So are you losing weight?

Friends, forgive me if you've asked me this question over the course of the summer. I fear I may have behaved rudely toward you.

The conversation goes like this:

Friend: "So you're training for a triathlon! That sounds like a lot of work."
Me: "I love it! I'm working out twice a day right now — it's great!"
Pal: "Wow! So are you losing weight?"
Me: [Stares blankly until my friend is uncomfortable and stammers something.]

So yes, I have not handled this question well. Before I explain why, here's what I wish I'd done instead of the blank stare.

Pal: "Triathlon! That's some work!"
Me: "Loads, actually, and it's fun."
Pal: "Wow, so are you losing weight?"
Me: [grins] "I'm not sure that the number would tell you anything meaningful. The better question, and it's perfectly OK if you ask it, is 'How is that changing your body?'"

If you got the blank stare from me, it's not because I'm offended or that I think you're an idiot. I just truly don't understand why anyone asks that question. Why would anyone want to know whether I'm losing weight?

Is it because they are curious to find out if exercise really causes weight loss?

Is it because they can't detect any weight loss and think, wow, with all that exercise, that can't be right?

Is it an attempt to be supportive, so that they can praise me if I am losing weight?

Is it that they think it's obvious I ought to lose some weight and would be somehow gratified to learn it was happening?

Is it that the only reason they can think of for a fat woman to take up triathlon is to lose weight?

Is it that they really are curious about the broader physical changes, but weight loss is a more socially acceptable thing to ask about?

Who knows? It could be any of those things, and different for every person who asks! It is a Russian Roulette question! With my answer, I can be putting a bullet in my relationship with that person — because I don't know what assumptions are believed about me, about fat, about motivation, and about training, for the person to have asked it in the first place!

Hence the blank stare. I am really not trying to be rude. It's just that if I answer that question, I don't know what you're reading into the answer.

If I say no, will you think I'm lying about the amount of exercise? Or doing something wrong? "Just not there yet, but it'll happen"?

If I say yes, will you think that was the reason I started training? Will you think that weight loss is what gives me satisfaction and makes this effort worthwhile?

If I tell you it's irrelevant, will you think I'm avoiding the question because I am embarrassed by some lack of weight loss?

So, friends, don't take my blank stare personally. I love your enthusiasm and am grateful for your interest. I have no problem telling you what's going on with my body, including changes in weight. But for the sake of our friendship and my sanity, I can't risk validating the premise that my body, or yours, is primarily a weight display device.

That answer just doesn't come first.


Anonymous said...

A nonchalant "I dunno, I haven't been tracking my weight" is also a fine answer.

Ann Pai said...

It would be a fine answer! Except for me it's not true; I do track. Wouldn't advise it for everybody. I like data; and with all the training I like keeping close tabs on how my body's responding. Partly that's so I don't let my body make drastic changes too fast, which has hurt me in the past.