One random midweek day after my gym session, a fellow gym member in the ladies’ locker asked me “Sorry, how much weight you lost”.
I ignored her.
I thought maybe if I ignore her, she will take the hint.
She didn’t take the hint – she repeated the question even louder.
With all the politeness I could master, I responded: “Not enough” and went to shower!
What I actually wanted to say was ‘Voetsek!’
Is that your jaw that just dropped to the floor? Well, pick it up.
There is no difference between enquiring about someone’s body weight and ‘voetsek’: Both utterances are rude and untoward.
One’s physical presence at a gym does not automatically grant other gym members a right to invade one’s privacy.
Similarly, (and this might shock the older folks in our families)…as a family member, you are not endowed with any special privileges that permit you to comment and/or ask about peoples’ body weight.
I grew up in communities that shamelessly normalised the insensitive practice of publicly (and sometimes loudly) commenting on others’ body weight.
If you gained a visible amount of body weight since the last time they saw you, they would comment on how ‘fat’ you are.
If you lost a substantial amount of body weight since your last encounter, they would ‘worryingly’ enquire about your health.
Unfortunate sidebar: During my childhood years, in my community, anyone who lost a significant amount of weight in a short time was wrongfully rumoured to have HIV and subsequently, stigmatized accordingly.
As a child, I thought body weight comments formed part of a normal greeting practices: ‘Hello’ is either followed by a comment on body weight or low and behold, you only receive a greeting after the body weight comment!
But this is not normal.
It is rude and insensitive.
Most importantly, one’s body weight is not a matter of public discussion.
I hear you ask, “So it is advisable to first enquire how the person feels about their body weight?” “Is it alright to comment then?”
Only two groups of people can have an opinion about my body weight: a) those who I pay and b) those who I ask for an opinion.
I take no issue when the appropriate professionals such as medical doctors and dieticians comment on my body weight – I pay them to provide me with scientific and factual information.
Likewise, I have no qualms discussing my body weight with individuals if I am the one who initiated the conversation.
However, just because I asked does not mean my interlocutor must abuse the opportunity and spew demeaning, demotivating and sexually derogatory comments towards me. Have some TACT – even the most honest comments should be dressed with tact and compassion.
Tact is a skill I think many Black people lack … (Yes, you can come at me).
So maybe next time, before you comment on someone’s body weight, pause and ask yourself:
- Am I getting paid for this?
- Was I asked for my opinion!?
If the answer to both is ‘No’, exercise your right to remain silent.
While we are at it, maybe it is time to evolve and stop assuming that picking up weight is a terrible thing while losing weight is applaudable.