Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: Others Think I Should Lose Weight… I Think I Look Fine!

Q&A Wednesday: Others Think I Should Lose Weight… I Think I Look Fine!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: I’ll start out by saying I love you’re blog and all of your tips have helped me drop a dress size. I am 5’2 and 27 years-old. After having a baby and over the course of 4 years I’ve gone from a size 16 to a 10 by changing my diet and exercise. It wasn’t necessarily by eating clean but more so by cutting calories and using portion control along with a treadmill 3 times a week.

My issue is that I feel like I look great, but there are people constantly reminding me that I need to lose weight still. I thought a size 10 was acceptable, especially in the Black community. I’ll admit my main goal for losing weight was to look better in my clothes and not so much to be healthy although I’m working towards eating cleaner now. My mantra was always ‘If I can find my size in H&M, Forever 21, Arden B., or Bebe then I will be satisfied’. So once this dream came true I thought I was set. Yet family, doctors, strangers, men, etc., still comment on my weight negatively. I’m not trying to be a size 4. I have big legs and big boobs and I want to keep them, but it’s so discouraging to go to an EYE DOCTOR and get lectured on my weight, or have someone say “you would be perfect if you just lost that pooch”.

I’m new to this site and I’m sure you’ve already written a post on haters and people who want to bring you down on your weight-loss journey, but I guess the question I have is when IS enough, enough as far as the weight one loses? I still don’t have the BMI the doctor says I’m supposed to have, but I know I look good and I have zero history of [insert list of obesity-related illnesses] in my family or in my own medical history. Should I aim for the correct BMI or just try to be content and deal with the comments? I know I shouldn’t try to base my weight loss goals on what others and society thinks is right, but I thought I was finally in the clear as far as being singled out for my weight.

Have you ever been in this situation? Any advice?

Tricky, tricky.

I think doctors have an obligation to do as they’re taught to do – run your height and weight combination through the BMI metric, show you where you fall, and then encourage you to be where the little sheet says you belong. The science on that is hyper-simplified and weight is more complex than that, but that’s what they’re taught to do. I have no idea why an eye doctor thought it important to discuss your weight or eating habits unless she was concerned about you being diabetic (Diabetes tends to extend itself to eye problems, something often seen in our elders but might be showing up in younger people now, especially since diabetes is appearing in more children at even younger ages. Just guesses.)… but I’m maybe 75% certain that she was out of line.

As far as “you would be perfect if…” kill all that noise. You should be living and acting for you, and no one else. Perhaps a spouse, if you are long-term committed to someone (and no, I don’t mean “the current new-and-cute boo-thang”) and even then, that is sometimey.

The idea of “perfection,” for me, is problematic. It implies that there’s a finite point where you need to be, and then once you arrive at that point, there should be no more self-exploration, no self-curiosity, no self-reflection. You’re perfect – why would you need to do all that? Spend that energy enjoying being perfect! You’d be perfect if… is the kind of manipulative carrot people dangle over the heads of women to make them do what they want. It’s in every commercial targeted towards women – “you’d be perfect if…” …your eyelashes were fuller, your hair was thicker and a different color from whatever it is now, your hair was straighter (or curlier or, in the world of natural hair, the right kind of curl), your ass wasn’t small or covered in dimples, your thighs didn’t touch… we make “perfect” something that we couldn’t possibly be now, as we are. We allow perfect to be defined for us by someone else. That’s not okay to me. All claims of “you’d be perfect if…” are almost always rendered null and void to me. I just tune it out, often like I do a child, and respond with an “Uh huh…” and move on. Simple.

I feel like I’ve written this before, but I don’t advise people to strive for “perfection” for this very reason. I do ask them to define “excellence,” and then work towards that. Aside from the fact that I like the way it sounds, I think that “excellence” lends itself to understanding growth, and accepting that there’s a world out there you don’t know yet, and learning that world will allow your standards to shift. “Excellence” feels more open-ended than “perfection,” and I think that “open-ended” and “open minded” are how we should approach self-development. It leaves you more encouraged to practice regular and frequent self-discovery.

I know that this feels like a game of semantics, but language always has and always will matter. The idea of perfection could’ve possibly been defined the way I define “excellence,” but I think it’s been tainted and polluted in ways I can’t fix, so I’ve abandoned the term and generally support others in making the same choice.

