Saturday, August 22, 2009

"You Look Great!"

While on vacation, I saw two friends whom I only get to see rarely these days because we no longer live in the same city.

I was thrilled to see S., who had been my maid of honour at my wedding 17 years ago. We see each other about once a year and I definitely have changed since last year. S. had generously offered to put us up for the night before we headed out on our last leg of the trip to the cottage.

As S. and I stood talking on her back porch, she asked me if I'd lost weight, to which I answered yes, because I have lost weight. It hasn't been tons and tons, but enough to make a difference. Then she asked what I'd been doing and I told her about reading Paul McKenna's book "I Can Make You Thin" (I cringe every time I write the title, but it's a great book) and the general principles of intuitive eating. S. is not a heavy person. Yes, she's put on a bit of weight over the years, but she's still well within the boundaries of "just fine", as far as I'm concerned. She listened with interest to what I had to say and laughingly admitted that she tended to eat past the point of feeling full. We didn't dwell on the topic and continued our wonderful visit. I'll admit that I was pleased that she had noticed the change in me.

Ten days later, I ran into another friend, A. I haven't known her as long as S. She came into my life about 6 years ago as the girlfriend and then wife of a good friend of my husband. Again, due to the fact that we moved to Toronto, I see her very rarely. She too is a lovely person who must constantly deal with the difficulties and dangers of living with severe allergies to numerous foods, animals and products. It isn't easy, but she seems to face her problems with great strength and bravery. Fortunately, she has a wonderful husband who is devoted and supportive.

A. had a baby about 2 1/2 years ago and is still carrying a fair bit of that "baby" weight around. I vaguely recall that she went on WW at one point, but it clearly didn't help her.

Unlike my long and leisurely visit with S., I only had a few minutes to talk to A. Upon seeing me, her face lit up and she immediately commented on how great I looked. She didn't specifically mention weight loss. To her eyes, I just looked awesome. Now, one other important thing has changed in my appearance since last year: my hair. It's much longer now and I get compliments from everyone on the new do. I think A. was reacting both to my hair and my general (slightly "lighter") appearance.

Here's where the problem comes in:

What, if anything, should I have said to A.? Being Canadian (or just North American), I like to be polite. My French colleague has often complained to me about how Canadians don't tell the truth. They'll always say, "you look great, too" even if the person has obviously gained a ton of weight or has had a most unflattering haircut or whatever. When in France many years ago, an esthetician blithely commented that I should lose weight and that I had blotchy skin. Another, admittedly overweight, friend who was shopping for a dress in Paris was told in no uncertain terms by a sales lady that they didn't sell clothing for "people like her" (i.e. fat people). This is par for the course and I still love France, but you get my drift.

So when A. started going on about how good I looked, I felt uncomfortable because I just couldn't say back to her that she looked great too. She looked just the same as the last time I saw her: a wonderful, charming woman who had put on weight since giving birth. I thanked her profusely for the compliment and stopped there. I'm sure that if we had had more time to talk, we might have gotten on to the topic of weight loss and the changes I've made over the past year, but we just didn't have a lot of time together.

Clearly, this predicament has been "weighing" on me somewhat. It's not an incredible crisis, but I'm just putting this story out there and would love to hear how others deal with similar situations.


  1. I guess I always give back a compliment. If I see a friend who compliments me on my weight loss, I find something to say about her, even if it's not weight related.

    I understand your angst about this, as I hate it when I leave a conversation kind of wishing I had said, or done something differently.

  2. I usually respond to people's compliments with "thanks - it's so good to see you!" I don't take compliments well, and I don't like to give them blithely, and usually I am glad to see the person, so it fits. I really don't like it when people comment on my weight if others are around. It's just such a sensitive subject for me and I don't like to be singled out.

  3. I really think you handled that situation well. i do agree with Diane here... I try to find something positive to say back...but sometimes I don't---I'll just shift the conversation subject quickly--- "Oh thanks, I've lost a little weight---Hey, how's that new house coming along?"
    "How's that new baby?" would have worked really well.

    So happy that you had a wonderful time. Isn't it awesome when people see the changes?? I'll never get tired of "wow" reactions!!

    My best always

  4. Isn't it great to hear the compliments?
    I don't think it's sincere to give a compliment if none is felt because I think the other person would feel the hollowness of it. I like the genuine, heartfelt ones the best. Just like a gift ... just because someone gives you a gift doesn't mean you have to return one back right away. I don't expect to be complimented back when I give one out ... that isn't the purpose of it imo.
    I think a Thank you! is always the best comeback.
    and then on to the next conversation ...
    Canadians, eh?

    and thank you for the compliment on my blog this morning!
    you made me feel great!

  5. This is a really interesting discussion and I certainly don't have the solution..... I did read a proposal that when someone comments on a person's weight, the best response is "Thanks but my weight isn't up for discussion". Haven't tried it myself (it might sound a little harsh?) but I like the sentiment !

  6. I agree with Karen, you're not required to return a can simply change the conversation....however, truthfully, I also am a lot like Diane...I'll give a compliment on something not weight-related...if I see they changed their hairstyle, or I like their blouse, or their shoes...or even the color of their nail poish...there's almost always something nice you can say in return. :)