Since my senior year of high school I’ve tried my best to incorporate healthy choices into my lifestyle. For the most part I’ve been pretty successful in implementing these practices as a permanent part of my daily routine. As a result, I’ve lost a fair amount of weight and everyone, ESPECIALLY mothers, tells me about it.
It’s honestly pretty demeaning. I run into my parents’ awkward friends/other randos all the time and they all think my body mass appearance is fair game for small talk.
Me: “Salam, Aunty,” (addressing any South Asian woman who is not your mom).
Aunty: “Salam, beta,” (addressing any South Asian child, your child included)…
“Oh my Gawdd, you’ve lost so much weight.”
Me: “Umm, thank you…”
At this point in the conversation I’m just in a black hole of discomfort as this middle-aged woman proceeds to harass me. There’s really no appropriate way for me to act because I know that these strange statements about my body do truly come from a nice place. It does not change how uncomfortable it is to hear and how these statements translate in my head. Here are some things people (aunties and non-aunties alike) have said to me at this point in our awkward encounters. I’d really appreciate if no one did this to anyone ever:
“Are you starving yourself? What’s your secret?” If you don’t think this is an offensive statement, then YOU have a problem. Assuming that someone is doing something dangerous to their body to look more desirable is straight up disgusting. You mad, bro? Do you lack all self-control that you can’t possibly fathom someone getting fit the good, old-fashioned way? That’s incredibly hurtful. Anyone who has ever successfully lost any amount of weight knows how much of a continuous struggle it is to not revert back to old habits. You have to be the friend who orders a salad at a fast food joint while your friends are marinating their burgers and fries with ketchup. You have to study menus online before an outing to prevent yourself from falling into temptations. Better yet you arrange to hangout at odd times like 3pm to avoid having to inconvenience your friends with your dietary restrictions. Planning out your exercise and eating schedule is essentially your second major in college. Investing in your health is a full time job, and most of us have to work overtime.
“You look so pretty now.” Ok please take a mint and see yourself out. WHAT. I’m sorry that I was one big Uggo before. It’s so reassuring to know that I now look acceptable to you. YES, everyone knows that they look and feel their best when they are staying active and being healthy. No shocker there. But is that something that you really need to say to people? Now looking at cake gives me anxiety because I associate it with my previous uglihood. Yay!
“Wow, you’ve had to have lost like 30 LBS!” While we’re on the subject of personal things, here’s my GPA and SAT score and social security number. I feel like I remember a time when talking about someone’s weight was straight up rude. Why has that changed? And I lost 18 pounds… Did you think I needed to lose 30 pounds? So you only saw me for my weight? Good luck getting out of this really big hole you dug yourself into.
“Turn around and let me look at you.” Okay, I’ll admit this has only happened one time. BUT STILL. Um please don’t look at me ever. I think my generation has made it pretty clear that we only want you to see us in one highly tested specific angle. We’ve all spent sleepless nights finding out what our good side is for taking selfies and I think we just want you to stick to looking at us that way. Please and thank you.
*Sees me grab something unhealthy* “Oh are you treating yourself today?”
I’m sorry, next time I decide to eat something I’ll make sure to announce it to everyone over a megaphone because that’s the territory I’ve walked myself into. I didn’t think I had to answer to anyone when I get a case of the munchies. But if you must know, I enjoy treating myself to dessert every once in a while… Like a human being.
Refraining from saying any of the above statements is a good first step at becoming a nicer person. All parties will benefit. If you’re really want to compliment someone on their weight-loss, do it without mentioning their weight-loss. “You look awesome!” or “You look really nice!” are great options. “You look really fit!” is good too. Other variations may be acceptable so long as there are no backhanded comments comparing someone to a previous image you had of them.
Hinnah is a third year college student who just finished her internship at another awesome nonprofit called The Brides Project. She's a fashion and makeup enthusiast and one day dreams to be America's next biggest talk show host!