When it comes to your primary care physician and your body mass index, here’s what I think you should do. Talk to her about having your body fat percentage tested. Discuss your blood pressure. Ask her questions. Why do these numbers matter so much to her? These questions aren’t your opportunity to challenge her, so to speak, they’re your opportunity to have your doctor enlighten you on what she might see that, just maybe, you don’t. Decide whether or not it’s important to you to be more fit, whether or not being more active and eating cleaner are of more importance to you, and whether or not they’re a part of your definition of striving for excellence. If so, then go for it! Do the research, decide what’s best for you, decide your path, commit, and get moving.

And, lastly… your family, strangers, and men.

Sigh.

It is clear to me that you don’t appreciate these unsolicited critiques. It is also clear to me that you are happy where you are, and you want to be left alone to be happy. At this point, you simply have to teach people how to treat you… and that means you’ve got to hit ’em with the one-two combo. Yes. A two-piece.

The one thing I’m the most thankful for, along my journey, is that I learned the value of being clear and concise with my needs. How else would they be met? If a family member, one whom I see regularly and actually value, makes a comment on my weight, I am clear with what I want. It is simple:

“Moving on…”

If the family member protests or tries to carry on the conversation further, I shake my head, make an “I’m confused” face, and shake my head again… followed by a “Moving on…”

If it goes on further, beyond that… I pick up my toys, and leave the room.

I’m not playing, either. You can call me sensitive, you can mock me, you can laugh, call me any name in the book. You can challenge my boundaries, question my decisions, and choose to disrespect my request to not discuss my size or my “imperfection.” I certainly don’t have to sit there and take it while you do it. I don’t support the idea of “tough love” in that form; the unsolicited, caught-off-guard-esque commentary about my body and how flawed it is. And any person who continues to violate a boundary that I’m clearly setting is a person who doesn’t deserve the pleasure of my company. It’s that simple.

Men on the street who make rude comments… this is easy. You don’t owe them anything, not even acknowledgement. If a man, newly-introduced to you, makes that kind of statement about “your pooch,” surely you don’t think a man that tacky who offends you in that way (seeing as how size sensitivity is obviously important to you) should be given more of your time and more opportunity to offend, no?

That being said, I think the path ahead is simple, though not easy. You said people keep “reminding” you that you still need to lose, but you’re “happy.” What are they reminding you of, exactly, if you’re comfy where you are? Are you certain that you’re really happy where you are? Spend some time talking about being more fit with your doctor, and what that’d mean for you. Create boundaries for yourself. Decide which components of healthier living you want to attack as you work towards excellence, and accept those standards. Love them. And defend them – and your boundaries – at all costs, even if it means cutting conversations short. I might’ve offended a few people, in the beginning, when I had to lay out my boundaries, but they came around in the end. And, when they didn’t, they fell to the wayside, as many “fair-weather friends” do, and that has little to do with you.

Love, protect, and defend yourself. As I always say, your body will thank you for it!

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20 comments

Olivia December 5, 2012 - 2:31 PM

Very well said Erika. I agree totally!
Sometimes as women we get so caught up in being “ladies” that we don’t want to offend someone even when they are being rude to us. Letting someone roll over you, hurt you, abuse you, etc is NOT being a lady or being polite. It is not something we have to accept. If you don’t want to be confrontational then I agree with Erika-leave the room. After a while the person will realize that you don’t want to discuss it -it’s called negative reinforcement. It really works-try it!
I use this whenever someone mentions to me that I simply “have” to have another child. My body-my rules and that goes for a lot of things!

Sandra December 5, 2012 - 4:11 PM

Well, I know where she comes from, even though not everyone tells me to lose again a little weight.

Some people can’t help to project their own weight problems on you, but don’t pay attention to them.

I lost 60 pounds and now I want to lose 10 pounds, but I do it for me not because someone told me to do so.

Also, we live in a western society, so the weight model to follow is SKINNY, so if you don’t fit into this category, you sure will receive some criticism. Just shake them off

Didi December 5, 2012 - 11:56 PM

I think that weight in general is a touchy subject for a lot of women, and not just women of color. There is so much pressure to be skinny or lose weight as someone else said. Just the other day, my mom let me know that I should be careful that I am gaining weight. Noted, but I was irritated by it.

I will say that you should try your best to be HEALTHY. A goal weight for me would be somewhere in the BMI range that I should be for my height. I applaud the fact that she went down to a size 10! Losing weight isn’t easy. I also think one should lose weight for themselves and not because someone else has concerns about their weight.

