I have lost a lot of weight in the last couple of years, and I am enjoying all of the expected benefits, such as increased fitness and looking better in clothes. I am also experiencing the expected pitfalls such as the expense of continuously shopping for a smaller frame, because we need clothes that fit at every stage, and looking way worse naked! Loose skin is so not attractive! However, one of the most unexpected things I have experienced is the changes my weight loss has had on my relationships and social status.
I have been a very large woman. Much larger than I am now. I have also been a very small woman – much smaller than I am now. It seems in my 30’s especially I am more closely watched on my weight than ever before.
There are the people who spoke to me and were friendly when I was much bigger who no longer engage me now and never dare mention my weight loss. I wonder if this is because they found me “jolly” and nonthreatening before and now see me as somehow threatening, or if I evoke their own insecurities about their own body issues or size.
There are the people that I don’t even know who approach me like I am a celebrity, gushing and looking for magic tips, who don’t seem to like it when I tell them it is maths not magic. Burn more than you eat. Move more eat less. I am happy to help these people but I do wonder just how fat they thought I was to even notice how I look now - post weight loss. I (still) don’t know who they are. Maybe I’m just too self-involved?! Or maybe I really was fatter than I imagine and stood out as the token fat chick.
There are the people who never approached me before who suddenly want to be my best friend now. I wonder if I seem lighter and more approachable somehow, perhaps I keep my head higher? I also wonder if I have been deemed “acceptable” by their standard and feel quietly conflicted about this new acceptance; On the one hand flattered and pleased and on the other, hurt and resentful. I am still the same person as I always have been.
Or am I? My closest friends tell me I am not. I have higher self-esteem now. I make different choices. I have a voice. I won’t eat cake if I don’t want to and I will go for a walk on my own if you won’t join me. It’s not that my time with my friends is any less important but I need to make sure it fits in with my personal goals for myself, which means sometimes letting other people down. I can't say I am exactly the same person, no, but I can only see changes for the better. Having a little more confidence does not at all make me conceited. I remember where I came from, even if I am proud not to be there anymore. I worked hard, should I not be proud? I'm not there yet, so I'm hardly bragging, but I have come a long way and I see no reason to overlook it for the sake of making someone else comfortable.
When I was bigger I was much more pliable to what everyone else wanted to do. I would agree to almost anything for fear of letting people down or disappointing them and having them leave me. I never realised this was tied in to my weight so closely. I didn’t feel worthy of friends and I was just grateful to have any, so as a result, I kept pretty quiet about my thoughts, feelings, wants and needs on a fairly regular basis.
In losing weight I have rediscovered myself and that has meant some of my friends have had to get to know me all over again too. Some of them don’t like it, but I prefer the ones who choose to stay and admit they have some selfish reasons for their hesitation. I prefer them to say “I am jealous.” Or “I suppose I had been taking advantage of your easy going nature.” Than the ones who suddenly become competitive, mean or just walk away.
A fellow friend who has been on the weight loss journey longer than me, and has done way better than me too, has described a situation where one friend asked her to stop mentioning her weight loss. This was a deal breaker because, for those of you who can relate, it becomes a part of your story, your identity; and you want to share this side of your journey. It is a constant journey that will stay with you – Always. You will need encouraging and support and commiserating when things go belly up – literally. Lol You can't have friends who ask you not to be happy or share your success. So sometimes the choice to walk away is yours not theirs. Not directly anyway.
When it comes to weight loss, there is so much pressure. Half the world needs you to succeed and the other half is waiting for you to fail… yet nobody actually cares that much. Lol To say it is confusing and emotional and stressful is an understatement. This is a time when you need your friends more than ever, and a time when you realise who the true ones are. The results may surprise and upset you.
We need our friends who still see us as the person we have always been through it all. Ourselves. I never thought of myself as the token “fat friend” to be your wing woman, or the person you spent time with to feel better about yourself. I thought we were friends and learning that you saw it differently hurts. It also says way more about you than it does about me. I count the people I have lost due to losing weight as a win on the “life scales!”
If you are jealous of a friend who has lost weight – don’t take it out on her; address your own issues with yourself. And know that she is the same caring friend she was before. Her journey is with herself and about herself. She doesn’t need or expect you to lose weight. She is not judging your choices or forcing her choices on you. (If she is, gently tell her that although she may be trying to help, you value different things and you are happy with your weight.) Some people are actually happy being larger. I wish I was one of them! Acceptance of self is the goal, and social acceptance shouldn't be part of it. Sadly, it seems it is.
I think being bigger has made me a more compassionate, loving and loyal friend, even if I wont let you walk all over me anymore. I value those people to whom my size made no difference. The ones who still talk to me about other things and don’t define me by my size or appearance, and never have.
If you have lost weight and lost friends, or gained weight and lost friends, don’t look in the mirror and see someone else’s reflection. It is them, not you. Your size isn’t relevant to your friendships… or it shouldn’t be….
Your Best Friend ForNever