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I hope no one ever greets me this way

I was traipsing along the Internets yesterday, throwing some skipping stones into cyberspace, and stumbled upon a blog entry by Haidong Ji that made me fall down and scrape my knees in surprise. In it, the Chinese author recalls meeting his native parents at the airport in Chicago where they greet him with this lovely phrase: “You are fatter than before.” Amazingly this is not followed by the writer shoving his parents onto the next plane back to China. Instead he smiles because coming from a person from rural China this is actually a compliment. His family grew up in an area where food was scarce, so saying someone looked fatter meant that life was treating them well. He revealed, “If somebody said that to me, I, as a modest Chinese, would simply say something to the effect of: ‘No, no, no, I am just slightly fatter than before. You should see so and so. He is really fat!’” Then I started giggling trying to think of any two American women (or men) having this conversation without it immediately being followed by hair-pulling or slapping.

If I run into someone who hasn’t seen me for a while, I always feel a bit disappointed if they don’t comment on my weight loss. There’s a bit of relief too since I don’t have to figure out how to tactfully talk about the subject, but I have worked really hard on this and it’s always nice to know someone has noticed. If someone told me I looked fatter than before I might lose control of my bowels right there, thus lightening my weight a little and hopefully making me look less fat. And if I actually had gained weight, I would expect everyone to just ignore it and not say anything even if they had to duct tape their mouths closed to do so.

It does seem contradictory on my part because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being fat. Fat grrls rawk and all that. But in all honesty I would still consider it an insult to say someone looks fatter than before. I wouldn’t consider it an insult to say someone looks tanner than before or taller than before, but fat still carries negative baggage in that area for me, despite my otherwise fat positive opinions. Perhaps I am too much a product of my culture to see it as otherwise. Unless we’re suddenly struck by a famine, I suspect I’ll always feel this way.

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Ty • April 24, 2007 at 12:50 pm

I think I will always consider that an insult too.


Smissy • April 24, 2007 at 1:24 pm

I always feel funny when someone doesn’t say something about my weight loss too! I know sometimes people don’t bring it up because they don’t want to insult me (like, “You were a real heffer before, but you slimmed down!”), however I’ve gotten so used to people saying something over the last 6 months or so that I always feel slightly disappointed when they don’t. I have to remember the weightloss isn’t about getting compliments, it’s about getting healthy and feeling better about myself – the compliments just happen to be a nice bonus!

P.S. Little kids have no problem telling you if you’ve gotten fat!


Jancd • April 24, 2007 at 3:16 pm

My husband has an awful aunt who has commented on my weight so many times I have almost quit going places I know she will be. It’s all done in the name of “kidding”, but that does not mean it does not hurt my feelings.


Hilly • April 24, 2007 at 3:29 pm

I’d keel over if someone actually said that to me.


Debbie • April 24, 2007 at 3:46 pm

I think you’ve described it exactly right when you said that conversation wouldn’t take place between 2 Americans without hair-pulling and slapping. LOL.

But then it wouldn’t be meant as a compliment in our culture. Maybe that’s the difference.


Chris H • April 24, 2007 at 3:58 pm

I would immmediatly throttle anyone who dared say that to Me! Imagine it!!!!! In their culture it is obvioulsy a compliment… nIIIIIIICE!


Angela • April 24, 2007 at 4:50 pm

I personally prefer the non-weight-specific compliments from people I haven’t seen in a while. Like “you look wonderful”. Even though it is obvious they mean “girl you’ve lost a ton of weight!” I think it is way more comfortable for the complimenter and for me too… it’s kind of embarassing when someone (for me, esp when it’s man) says something like “wow you are so much thinner” and then pats his stomach region. As recently happened to me at work. And sometimes the statements that directly reference weight loss come out as sarcastic. Such as last Thanksgiving when my aunt said “what, they don’t have food in Virginia?” while checking me out. She did follow this up with a “no, you really look good,” probably in response to the rapid coloration of my face.

I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t like the direct references to the weight, whether positive or negative.