I am currently trying to get back into my groove and loose about 30 pounds or so. But I am doing it because I WANT to and to be healthy. There is a satisfaction in that. Finally, I applaud @bgg2wl. You are a really a source of inspiration!

Erika Nicole Kendall December 6, 2012 - 9:33 AM

“I think that weight in general is a touchy subject for a lot of women, and not just women of color.”

*puts head on desk*

Who said otherwise?

Catherine December 6, 2012 - 11:20 AM

Perfect is such a dangerous word to use because of its impossibility. It’s also very empty for the same reason. Someone’s idea of “perfect” will always differ from another’s. There’s no way that you can win.

Cherished131 December 6, 2012 - 11:24 AM

I like your response but there is something that is troubling me. She based her success on a clothing number size. Not all numbers are true to size anymore. So I just don’t trust that sytem anymore. How do I feel when I look in the mirror?

I hate, hate when men comment about pouches or other things found on ‘normal’ body types. If I were ever with a man that made these type of comments. I’m not sure if I would feel that he would ever be satisfied with me even with a flat stomach.

My last concern is if she will keep up a maintenance plan for her ideal weight. So many of us have reached this goal but did not keep up or make a total lifestyle change.

Charey December 6, 2012 - 6:03 PM

Hola!

I’m the one who wrote this question! As far as me basing the success on clothing size, I only used the size 10 as a general reference. Maybe I should have said I want to buy clothes from places that skinny girls buy theirs from. lol I have no shame in admitting that. Plus their clothes are cheaper. Ashley Stewart prices were driving me crazy for a while.

What mainly triggered me to write in about this was the comment about me being “perfect” without the pooch. However my goals in weight-loss are not to be “perfect”. I was trying to say that I already thought I was my own brand of “perfect” at a size 10 and was shocked to hear otherwise. I was just acknowledging the blow to my ego. 🙁

Thanks Erika for the tips on having my body fat tested and everything. I’m definitely going to do that! I’m currently working on eating better and most importantly working on not being afraid to lose weight (It’s hard to shake that “I need to be thick” mindset) and letting other people’s comments not get to me.

Thanks all!

Stephanie December 7, 2012 - 10:56 AM

I just wanted to briefly comment on the eye doctor’s response. I think he/she was well within their limits to bring up the issue. More and more in medical schools and dental schools they are trying to teach us to evaluate the whole patient, partly because a disease is rarely “localized”. If there’s something wrong in one part of the body, it’s going to affect other parts of the body too so we are now being taught more “big picture” thinking.

The other reason is because often simple screenings, like measuring blood pressure which we do at our dental school for EVERY patient, can often catch things early enough to alert the patient that they need to go see their primary care provider. You’d be surprised how many times someone of seemingly normal body weight for their height has come in with a blood pressure of over 140/95.

Anyway, as a healthcare provider, I think her eye doctor was within their right to bring up a health related issue. Some people will go to their dentist or eye doctor much more frequently than their primary care provider and as a result it’s harder to catch things earlier when they’re easier to fix.

Those are just my two cents.

And as always, I love your blog.

Erika Nicole Kendall December 8, 2012 - 1:55 PM

No, diseases aren’t merely “localized,” and the same thing that causes one will cause another… but she didn’t say the doctor commented on her blood pressure. She said an eye doctor commented on her WEIGHT. Not her eating habits, and how they affect her vision and potential for something like glaucoma. Her WEIGHT. Can someone clarify for me what vision disorder is caused by having a high body fat percentage, and if that same conversation is being had with skinny fat people? I’m sure they’d like to know that they, too, are at risk since they, too, carry excess fat.

I mean, I’m interested in equality, is all. Can we make sure that skinny-fat people who are thin with high body fat percentages are getting the same clear, involved, thorough coverage as the overweight?

Stephanie December 12, 2012 - 5:12 PM

I see the point you’re trying to make. Out of curiosity, however, given that there’s a correlation (not causality, I admit) between high BMI and diabetes and high BP (and both of those DO lead to eye disease), do you feel the eye doctor should have simply rephrased his/her statements and spoken about potential risk factors for those diseases, etc as opposed to coming at it from a weight angle or just avoided the issue altogether if her exam were clean?

You’re also right that skinny fat people slip under the radar much more often to their detriment, given that body fat percentages are rarely measured during a routine exam. Personally, I feel body fat measurements should be more standardized, but it’s going to take a while to get there.

