On Self-Esteem

I have, as I have mentioned before, lost somewhere in the neighbourhood of 65 lbs.  The bulk of the weight loss occurred over about six or seven months last year.  I’ve been told by several people that I carried the weight well (whatever that means), and they find it hard to believe it was that much, but that’s what the scales say.  I had been eating poorly for a long time, and last April I noticed that my weight had crept up from the 180 lbs I was comfortable at to 200 lbs.  I was not huge as that sounds, admittedly, as I do have a large frame and a fair bit of muscle mass, and I was only about a size 14, but it was a big scary number and at my height that pushed me over from “overweight” into “obese,” accordingly to the admittedly flawed BMI.

I sort of panicked and said, no more, I will eat healthy.  I said if I lost twenty pounds I’d be happy, thirty and I’d be thrilled.  And… yes, I ended up losing 65 lbs.  It was a dramatic change, and coupled with my emotional breakdown in December a fair number of my coworkers (including my boss, who actually told on me to my mother about my at-work eating habits, which was a fun conversation to field with my mother afterwards) seem to have come to the conclusion that I have an eating disorder, which is ridiculous, but none of them will ask me directly so the misperception persists.  I don’t starve myself, I don’t make myself throw up, I don’t use laxatives in a dangerous way, I simply walk everywhere and eat healthy and watch my portion size, and I have lost weight, and the fact that I am continuing to eat healthy doesn’t mean that I’m dieting, because I never really was.

But the change has been dramatic, I guess, and because I work with the public, a great many people feel it appropriate to comment on my weight loss.  Admittedly, at this point I’m getting sort of tired of it, but I smile and nod and thank them, because that’s what you do.  The comments themselves range from enthusiastic to mildly insulting.

“Oh, wow, you look really good.  How did you do it?”

“I didn’t recognise you, you’ve lost so much weight!”

“Good job.  You always had too much weight on you for your frame.”

“What, did you stop eating?”

I wish I were joking about those last two in particular.

But there’s a tendency for a lot of comments to be along the lines of “you look great now” which carries along with it the implication that… I didn’t before.  I’ve talked with my sister, who lost around 40 lbs a few years back, and she agrees about this sort of comment, and suspects many people really do mean it that way on some level.  I was, before, just “that fat girl” and now I am part of civilised society and can be attractive!

And that hurts.

I am the same person I was when I was fat.  My face has not changed, my hair has not changed, my personality has not changed, I am still the same essential person that I was when I was 65 lbs heavier.  Being fat is not a sin, it is not a personality flaw.  And to be honest, I still don’t feel thin.  I still feel fat, I still feel unattractive, I fuss over my frankly impossible hair and my round face and my strong chin and my occasional breakouts and now, the occasional pocket of loose skin.  If I was not attractive before, I certainly am not now.  My god, I have the most ridiculous crush on an extremely sweet barista at a cafe I frequent, and she is a gorgeous, gorgeous girl who’s also a little bit on the heavier side and wonderfully curvy.  She is just a beautiful girl, and her weight has nothing to do with that.

Yesterday, a woman came in, apparently a repeat customer although I honestly don’t recall her.  She said it really caught her off-guard how much smaller I am, and how good I look, and  I started to inwardly groan before she continued, “I mean, you were always pretty.  You look really amazing now!”

No one ever calls me pretty.  I don’t feel pretty.  I hear regularly how great I look now that I”m not fat, but all comments about my appearance are entirely centered around my weight.   And here is this woman, an utter stranger, making a point of saying that I was pretty when I was 65 lbs heavier, too.

I was, frankly, speechless.  I was caught that much off-guard.

It’s got me thinking, though.  Actually, I’m really not sure what to think of it, other than how much it reflects my utter lack of self-esteem, and my entirely warped idea of my own body.

But someone called me pretty, and I can’t remember the last time someone did that.