“Have you lost weight” can generally be taken one of two ways. 1) Wow…you’re looking really good! I can visibly tell that you have lost weight and I like it. Or 2) is everything ok? Are you eating properly? Are you making sure not to over-exercise or obsess over your weight?
Back in my pre-cheeseburger days, I used to love when people asked me this question. It meant that I had accomplished my goal of looking thinner. I had lost weight. I had won the battle over fatness. I was thin! But now, I know that when my friends ask me this question, they are asking out of concern. They are keeping me on my toes and making sure that I’m not reverting back to my old ways of crazy dietary restrictions and countless hours at the gym.
I’m not saying that everyone who loses a few pounds is secretly trying to starve themselves down to a size 2. Or that thinness is some kind of indication of a bad body image. In fact, from my experience, weight fluctuations are quite common. But I am saying that I think in our society, that question has become a type of compliment. To ask someone “Have you lost weight” in an optimistic tone is to congratulate them on the fact that it’s noticeable. They are meeting their goal! Keep it up!
Now what happens when people ask the opposite question: “Have you gained weight?” Well first off, most people who have any social scruples wouldn’t ask such a question; mostly because that question is considered insulting, absurd and totally out of line. Why would anybody put you through such humiliation?! I think it’s interesting that the question “Have you lost weight?” can be the ultimate compliment in our society while “Have you gained weight?” is a complete social taboo (not that that stops people from asking it).
As much as we believe here at EAC that weight is not a public issue, I do believe that there are situations where we can discuss it in private settings without offense. I mean, body image is such a huge part of our world as women, so we have to be able to talk about it with each other. For me, when my best friend asks me if I’ve lost weight, because she knows my checkered past with disordered eating, I see it as her way of showing her concern for me. She wants to make sure that I’m ok and that I have not gone down the “bad road” again.
Of course I acknowledge that this doesn’t hold true for everyone. And some people would rather their friends not ask them this question at all which I completely respect. Perhaps instead of asking each other “Have you lost weight?” we should ask each other on a frequent basis, “How is your body image?” “How are you doing with accepting yourself as you are and loving yourself?”
I think being a good cheeseburger friend means unlearning what we have always accepted as true from media and our society in general when it comes to weight and body image. Being a good cheeseburger friend means learning to stop asking the question “Have you lost weight?” as some kind of disguised compliment.
So I pose this question to you: do you have good cheeseburger friends in your life? To me, a good cheeseburger friend is one who doesn’t let me talk bad about my body. It’s someone who challenges my thoughts and helps me question what the media feeds me about my body. It’s someone I can always go grab a cheeseburger with:-)