Dear Carolyn: I have an unusual situation, I think. My 24-year-old daughter, who has always been beautiful, lost about 20 pounds over the past year. She’s now a size 0-2. I thought she was perfect before, but now she looks like a model. (She is healthy and works out and eats a lot, so I have no concerns about any kind of eating disorder or anything.)
When she meets family or friends whom she hasn’t seen for a while, their first reaction is: “Wow! You’ve lost a lot of weight, haven’t you?”
While I would be ecstatic, she doesn’t feel that it is a compliment, but instead maybe an unintended commentary on her previous size. It has also gotten really old.
She deflects it graciously, but has expressed to me how mentally overwhelming it feels. Do you have any suggestions for a snappy comeback? – C.
People who stand out – for reasons good or bad, intentional or not – will always draw attention. A good deal of that attention will cross the decency barrier from mere notice to spoken commentary.
A snaptastic comeback wouldn’t change anything except the brand of fatigue she’s feeling – from gracious-deflection fatigue to snaptastic-comment fatigue.
The attention you describe is normal, completely predictable and complimentary, if misguided … and she finds it “mentally overwhelming.”
Meanwhile, you identify the real problem as the “unintended commentary on her previous size” – suggesting she’s ashamed of that previous size, despite its being below the national average.
Please don’t dismiss so quickly the idea of her having potentially serious body-image problems. Also respond to your daughter’s complaints by saying that it’s not right for people to comment on her weight, but it’s also not her problem.
Just as her weight is irrelevant to her worth, people’s opinions of it are also irrelevant to her worth. Counter the unhealthy emphasis on appearances by valuing something else.