New year, new me… Same old criticisms

Approx Reading Time-10As the festive season brought my family together over the holidays, an unexpected byproduct was the criticism I faced for losing weight.


“Geez, what happened to you?” a line spat by a familiar face, whose disbelieving eyes shook the multiple chins that he had birthed in the calendar year since I saw him last. Nothing had happened to me, save for switching beer for red, and filling the chasm of a meaningful relationship with jaunts to the gym when my eyes were crusted over, and the moon was packing it in for the night. I didn’t earn this body in my sleep, I was asleep for most of it. Honestly, I didn’t really notice the change until it became an object of derision.

While the year previous wasn’t a good one, my diminishing waist was an unexpected happy byproduct. And, while I entirely do not subscribe to the “new year, new me” hashtag, I empathise with those who have endured family celebrations of the seasonal period under the hanging sword of veiled criticism all enabled by the heinous crime of self-improvement. If we are not “cut”, do we not bleed?

But here is what gives this ab story a different tone. While those who ordinarily criticise “dem gainz” throughout the year are (rightly) dismissed as “haters”, when that face is familiar, linked to you by blood, (and loose dietary constraints are loosened further by the Christmas spirit,) what is the best way to approach it? Do you crack onto their partner, shirtless, under a hose to lead by example? Do you subtly redirect their attention from the after-dinner fare? Or do you opt for the more forward route?

Two years ago I would undermine the diets/fitness regimes of friends by making light of the gym or ignoring the results they trumpeted. That’s the strange thing; gain or loss, silence reigns.

It’s a tricky equation to solve. A trumpeted criticism in response to the allegation that you’ve earned this weight loss via cocaine, the classic “well put down the fork then”, would probably not have the desired effect. For example, when I was at a career crossroads, the guidance I received (namely, “get a job”) frankly pushed me not to get a job. Part in spite, and part in not validating such useless advice. So…all in spite, really. Still, the newly thin person telling an overweight person to lose the handles is the kind of zinger that would grind the Christmas festivities to a halt.

(Although, from an objective standpoint, I needed a job, and therefore my brother needs to lose weight. Right?)

It’s an easily identifiable issue, and I’ve walked both sides of it.

Two years ago I would subtly undermine the diets/fitness regimes of my friends by shanghaiing them into a smorgasbord or another drink, by making light of the gym, or ignoring the results they proudly trumpeted. I’m not proud of it, but given the opportunity, my mind would again automatically operate on that function.

That’s the strange thing about body criticism. If you lose a lot of weight, or become buff, you best not directly reference it; conversely, those who put on more weight are held by the same rules. Gain or loss, silence reigns. Keep in the degrees of your assumed weight: perfect. Step outside them, and the societal noose tolls for thee.

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However, weight is cyclical. As I’m thin now, I will be fat again. As the brows of family and friends raise and lower according to where the needle sits on the scale, what’s missing is middle ground. This of course is subjective to whatever crowd you surround yourself with, but the angst it breeds is universal. This flux in weight, although not healthy, is natural. We gain and lose motivations and reasons to lose weight. Why should we care who does what? Should it not be “what’s happened to you?” but rather “what needs to happen to me?” We’re all weak and impulsive, and the gym at whatever o’clock we visit it, while we’d all rather be asleep, fucking sucks. Missing out on things, especially the foodstuffs we love and would rather binge upon, is a cross to bear.

But it’s our choice.

Hate not us, for I contend that we should use the bodies of those closest we admire as inspiration.

Regardless of the size.

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