This is a post for all the people who have ever made unsolicited comments about someone’s body…
Before going to Switzerland, I was training 5 – 6 times per week and I was tracking most of what I ate. At the time, it was what I wanted to do. So when I moved to the other side of the world, I unintentionally reduced my weekly training sessions to about 3 and I started to eat differently. I lived alone, so I found myself snacking more. And I moved less. It isn’t difficult to see, therefore, that I put on a bit of weight while I was away – about 4kg to be exact. I’m not overweight nor am I struggling from health issues. Instead, my arms aren’t as lean, I don’t have any visible abs and my bum is bigger than it used to be. These things happen and it’s part of the cycle of life and I accept it.
But do you know what I don’t accept?
People making unsolicited comments about my appearance.
Now, I know you may be thinking something along the lines of “you used to compete so you should be used to being judged on your body” and I totally understand where you might be coming from. But those competitions happened over a year and a half ago and a lot can change in that time. Besides, this post isn’t solely about competitors or people in the fitness industry.
I returned home after 7 months abroad, fully aware of my weight gain. I could see that my body wasn’t as toned and tight as it used to be. I was disappointed in myself and, instead of sulking, decided to join up to my gym again and begin to work out more regularly.
Imagine my surprise when, during my very first session back, I saw one of my friends in the gym and began a conversation. I was asked “did you stop training while you were away?” and before I could answer I was told “yeah, it’s good to have a break now and again” while my friend glanced over my body, staring quite intently at my legs (where I tend to put on weight first). Perhaps this friend didn’t mean anything by it but those words played on my already-existing insecurities about the change in my body shape. And to hear this at my first session back was incredibly de-motivating (but at the same time also quite motivating, if that makes sense?).
Since then, I have been told that I have a few kilograms to lose and that I shouldn’t wear certain items of clothing because of how they sit on me (namely on my bum, which has always been big but is apparently now much bigger). Perhaps these people are trying to be helpful but instead they are just feeding my current insecurities.
That got me thinking about the many offhand and often unsolicited comments that people make about the bodies of others on a daily basis.
For example, one of my best friends struggled with binge eating a while back and during the time that her issue was at its peak, she was, out of the blue, asked by a fellow gym member if she was pregnant. Further, my sister has a very thin body type and despite eating a tonne of food, she has always had a slim physique. There is nothing wrong with her or the way she eats; she simply has a fast metabolism. And she has been told multiple times that she is “too skinny” and that she should “eat more” by people during regular conversations. (Not to mention the ridiculous fact that somehow it is okay to tell a skinny person to eat more but not okay to tell an obese person to eat less, but that’s a topic for another day).
Admittedly, the gym member may not have seen my friend before, strangers may not know of my sister’s eating habits and my friend may not have realised that his question implied I looked out-of-shape, but why is it okay to make such comments about the bodies of others? When we don’t know someone else’s thoughts and emotions behind their current physique, an offhand or seemingly harmless comment like the ones described above may trigger feelings of negativity and sadness to the people they are directed at.
I try to present a positive body image as much as possible but I am not immune to issues that plague most of society’s population. Now and then these issues come to mind and the current moment is an example of such a time.
How about, next time we (myself included) see someone who perhaps has put on a bit of weight or looks a bit skinny, we make a comment about something other than their changed body (or not make such a comment at all)? If you want to compliment someone – tell them their hair/outfit/makeup looks nice. You never know how much a kind word or two can lift someone’s spirits. If you think someone looks like they stopped training – ask them what their training regime is like instead of implying something through the question. Try to stay away from assumptions and implying things because you never know what the person you are speaking to is struggling with.
To end this, I just want to tell you all that you are beautiful, just the way you are in this moment. Some people do not think about the repercussions that their comments or questions may bring. Remember that their lack of subtlety/thoughts do not define you, nor should they affect you in any negative way. If you are naturally slim, own it – there is a billion dollar industry that tries to make people look like you. If you have put on a bit of weight and are unhappy – do something about it and don’t give any attention to those who bring you down or affect your motivation. If someone asks you if you are pregnant – well, I’m not too sure what to do but I would probably make full eye contact, reply with a blunt “no” and watch them squirm!