptions. Be cheerful and not offended, and hey, they'll get over being flummoxed.

Or else they'll show their true colors as jerks and you can avoid them forever more. >_>

I dropped 25 pounds when I voluntarily started cutting back on carbs. And there is indeed one point upon which I feel better; I'd been having a lot of trouble with pain in my knees and ankles, and that has cleared up almost completely. But that's a physical issue -- they're not being asked to support as much as they were before, and that makes a difference. Like you, I don't feel any different otherwise.

(My partner says that I also don't snore nearly as badly as I used to, but I wouldn't notice that because I'm asleep when it happens.)

Having lost some weight here and there over the years I would never say "I bet you feel better" because like you I felt no difference. I would however say congratulations.

As I understand it one can be overweight and healthy but, according to studies, that might not be true 10 years later therefore I'm glad that you are losing weight so that you may be with us for a long, long time.


I'd need to see the studies. Lotta doctors report that the people they get in nursing homes who last the longest are short round women, so I suspect it hinges on a whole crapload of factors.

Oh, man, I hear you on this. And I'm glad you're speaking up when people say it.

In my twenties, I used to be mostly-able-bodied and fit the "tallish, voluptuous hourglass" figure type, with an 11" difference between my bust and waist, and a 10" difference between bust and hips. I wore a size 14 and generally felt GREAT.

Then the "active phase" (for lack of a better term, it's a genetic disorder, but it can be worsened by certain events) of my illness kicked in at age 29, due to contracting Epstein-Barr Virus. In six months, I developed severe fibromyalgia-type symptoms, I dropped 40 pounds without trying, my breasts deflated, and my hair started falling out. My doctors thought I might have *cancer*, and I was *terrified.*

But I was a SIZE TEN, dammit, and that meant that people felt the CONSTANT need to tell me how GOOD I looked, how I must be feeling so much better to have "lost that weight," and that I "must be doing something right."

I was the sickest that I've ever been in my life.

Now, ten years later, I'm mostly disabled by my illness (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, for the curious.) The medications that I've been given to deal with the pain have caused me to gain weight (Lyrica has its uses, but it's also the DEVIL when it comes to weight gain), as has the involuntary reduction in my activity level due to escalating spine damage.

I need to use a wheelchair (hybrid manual/powered, because the weak tissue in my shoulders and elbows won't let me haul my body weight plus a 100+ lb wheelchair around) when I'm going to be out and about, because of the danger of falling/injury (spine damage) and the issues my disease has caused with my heart and circulation.

I now weigh 40 pounds more than I did when I was healthy, happy, and active (and a size 14.)

And I seriously want to choke out the people who thought I looked "healthier" when I was sickest than when I was well . . . and who now "kindly" feel the need to give me weight-loss-related exercise advice, much of which would cause pretty serious injury (NO, I CANNOT DO YOGA, I'M HYPERMOBILE ALREADY!!)

And plenty of stupid people have assumed that my disability is due to my weight, not the other way around -- and I see that happening to a lot of disabled people, *especially* people who use scooters, for some reason. They get labeled "fat and lazy," when many of them are battling serious health issues, and the weight is a *side effect* of illness, not its cause.

I'm only a little bitter, really ;P

Congratulations to YOU for doing things for YOUR body that make you happy -- I'm delighted that you are feeling good and that you're happy with the results of your chosen dietary changes, and that you're still able to do all of the things that you enjoyed doing before. :)

And thanks again for pointing out that weight and health have very little to do with each other, and that it's really uncool to make assumptions about someone's state of health based on what clothing size they wear.

Cheers, and keep doing what brings you joy and makes you feel good!

-- A <3

Edited at 2015-07-16 04:17 pm (UTC)

I have both fibro & rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, I was sort of cornered by someone in fandom I really respect who is into running & yoga. She asked me several times if I was *sure* it wasn't feasible for me to lose some weight. Rather than cause a scene in public (say, by bursting into tears), I simply kept repeating, "No, that isn't likely."

If she'd been someone I didn't respect so much, she'd probably have gotten my standard response: smile sweetly & say, "Why no, I don't need the came because I'm fat," then switch affect & yell, "I'm fat because I need the ?&#!/+*$ cane!"

