Sunday, November 21, 2010

Off Campus

So, I have these neighbor semi-friends. I don't know them really well, but on occasion, the male partner has helped break down the ice berm at the end of my drive in winter. And the female partner and I have chatted some.

Not so long ago, the female partner had bariatric surgery. She didn't tell most people, but she told me because she asked for some day time assistance when her partner wasn't around. It was a little thing, something she couldn't take care of while recovering, but that I easily could, so I did. We chatted some, because we were there. You know how it goes.

It's been about a month, maybe six weeks. (I don't keep close track.) In movie parlance, time passes.

She's recovered fine and is on this really strict diet; she says it's going well. She also says she's excited because she needed to buy some new clothes. I congratulated her.

But she's also disappointed because no one that she hasn't told has mentioned her weight loss or how good she looks (not at her work, not in the neighborhood, not her other friends).

I think there are two things in play here. First, she doesn't look that different to the casual observer. If I didn't know she'd had the surgery and was successfully losing weight because she told me, I wouldn't notice. (I tend not to notice clothes and weight in friends. I tend to notice voice and expression more.) So there's that. She's long worn the sort of loose clothes that are supposed to hide our weight, and still does, so maybe it's successfully hiding the weight. I don't have the nerve to tell her that the weight loss doesn't show, though, because she's pretty darned happy about it, and it's not the easiest thing to stay on the diet and all.

I have a colleague who had bariatric surgery a couple years ago now, at the beginning of summer. In the three months of summer, she lost a dramatic amount of weight; it was noticeable even to me. I think the noticeability depends a lot on how much people weigh and how they carry it before the surgery, probably.

Second, this is a "polite" part of the country. It's supposed to be, anyway. People will smile, but not really see you here, if that makes sense. And weight is one of those things that your adult friends won't generally mention; I don't tell people who are overweight that they look especially heavy today or anything. And so I wouldn't tend to say anything about looking less heavy. Mostly, that's because I don't pay much attention to other people's weight (I have my own to pay attention to), but there's also a fair bit of social conditioning: it's not appropriate for me to comment on another adult's body.

I especially can't imagine saying anything about weight to this neighbor pre-surgery, because I think she'd have told me off something awful.

We were doing the stand around in a driveway thing with another neighbor recently, chatting about the weather or whatever, and since our houses are further up, my neighbor who'd had surgery and I walked away from the conversation together. She commented about how disappointed she is that no one says anything about her weight loss. (I was sympathetic and said how people around here try to be polite.) She really wants to talk about the surgery and her weight loss, because she's proud and happy of how it's going, but she doesn't want to bring it up.

I never know how to handle diet/weight issues with folks. I tend to try to be supportive, and keep my nose in my own business. But bariatric surgery seems to change the rules somehow in ways I don't quite get.

Speaking of my business: So, I've been trying to lose weight, but it's slow. I've lost maybe 7 pounds. And yesterday, I mostly ran 5K, which is more than before, and I feel good about it (that is, I'm not sore). My feet were cold in the happy toes things, though, so I either need to go with regular shoes or get these wool toe socks that are designed to be worn with the happy toes things.


  1. Yeah, that whole weight thing would be really awkward. Someone who is extremely overweight could lose 50 or more pounds and it wouldn't be noticeable, unless you were holding a picture and comparing side-by-side. And if she's wearing loose clothes, no one will notice anyway.

    Good luck with your own health goals. Losing weight is so hard.

  2. I have a colleague/friend who lost over 30 pounds a year ago in the summer and was then really upset that no one noticed when we returned to school ... but she also wears these big, baggy clothes that intentionally hide her body. And then she gained the weight back over the course of the year and felt that lack of support from friends was part of the issue. She lost that weight again last summer (she's much more active and apparently eats better in the summer than during school) and this time told me about the weight loss when school started so that she'd have some sense of accountability. I did point out that her clothing masked the weight loss, which she sort of got but sort of didn't. And here's the thing: It's been three months now, and I have no idea if she's kept off the weight or lost even more or gained it back. It's just too hard to tell. I'd like to be supportive, but it's hard to know just how to be.

  3. The advice columns used to have weight loss as an example of what NOT to mention, given that people have had exchanges like the following: "You've lost weight!" "Yes, I have cancer." Maybe they're trying to be polite, as is customary in your part of the country.

  4. Anonymous2:06 PM

    We're in the same basic part of the country -- so, I can understand her predicament... I lost a lot of weight over the summer, so when people saw me in the fall, they said things like "you look good today" etc...

    People who saw me more often (like the coffee shop lady ) ) -- only tended to notice once I hit the 50lb range... and then were reluctant to say anything.

    Also, if you're really heavy and lose a decent amount of weight, you'll still seem heavy to folks, so they'll tend not to notice... fat invisibility is a good thing when you're not happy with yourself, but not so good when you want folks to notice a change.

  5. i think your comment to the neighbor about people being "polite" was an appropriate response. knowing of her surgery and goal, comments like "you look great" or "how's it going?" are safe but allow her to elaborate if she wishes.

    for me, only relatives tell me i'm a bag of lard -- sometimes disguised sometimes as "helpful advice" about diet, exercise, etc. [the liposuction tip was in its own special category.] my response as a teenager was to buy as many donuts as i could, because i was by darn going on a diet the next day. fortunately, i'm more mature now. kinda.

    but i find comments about weight loss kind of strange, too. when i did actually lose weight, some comments were so enthusiastic that i wondered what they said behind my back before. more recently, i have been at a steady weight for years; so the occasional "oh, you lost weight!" comment is mystifying. my best guess is that i look better in certain clothes, but i'm bad at figuring out how to shop for clothes that i like which also look good to others.

  6. p.s. -- congrats on teh 7 lbs.! but i really admire that you're so good about the "playing outside," riding your bike, and all those other active things that distinguish you from a computer potato.