Kriss • April 24, 2007 at 5:31 pm

Maybe it is a cultural thing, but that seems awfully rude to me.

That reminds me of 2 years ago, when my very British mother-in-law came to stay with us over the Christmas holiday. We had just moved into a brand new ranch home (from a 2-story), and before we even brought her suitcases in from the car, she berated us & called us lazy for moving into a single-story home. She most definitely didn’t mean it as a compliment.


Lose Weight With Me • April 24, 2007 at 5:34 pm

I hate to say it, but I still enjoy running into people who haven’t seen me for a while so I can hear the compliments.

Interestingly enough, I find that people who are over weight themselves frequently will not even acknowledge what I’ve accomplished.



Luna Bella • April 24, 2007 at 7:39 pm

I used to date a guy from Senegal, and in that culture it’s not only acceptable to be a fat woman, it’s actually a beauty standard. I met up with one of his friends once after I had been out of town for a while, and he said “You look great! Nice and fat!” I did, as you say, about lose control of my bowels. I heard that delivered as a compliment several times, and I never got used to it, much as it was obviously sincere.

It got to be sort of this weird bizzaro-world pressure to *maintain* my weight; my boyfriend (and his friends) would grow terribly concerned if I appeared to have lost any weight: “What’s the matter? Are you sick? Are you sad? Here, have some ice cream.” In one way, it was wonderful to be with someone who found my size not only tolerable but actually sexy.

Intellectually, I found the attention paid to my size and the pressure to maintain a certain standard just as wrong as if they had been pressuring me to be skinny, but emotionally…well, it was kind of nice to be part of this little world where I was considered beautiful because of my body rather than in spite of it.

But fat as a compliment? Still a mind-bender.


Sarah • April 24, 2007 at 7:52 pm

It is one of those funky cultural things. Everytime I go to Bolivia to visit family they are always saying “tan gorda” (so big!)..but with this huge smile with a honest tone as if they are saying “so beautiful”. I still hate it.. since I like to pretend I’m the only one that notices my extra 100 pounds (ha ha). But, it isn’t said with malice and I try to remember that.


Amy • April 24, 2007 at 8:26 pm

I wrote a post just a couple days ago about how my family does this. Unfortunately they don’t mean it as a compliment. I doubt they’d bust it out the second they see whoever gained the weight, but it is a conversation that is always eventually brooched. My cousin gained a good bit of weight, and I cringed when my aunt said to her conversationally, “You know, you’ve gained a lot of weight. Your butt got a lot bigger.” No, no… I bet she didn’t realize that. Good thing you were here to point it to her, and everyone else in the room. The thing of it is, it’s such an accepted comment that even though I’m sure my cousin was dying inside, she just nodded and said, “Yeah. I know.”

It’s hard to explain that these are kind-hearted people with what they believe are their best intentions at heart. It very well could be cultural, or maybe it just varies from family to family. We’re of Italian descent, for the most part.

As for the old geezer in my family (unrelated by blood) who called me husky everytime he saw me as a kid… well. Also not a compliment. I DREADED seeing the man. To me, making comments to adults about their weight is horribly rude, but to make them to kids is even more heinous.

Great post!


Cindy • April 24, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Hey PastaQueen!

I am still enjoying your site—it is the one I look forward to most during the week. Your attitude helps me keep mine in check, shall we say. This post hit home, particularly because I HATE having people remark about my weight loss. I have tried to learn some “responses” that satisfy the giver, but end the discussion ASAP. There are a few times where I have found it to be enjoyable, but usually, I dread the whole business. And recently, I have had not one, but two different people ask me if I was “okay.” They wanted to be sure I wasn’t sick with cancer or something. I have lost 130 pounds, but I am NOT thin, by any stretch of the imagination. I just entered the “overweight” category on the BMI chart. I have a long way to go to approach normal, let alone thin, so they are just crazy. I just turned 46, too, so I am a little sensitive—does this weight loss make me look old?!