To be fair, while there is a cultural narrative linking weight loss with being healthier and feeling better, this can mostly be explained by the fact that in most cases weight loss is associated with being healthier and feeling better.

It's great if that doesn't apply to you, but it does generally apply. Weight loss generally means lower blood pressure, better breathing (particularly while asleep), less strain on the heart, more stamina, and less strain on muscles and tendons and whatnot so less joint pain. Neurochemically, eating less, and in particular eating less fat and less sugar, should also mean a greater feeling of alertness and less susceptibility to depression. Where weight loss is intentional, successful weight loss also means that the person has been successful in something they set out to do (ie losing weight), which by itself tends to make people happier and more optimistic. And that's just on a culturally-neutral level. Take into consideration that there ARE social pressures to lose weight, and weight loss is also associated as a result with greater confidence, which tends to make people feel better and happier in general.

So as a general rule, weight loss makes people feel better, so it's no surprise that people assume that weight loss has made you feel better - even if you happen to be one of the exceptions yourself! [I wonder whether you are an exception because you are unusually physically active, with your gardening? Physical activity makes you feel better, and the fitness probably counteracts some of the negatives of weight - I guess weight loss and fitness probably have similar effects, and combining them is likely not linear?]

[Obviously, this all assumes that you've gone from an unhealthier weight to a healthier weight, rather than from a healthy weight to an unhealthier weight. But in the West, other than anorexics and fitness fanatics, this will almost always be the case!]

In fact, this can be a big problem. People feel better when they diet, so they go on diets. But dieting statistically is associated with weight gain (for a variety of both physical and psychological reasons).

Plus, there are two other big reasons people say that. One is because it's politer to say "you must be healthier" than to say "you look more attractive". The other is that it attempts to validate your choices - feeling better is a major reason people lose weight, and the main reason people CLAIM to lose weight (looking more attractive is the actual main reason, but people don't like to admit that outside of anonymised surveys), so saying "I bet you feel better now" is saying "I'm sure your decision to lose weight to feel better was a good one". Again, you may be the exception in neither doing it to feel better, nor being ashamed of doing it out of vanity... but most people you meet won't know that you're the exception to the rule, so will act accordingly.

[Personally, I'm pretty average in that I do indeed feel better when I lose some weight, even though for me heavier and lighter are usually at most a stone apart. But I find the 'feeling better' effect of weight loss is less than that of being reasonably fit.]

P.S. my sympathies to ashbet. Of course, there are exceptions to the norm, and serious physical conditions are among them (so are some serious psychological conditions -- eating disorders, but also just things like extreme anxiety, and for a minority of sufferers depression, which can result in weight loss). However, it's just not true that weight and healthiness aren't closely connected - for most people, they are (and overweight leads to ill health far more often than ill health leads to overweight, although of course in many cases the two create a vicious circle). You're right though, of course, that 'they're just lazy' is far too lazy an approach to the overweight - even when there are no underlying medical issues, the psychological issues are far, far more complicated than that.

[Sorry for going on too long about this. It's just that I'm from a family where a lot of us struggle with overweight/obesity, so I'm very aware of the common (and severe) consequences for physical and mental health, both through personal experience and through having read a lot of papers on the subject]

RE: But in general...

+1 insightful!

Thank you for the connection depression + sugar, I'd never thought of that. Do you know of any articles/publications to back that up? I read an article titled "Is Sugar Toxic?" a couple of years back (thank goodness it's still online), and I can highly recommend it.

I like how you connect dieting to self-worth to personal achievements and social pressure/affirmation. I guess I never thought of it that way, but I can see how it works.

I agree with raigne - perhaps they need to be flummoxed. If they are really very nice and trying to be supportive, then they will realize and correct.

In my personal experience, I did feel better when I had lost weight. I felt more energetic and less lethargic. Some of that might be attributed to exercise (I get massive brain-on-endorfine symptoms when I exercise. My mind is just on a frickin' roller coaster and wants MORE).

