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July 21, 2023
Mat Prince

On Some Journeys Silence Really is Golden (2 minute read)

By Mat Prince

For some people, gaining weight is accompanied by many physiological changes. Stretch marks are a great example. Ah, the human body. So beautiful, so poetic. On my worst days, I think to myself, “Gee, I wish I had known this before polishing off my Game Day Box from Pizza Hut.” You know, the ones with the carb-loaded drawers that pull out and everything? Those. On my best days, I wish I wasn’t congratulated for losing weight.

I should probably clarify: the last thing I want to do is shame anyone who has complimented me or anyone else for that matter. I’ll always be grateful for those who have supported me in my life - as I should. So if you’re reading this and told me I looked great, thank you.

I want to paint you a picture, and stop me if you’ve heard this before: A person loses weight, posts on Instagram a photo of themselves beside one of them at their heaviest, saying how they’d let themselves go, and they’re working hard but still have a long way to go. 5 or 6 comments on the post say “keep it up” or “great job!”. The posts start ramping up as they lose more and more weight, and the compliments keep coming. “Looking good!” “Wow!!!!” etc. But then the posts start slowing down. You start seeing a bit more scenery and a bit less of their shrinking body. Maybe a year goes by, and they post a photo of themselves, slightly rounder with the new angle of acceptance. Something like learning to love themselves, feeling like all that weight loss was unhealthy, diet culture isn’t good for you. You MAY have even seen some/all of this on my Instagram. Who knows. Let’s not get into specifics - I’m honestly feeling a bit attacked right now.

As someone who has lost and gained weight, I can tell you this: it feels disappointing. It feels like you’ve let yourself down. They must know - they all know you’ve gained weight and probably think you’ve lost control. You walk by a mirror and see your gut hanging - that wasn’t there before. You throw on a shirt you bought last summer, and you’re pretty sure it shrunk in the wash. Pretty sure. You go to take your pants off while lying down, and you’re out of breath. Your nipples start to hurt if you run/exercise. You begin getting VERY strategic about the photos you post of yourself - a vanilla side if you will.

Happiness becomes the romanticized memories of the feeling of being the skinniest you ever were, the most attractive you ever felt, and the smallest sizes you ever bought. That’s when everyone was so nice and complimentary. Happiness isn’t always, however, attainable. Not with your relationship with food and your body. Your body isn’t the same as when you first lost weight. You’re a bit older and a lot less motivated. That same wave of emotion that you rode to the top is the one that comes crashing down on you. Was that a bit much?

After all those years of are-you-sure-you’re-going-to-eat-thats, you’re-a-growing-boys and you’re-such-a-good-eaters, maybe the first step to healing the emotional canyon that has been forming over years of erosion is removing the outside influence. Because even well-intentioned support can be harmful, as it creates a reward for losing weight. An incentive that counters the ongoing search for personal health.

Every day is a new opportunity to perfect my new state-of-the-art body-positivity technique of apathy. Indifference. Who cares what anyone else thinks? But it wasn’t always like this, and not everyone can shun outside influence in their own journeys. Hell, I still wonder from time to time what people think of me. The same people who cheered me on while losing weight, who went silent when the opposite was occurring. What do they really think?

So, if you’re wondering what to say to help your friend on their weight loss journey, maybe the answer is nothing.