Things I’ve Learned About Society’s Attitude Concerning Weight and Healthy Eating by Talking to People About My Weight Loss and Healthy Eating Experiences

Phew! That’s quite the title, I know. I tried to come up with a shorter way to get the same point across but it just wasn’t having the same effect, so super long title it is.

I find myself talking to people about how I’m eating healthier or how I’ve lost a good amount of weight fairly often. Part of this is because I’m nearly always thinking about food – either planning out what I’ll eat for the day, talking about things I want to eat, or talking about things I shouldn’t/won’t eat because I don’t have the calories for them – and part of it is because when I’m not talking about food I’m often talking about running instead, which then tends to naturally bring itself around to talking about weight loss.

Anyway, after spending all this time talking to people about these topics I’ve noticed that, most commonly, I get one of two responses. And if you think about those responses for long enough, it’s a fascinating look into how our society feels about weight and healthy food choices. So here are some of the most common responses I hear, and what I’ve extrapolated from them:

1) You lost that much weight? But you’re so small! From where?!

I find this one particularly fascinating, because to me it makes very little sense. But logical or not, it’s shockingly common for people to react to me saying I’ve lost weight with disbelief because I am now skinny. My response is generally something along the lines of “yes… because I lost that weight, from everywhere,” and even then I’ll still get another “wow, but you’re so small.”

In my opinion, these types of comments could mean one of two things. One, that there’s a general assumption that people who are skinny have always been that way, or perhaps that once a person reaches a certain threshold of skinniness it’s assumed that said person is just naturally thin. Alternatively, that it’s impossible (or at the very least extremely unlikely) for people to lose enough weight that they become skinny.

The first of those assumptions is disappointing because there are definitely plenty of people in the world who work hard to achieve their weight goals, and who end up being thin. But the second assumption is downright depressing, and even harmful, because it means people believe that they aren’t capable of looking a certain way, and that’s just not true. You CAN successfully lose weight AND keep it off. It won’t be easy, but it is definitively possible.

2) Oh, but you’re so tiny. You can eat whatever you want.

This one partially ties into the first assumption from the last response, which is that all people who are skinny are that way naturally. And if I only got this comment from people who didn’t know that I’ve spent nearly a year losing weight, I’d be willing to chalk it up to that alone. But what’s interesting is that I get this comment from a ton of different people, including those who are aware of my year-long journey.

This says something interesting to me, and I think it ties into why diets so often fail: people think they’re temporary. Even for those who know that it’s taken me eleven months of serious, dedicated effort to reach my current weight, there doesn’t seem to be the obvious connection that it’s going to take continued serious, dedicated effort to keep that weight off.

I want to make something very clear. Reaching your goal weight does not mean you can return to your old habits. Your old habits are what got you to a weight you were uncomfortable with in the first place. It is easier to maintain than to lose, but it still takes effort. And a person looking to maintain their weight can NOT eat whatever they want all the time unless they’re putting in some really serious time at the gym. And if that’s the case, they should be even more concerned about giving their bodies the proper nutrition and should be making healthier choices anyway. So no. I can’t just eat whatever I want. Very few people can.

In conclusion, society in general seems to have some pretty messed up views when it comes to weight, weight loss, and healthy eating. And I think those views have a whole lot to do with why so many people are overweight or obese, and why diets so often fail. And that’s a shame.

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