I felt better when I had lost weight beause I didn't feel so bloated all of the time. I used to eat until I was full, but the stomach only gives off that signal after a while. Food is still in the asophagus on its way down. The stomach is already full, but another portion is coming in so you feel very full (to bursting.) This should probably teach me portion control. ;-)
When I went on an extreme hunger diet, I felt poorly for three days (carb detox tends to go with headaches) and I dropped weight quickly (1 kg a week). But I felt a lot better because I didn't feel so full all the time. I learned to recognise when my body needed something: I'd get one hunger pang, and then nothing. If I didn't eat as soon as I felt that hunger, I wouldn't feel hunger again for hours. My body was burning fat reserves like crazy, no longer counting on food being actually eaten -- because all I ate were minor calorie-shakes (100 kcal per shake) and green vegetables. I danced 2 lessons a week and drank lots of water, which helped with losing weight.

When I finally learned how little calories I had been taking in all that time, I was terrified on going back to normal food and went to a dietitian to help me transfer back to a normal eating habit. Then my father died and I gained all 20 kgs I had initially lost, but that's a different story. I am still a bit horrified thinking back on that period -- and how easily my body would accept being (very nearly) anorexic. I survived on 500 kcal a day for several months and hardly felt hungry. And it was probably very unhealthy for my body because I was starving it.

Nobody can tell you how you should feel about losing weight. If you feel good now and you felt good back when you were heavier: good on you mate!
All that shoveling of mulch counts as exercise, and you deserve the resulting endorfin-rush. :-)

Is asophagus the right word? Now I'm puzzled.

I always want to scream on the weight issue. I would flip flop between a size 12 and a size 16 and not change a single pound. It was all about the fat/muscle ratio. I could "slim" down and the scale would not budge.

But woot on making some progress on the slimming down and looking great front!

Yesh, I know what you mean. But for me it's like, um I lost this weight because I was constantly vomitating up most of what I ate uncontrollably and barely able to crawl to the bathroom. Actaully I feel much WORSE.

Anecdata: I lost 50 pounds over the course of 18 months (I was going on a RTW trip and so was highly motivated to be at a more managable weight since there would be frequent lugging of both the body and the backpack in SE Asian heat). I then packed 40 of those pounds back on when menopause and daily tedium hit after the big trip. My legs feel ridiculously heavy (because they are) and I once again have issues with standing up unaided from a squat or with climbing lots of stairs. It's not that I'm feeling *bad* per se but now that I know how much easier it is to move around at a "normal" weight I miss this feeling. I can still do things - I garden, I hike, I travel - but not too long ago, I could do more or do the the same things more easily. So I would probably be one of those people who would *think* you'd feel better, based on my own experience ... though I probably wouldn't say it out loud, mostly since you never know how people lost their weight (illness? stress?) and I wasn't raised by wolves.

Best reply I can think of (no-one's ever made that comment to me, but it's how I imagine I'd reply if someone did): "Eh, I haven't really noticed any difference, but we'll see," along with a shrug to close the topic. It acknowledges their well-wishing (which is really all that comment seems to be -- they would like you to feel well, and are looking for confirmation that you do feel well), doesn't actively contradict them (since that's off-putting when someone is wishing you well), is not misleading, and doesn't get you into a discussion of it.

I suppose someone might try to push the topic with a comment about how if you stick with it, you *will* feel better, but just repeating "We'll see," with a shrug should shut that down without flummoxing anybody.

I lost 35 pounds on low carb, and I did indeed feel better (more energetic), but I also increased my physical activity (to 5 miles walking/day) which may have had its own effect.

I'm another person who drops weight mysteriously due to illness and gets complimented on it. In my case a lot of it is probably that fatigue and exhaustion mean I'm straight forwardly eating less, because I can't get out of bed to cook. (I added a lot of sugar/fat to the things I was eating when I started fantasizing about eating butter and made sure to eat red meat at least a couple times a week and it seems to have slowed down.)

Getting compliments on it is infuriating, because no, actually, I would prefer to have not lost that much weight. I finally seem to have gotten to the point where I look too skinny on my family's frame, though, because my mother has shifted from complimenting me to asking pointedly if I want more food at holidays. (At least they're reasonably sensible on that point.)