Erika Nicole Kendall December 12, 2012 - 10:02 PM

“do you feel the eye doctor should have simply rephrased his/her statements and spoken about potential risk factors for those diseases, etc as opposed to coming at it from a weight angle or just…”

You’re obviously familiar with the contrast of correlation and causation… so all I can say in response to this is, she said she has no syndrome x/metabolic syndrome symptoms. Why, other than “oh, that’s too much fat” would an eye doctor bring up weight? No syndrome x symptoms, no sharp gain in weight that could potentially bear actual syndrome x symptoms (in fact, apparently an actual LOSS), no HISTORY of syndrome x symptoms… what would the eye doctor be able to bring to the conversation? If you, as an eye doctor or dentist, see a patient “more often than their primary care physician,” and you’re the doctor in THIS instance of seeing this woman over the course of 4 years, chances are you’ve watched the patient’s weight decrease as you’ve been seeing her.

There are situations where it makes sense to discuss a patient’s weight, IMO, but that’s OFTEN because that weight comes in conjunction with a symptom of metabolic syndrome, which is a very REAL issue. Weight gain paired with an increase in heart rate, IMO, is an issue. Weight gain paired with an increase in blood sugar, IMO, is an issue. A decrease in weight from a patient with a normal chart… just doesn’t make sense to criticize.

Charey January 25, 2013 - 2:46 PM

I’m late seeing these last few comments. To clear up the Eye Doctor thing… I had gone to see him because I had pink eye (Yes apparently grown ass women can get pink eye..lol). He is an Ophthalmologist which means he is an MD and not just an Optician, which also means he has a tad bit more knowledge on causes and treatments of certain eye infections. So it’s all cool if they training eye doctors and dentists to bring up weight because certain illnesses can cause eye problems. My only issue was the approach and like Erika said, he didn’t mention anything about those diseases or ask about my eating habits or medical history. His words were, “So it looks like conjunctivitis, indeed. Now have you thought about losing weight? You are too young to be this size. What are you 18 or 19?” I gave him the most confused face. My answer, “I’m 29 and I have a son.” He was shocked. Neither of us said anything more about weight. He wrote Rx and I left, irritated. I have no idea to this day why he brought up weight. I really think it was his own opinion. Like “This young girl is pretty and smart. It’s sad she is this big”

Aisha K December 7, 2012 - 10:46 PM

Ugh. I have an old friend, a male friend that thinks his brand of negative renforcement which is negatively criticizing and critiquing my current weight is the way to encourage me to lose weight. It is not. Boundaries get crossed, tempers flare, and I defend myself (I am more confrontational, than when he met me 10 years ago, and I earned my boundaries) The fact is I do want to lose the weight, I was 294 lbs, and initially lost 104 lbs when I got down to 190 lbs. I am now 220 lbs., and as much as I would love to get back to my 10 years ago, 25 year old weight (and correct BMI weight for my 5’4″ frame) of 135 lbs, it is only going to happen with my efforts, not his. Which he doesn’t get. He also makes the point that a)I would have higher self-esteem and b)not be in danger of being morbidly obese and dying from complications of…well the huge list of diseases in my family history and that affect morbidly obese people. But the nagging and negative talk is just not working for me. And yes I eat terribly bad things and don’t work out daily, only weekly.(Chef Boyardee, 3 times this week anyone?) But? I have registered for my first 5k, I can walk for an hour, I can run a mile. My point is that my health and body weight are my business not his, and even his point that I was hotter at 135 lbs and more confident offends me greatly. Yes he is an ex boo thang. ugh. I am hovering between eating clean and exercising daily as a last resort to shut him up but that wouldn’t be doing me..Erika I’m am disgusted with him, and with myself for allowing him to cross boundaries. But I want to lose the weight! What to do? I have journaled, researched healthy and clean eating (internet, not books) and I am poised on the edge of a breakthru (with or without boo thang..) Suggestions? Ideas? I know the answer is partly in the comments and post, but I got a special case of denial, defensiveness, and wanna lose those pounds situation. Thank you for your advice..and this very inspiring site.
Aisha K.
I am like a serious food back slider,

Erika Nicole Kendall December 10, 2012 - 2:55 PM

You clearly already know what you need to do, mama. Don’t keep people around who aren’t supportive in their criticism of you, or – at the bare minimum – their criticisms don’t feel like the “in good faith” or “in kindness” or even “in love” that we’d otherwise expect from them, or that they’ve otherwise displayed for others in our presence.

