Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Reactions to Missy Elliott's weight loss highlight dilemma: to praise or not to

Rapper Missy Elliot showed stunning weight loss recently and the crowd went wild...mostly. A few comments expressed concern about how we praise weight loss as if it makes us somehow better than we were before losing weight.  Reactions to Missy Elliott, pounds lighter, highlight a dilemma most of us experience when we lose weight or notice that someone has lost weight. I call it the "to praise or not" proposition or "what are we praising, exactly?" 

I lost 100 pounds about nine years ago (without gastric bypass) and my weight  loss has been called "jaw-dropping" and "stunning" I've been called "unrecognizable" to my prior self. Anyone who has lost weight can probably attest to similar comments. And while this feels really good, it does set off little voices in your head that don't. Maybe I'm alone in this but it made me wonder, when I was obese, was I really that shockingly overweight? Did I look that bad? Was I unacceptable and now I am?

Don't get me wrong. I felt superb after weight loss. I was proud of  myself. I knew I looked very different before and after I lost 100 pounds. And I wasn't at all offended by these comments. They were meant in the kindest of ways. And I was in denial about how far into obesity I had gone. However, it begs the question, that some Missy Elliott fans have asked. Was I a better person? Was I ugly and now not? I think the answer is obviously, No. 

Although even that has a caveat. I did feel ugly when I was very overweight. I did not hold myself with confidence and was camera awkward. I felt out of control and honestly a little foolish that I'd let myself get so obese. So how much of this low self esteem is historic for me? Quite a lot. I've struggled with a little anorexia type thinking all my life. When I weighed 109 in college I still felt overweight and fat. 

Were people saying that, though? You were ugly and now you're not. Well, sure there will always be the judgy fat-shaming folks, let's face it. When I wrote for Yahoo! before I lost 100 pounds, some commenters would insult me not for the content but for being overweight. Which of course had nothing to with anything and was ignorant. But armchair critics will do that...hide behind their little avatars and mock. 

I don't believe that the people who praised my weight loss were saying anything negative about me when I was overweight. They were recognizing and praising the hard work I'd put into calorie restricting, practicing, portion control etc. Some friends were actually reluctant to say anything because they were afraid I'd take it wrong. But anyone who's ever lost weight by choice, will tell you, praise away!! We need all the affirmation we can get. 

Just make sure to verify if they meant to lose weight. During our first bout of Covid 19, my husband lost 17 pounds in a week. He did NOT want to. Several friends commented that they wished they could lose weight. No you don't, we said. Covid 19 or other illness related weight loss is  not to be envied. Covid 19 is starvation weight loss and really scary. Then there was Mariah Carey's famous cringe-worthy comment about wishing she could lose weight like the "kids in Africa." Ouch. 

So if you do compliment someone one weight loss, do it with tact. Make sure it doesn't come across as "way to go! You look human now!" The key is to make it about them, not you. 

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