Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
During the pandemic I found myself losing weight due to stress and lapses in my mental health care. I stopped being able to afford my therapist and I had a few things in my family come up that contributed to the demise of my health.
I keep reading about people who gained weight during this time and I can’t help but notice that every time I see my friends now, someone always wants to comment or talk about how “thin I got” and congratulate me. Ick.
It feels gross, and I never know what to say because I am struggling internally but on the outside everyone thinks I’ve “never looked better." In truth, I have never felt worse.
How do I explain to my friends what’s going on and ask them to stop commenting on my body?
Sick and Sad
Hi Sick and Sad,
I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling right now. I hope you know that you are not alone and that the way stress, anxiety and pain manifest physically can vary on each and every body.
Just because your body has become smaller due to stress and just because smaller bodies are (sadly) more culturally accepted than bigger bodies does not mean that your pain is invalid and it doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to comment on your body, even if they think they’re giving you a compliment. It also does not mean that you have to just grin and bear it in order to be a more pleasant person. That’s not fair, and it certainly does not help your mental health to have to play this role that your friends have cast you in.
I am positive your friends do not realize that what they are saying and doing could be considered unwelcome or even rude. We grow up, especially as women, believing that our worth and our value can be determined by the size of our jeans. We are trained to see skinny as healthy. We know it’s not true when we’re really pressed on the matter, but it takes unlearning to be able to see the world through that new lens. Your friends likely believe that when they comment on the size of your body, they are making you feel good and worthy; that they are being good friends. It sucks! You are wise to know that it doesn’t make you feel good to hear this feedback on your physical appearance. Many people aren’t as enlightened as you seem to be on this topic.
I also get that it feels awkward and maybe even a little aggressive to reply to a “compliment” with, “please never say that again.” I also get not wanting to share the details of your mental health struggles in casual conversation with company you may not 100% trust at this moment in time. It’s like when someone asks how you are, they don’t really mean it, right? It’s just a pleasantry; they’re not expecting you to launch into your life story. If there is a friend who you trust and who knows most of the friends that are giving this feedback to you, I would suggest calling in a favor and asking him or her to do your dirty work, so to speak.
Explain to your confidant that you have been going through a very hard time and a smaller body is a side effect of this struggle. Explain that you know your friends mean well with these comments but it actually just makes you feel self-conscious about these struggles. Have your friend report back to your group of friends privately. Anyone worth their salt will self-correct very quickly. If not, take note of the true colors they're revealing.
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