In short… there are too many men on this Earth for you to allow one who can’t treat you properly to take up your time. Start weaning yourself off of him and, if he doesn’t notice or recognize what’s going on, then you are much better off; if he DOES, let him know why and give him the opportunity to change. Just don’t forget that his behavior doesn’t agree with you, and he might need das boot. ROFL

christine January 23, 2013 - 2:07 PM

I remember when my doctor told me I needed to loose weight, I think back then I weighed 180 (I’m 5’9′) I was like ooookay and took took it with fifty grains of salt. In her size 0, 99 pound eyes I guess I was overweight

Monique January 23, 2013 - 2:54 PM

The only thing I will say to the question of when is enough, enough is that I have read doctor’s articles saying the less belly fat, the healthier we are (of course, there are people who eat crap and have washboard abs w/o trying; I had a room mate like that). But, people feeling like they can interject unsolicited advice about your LOOKS?!?!? GTFOH!!!

Rooo May 4, 2013 - 7:51 PM

”But, people feeling like they can interject unsolicited advice about your LOOKS?!?!? ”

^^This.
I’m like, “King BossyDude, *it’s not like she even asked for your opinion*. Shut it down.”

I don’t mean to over-comment on this issue. I guess I feel some kind of way about it, LOLsigh. I have been working hard in classes & privates to get this knee joint in full working order – and because Pilates is a full-body workout (and my instructor … I think I’m gonna rename him the Destructor, because he is one of those cheery evil ones that gives “work to failure” a new definition) I’m getting … kind of ripped, which since we have the aggravating addition of the season starting to turn I guess gives manboys license to think they can not only holla, but literally howl (seriously, we are in the middle of NYC WTF) and, on the flip, the other endless “Now don’t you get ‘too muscular’ because men don’t like that”, which, since we’re WOC, has that additional edge, if you all know what I mean and I think you do … and the whole time I’m thinking “Seriously, people, who asked any of you??? Because not only do I feel really great, but I know, as Shaggy might’ve said, it wasn’t me.”

Please. Get. Your. Judgments. Off. MY. Body. Thank You.

Rooo May 4, 2013 - 7:36 PM

*sigh*

I wish — yes, I know, if wishes were horses (my mama says that) — we could stop being continually harassed to focus on how we look at the expense of how we feel.

I only felt like I made real progress when I could tune out all the haters and all the “you need to”s (fam and exes, I’m looking at you) and focus on *how I felt*. Now I invite folx to come “gym with me” and they steadily declining, LOLsigh.

So to the OP – how do you feel? Are your waistbands comfy? Can you get from the beginning to the end of the day with a smile because you have enough energy even to do the four times as much work as anyone else that we BW have to do? Are your muscles strong enough to support your joints? Did you get a clean bill of health at your last internist checkup (and BTW, that “eye doctor” needs to keep his “opto” and his mouth OFF your “pooch”, IMO o.O )?

If so, then you are the right size imo. Haters to the extreme left.

San May 15, 2013 - 2:05 AM

Hi, we’ll I’m having the opposite issue. I lost almost 200 lbs (from a 22/24 to a 0/2). I post the loss because I never thought that I was big to begin with. My family and friends never said anything and I knew that I was fabulous. Since loosing the weight I don’t trust any o their opinions. I have been told that I need to stop working out, stop watching why I eat, and that I’m now to small. If they never told me that my weight was an issue before how can I begin to trust them now?

Shauntae May 22, 2013 - 1:38 AM

Oh honey, I’ve been in this situation and back about 10 times.

At the end of the day, it’s about how you feel about yourself. Bump what everyone else says.

Give you an example: When my son was 3, I started working my butt off with a trainer. Everyone complimented me on my weight loss (went from 170 to 139), and everyone was so fracking happy about my weight, and blah, blah, blah. What happened? I put the weight back on. Why? Because I wasn’t happy with myself. I never felt sexy, never wanted to feel sexy, and could care less about putting the weight back on. In fact, I only lost the weight because I was in the military and I HAD to.

Fast forward to April when I started getting serious again about my weight and me putting my yo-yo dieting to a grinding halt. Since I’ve changed my mind about how I feel about myself and my life choices, I’m not kidding, my life has changed. My confidence is through the roof, and my husband can’t keep his hands off of me. I could give a ish about what people have to say about me. I try hard everyday for myself and to set a good example for my husband and my son, and that means more to me than someone else’s comments.

So in the end, if you feel like you look good, girlfriend tell them that. “I look good the way I am, I’m healthy, and I’m working on eating clean, so you can stop all that yak you’re talking.” #BOOM

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