Since I only go to the dentist every six months, the staff there is in a unique position to notice my weight loss. I suppose they get to see lots of big changes in people, sort of like time lapse photography without any actual time lapsing. Maybe it’s more like a strobe light that flickers every 6 months.
I went in last week for my check-up and they noticed a filling that was rough and needed to be replaced before it became the trendy new place where all the cool plaque parties and systematically destroys what’s left of my enamel. I checked my records and I’m down about 30 pounds from where I was in January, but nobody said anything when I was there for the check-up, maybe because my hygienist was subbing for someone else and had never met me before.
Yesterday was a totally different experience. As I was sitting in the chair waiting for the Lidocaine to neutralize my synapses, the hygienist mentioned something about how I was looking good. I don’t remember her exact phrasing, but it was very tactful and didn’t directly address my weight but left the door open for me to bring it up if I wanted to. Smooth. They must teach that technique in “Small Talk 101” in dental school where they also cover how to make conversation with people who have a dozen cotton swabs stuck in their gums.
I told her how much I’d lost and ended up chatting about my diet and exercise for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Her aunt does South Beach too, so we talked about sugars and carbs and whole grains and I suddenly found myself thinking, “Oh dear, I’m now one of those women who talks about her diet.” But hey, she started it! I don’t really like talking about diets, the reasons for which are probably complex enough to garner their own entry.
Anyway, we eventually shut up about my diet and they drilled out my happening plaque party and sent me on my way. When I went to check out, another hygienist actually came through the door into the foyer area and again complimented me on how good I looked and asked me what I was doing. When I told her it was South Beach and exercise she replied, “That’s it?” with just the slightest bit of surprise which made me think she’d been expecting be to say “gastric bypass surgery” instead.
This made me wonder, do people who haven’t asked me about my weight loss assume I’ve had weight loss surgery? I don’t really care if they do since I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having WLS. But do people automatically leap to that conclusion? I suppose if you lose 160 pounds these days it’s more likely than not it was due to renovations to your gastrointestinal system. It makes me curious as to how many people in the last decade who’ve lost 100+ pounds have done it through diet and exercise and how many have done it through WLS.
Both conversations were very positive and they congratulated me on how good I looked without any of the rude subtexts that can sometimes happen when people give you compliments that turn into backhanded insults. Then, they didn’t even charge me for my filling! It was one they’d done about two years ago when I’d ended up with 12 cavities due to a combination of not flossing, drinking lots of regular soda, and not going to a dentist for a year. I can never stress enough the importance of flossing. For the love of God, people, FLOSS!! If you don’t, it will cost you, somewhere in the area of $1500. Do you know how much floss you could have purchased for that amount? Probably enough to wrap around the earth and floss the Grand Canyon free of mountain goats.
But my dentist is very nice and evidently has some sort of warranty on his work, so I got the redo for free. Which is one of the reasons that even though I moved 40 minutes away, I’m not changing my dentist. I’ve kept the same dentist, doctor and hairstylist because once you find a good member of any of those professions, why would you ever switch?
Reflecting on the experience, I think I handled the compliments very well, saying thanks and sharing a little bit of information about what I’d done. I’m still learning how to take compliments, but I’m definitely getting better at it. Compliments about weight loss can be particularly tricky, but I think I’m figuring things out. In some ways, I think keeping this blog has helped because I’m not ashamed to share figures like how much I’ve lost or what I’ve done since I’ve already talked about it so much here.
One of the things that makes me uncomfortable about it is that I feel like people expect me to have some sort of secret. It’s as though they think I’m some wise swami sitting in full lotus position on top of Mount Diet which they’ve scaled the top of to come ask for my words of wisdom. But all I can say is, “Sorry, there is no secret. It’s just a complex combination of knowledge, self-analysis, behavior modification techniques and a bit of luck. Don’t get caught in the avalanche on your way back down.”