Reading and watching recommendations: weight loss, society, and you
December 10, 2019 5:21 AM   Subscribe

What media have you consumed that has made you feel better about body image in the context of unintentional weight loss, other people's reaction, and your own feelings about it?

I have feelings about my body and body image, for which I am already in therapy. I have fluctuated almost 50 pounds downwards over time, in a mostly healthy way but almost entirely due to lack of appetite (and some exercise) caused by my currently-disabling mental health. I was reasonably happy about how I looked before, but do feel better now and have been getting more clothing that actually fits.

So now, I get comments on how I look now with the implicit reference being before, e.g. "whatever you're doing is working" (after I explain why I cannot have gluten - luckily this part is over), "well, you look great!" (after explaining how I am not great - this from a good friend), etc. Because of this, even well-meaning compliments start to make me feel bad internally because I take them as having this implication. I've gotten these comments and had this reaction both when I was physically quite ill, and now when I am mentally unwell and physically quite good.

As a bonus, I am a queer woman and have gender feelings about the way I'm perceived at various times.

My usual reaction to the comments is some kind of eye roll and/or a chewing-out and/or a serious, emotional conversation, but the internal reaction to genuine compliments is problematic.

So, what have you read/watched/listened to that has touched on this stuff? I've read and watched Shrill, and read various Roxanne Gay stuff, but it's pretty heavy. A warning for particularly difficult stuff would be appreciated, though please don't hesitate to recommend it anyway. Give me your best fodder for healthy fuck the patriarchy feelings.
posted by lookoutbelow to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best of luck as you continue to navigate these tricky things. The Body is Not an Apology has been on my to-read list for a while, and may be of interest.
posted by wicked_sassy at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's been a while since I've read Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere, and a lot of it is about stopping dieting, but I think it touches on the issues you're dealing with. Good luck. Dealing with any weight issues in this culture is super hard.

When my dad died, my mom lost a lot of weight because she was so completely devastated, and she was constantly getting compliments on it. I think the reason I'm not getting remarks about my recent weight loss is that people know I have cancer.
posted by FencingGal at 6:32 AM on December 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

the only thing that's helped me in this situation is concentrating on the fact that what comes out of people's mouths is about them, not about me.

I can now hear "you've lost weight!" as "I'm trying to say something I think is nice because I want you to like me!" and react to it as if it had been the second phrase instead of the first.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:30 AM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Seconding The Body is Not An Apology. I'm listening to Jes Baker's book, the first half of which has been really helpful. It also has lists of the resources I think you're looking for in the back. Summer Innanen's work and podcast has also been helpful to me.
posted by emkelley at 10:53 AM on December 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hi lookoutbelow. I was browsing the weightless tag and found your question. This is a thing for me too. I just discovered this quote (via Instagram, of all places) and it hit home.

“I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.”

― Georgia O'Keefe
posted by nathaole at 4:16 PM on May 23

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