The other part of your post that hit home was your comfort level with having been so overweight, and your respect for other overweight people. I have a LONG way to go in this area. I despise myself for having been morbidly obese and still struggle with self-loathing (I am working on it, but it is a struggle…). When I see another obese person, I don’t hate them, but I certainly judge them (right or wrong, it is how I feel…). I also feel compassion for their situation and wish for them to be able to have some success in the weightloss area—for their health, and for their sense of self-worth. I feel like damaged goods…flawed in some intangible but never the less very real way. Have I so internalized society’s message that I do not think rationally about this? Or IS it something to want to change? I just don’t know… But it is part of the reason that my biggest fear continues to be the threat of gaining it all back. Statistics are not in my favor, that is for sure. A friend, who is taking a course in obesity for her dietician’s license, stated recently that I an am anomaly—that my kind of success (yours, too) is not supposed to be possible (or at least probable). She meant it as a compliment, until I reminded her that another word for anomaly is “FREAK!” I also gently explained that she was, in fact, voicing my greatest fear. In a recent post, you said something like “If I ever get fat again, I’ll think it reflects my lifestyle at that time, not that I’m a bad person.”—or something like that. I thought a LOT about that one. I’ve decided that I honestly think that I could not survive regaining. It would kill me. I have worked too hard at this and it has challenged me in so many ways (and continues to do so!). If I fail after this, I will die. I will not be able to see it as a different phase of my life. And that scares the hell out of me…

See? This is why I need your attitude every couple of days…it helps me balance my thinking and realize that there is another perspective out there. So THANKS!



Michelle • April 24, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Brian commented that people who are over weight themselves frequently will not even acknowledge what he’s accomplished. As a fat woman, I often don’t like it when acquaintences or family members that aren’t very close comment on my weight loss, because I always feel like I’m being evaluted and judged…especially since I always gain the weight back. So when I see someone that has lost weight, I tend to not say anything unless they bring the subject up because I don’t want to step in a land mine of personal anquish for that person.


Lily • April 24, 2007 at 11:01 pm

That is so fascinating about how people in rural China view fat, and they’re right of course. People who are well fed look healthy and beautiful. Sickly models in the magazines do not.

It makes me appreciate the fact that I live in a country where I don’t have to worry about starving.


yo • April 25, 2007 at 12:02 am


Cindy, this link might make you feel less stressed about regaining.


thrilled • April 25, 2007 at 10:07 am

I wish someone (or lots of people) had said that to me at any time on my way up to 200 pounds. Maybe then I wouldn’t have been in denial so long and gotten so far away from where I want to be.


PastaQueen • April 25, 2007 at 10:17 am

thrilled – I used to wonder why people never confronted me about my obesity. If I had been an alcoholic they would have had an intervention, right? But I think that reasoning was just a way for me to shift responsibility for my weight away from myself. I couldn’t keep waiting for someone to fix me, I had to fix myself.

I do think if someone has a serious weight problem, it’s okay for a loved one to say something about it, but they should do it in a kind, tactful, caring way and not in an asshole way. Otherwise it might just be more damaging to the fat person than helpful.


Kate • April 25, 2007 at 11:12 am

I have an aunt who tells me every time I see her that I look like I’ve lost weight. Since my weight has been fairly stable (+/- 10 pounds) for about 10 years, this simply isn’t possible. I wonder if it’s her generic compliment, or if she somehow has a mental image of me that’s heavier than reality (I wore a lot of baggy, unflattering clothes in my teens), or what else might be going on there.


a.m. • April 25, 2007 at 12:00 pm

On my wedding day, as I’m about to put on my wedding gown, my flower girl comes up to me, slaps my belly and gleefully chirps, “You’ve got a roll!” I bet her mother would have died if she’d heard her say that, but I thought (and think) it is perhaps one of the truly funny incidents in my life.


bitchwhoblogs • April 25, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Its funny to me – down more than fifty pounds in a year – my family who freely commented on my weight when I was obese – rarely acknowledge my weight loss.

Weight is so complex in our culture – it seems to me the medical condition of obesity has gotten caught up in the cultural morays and judgements surrounding being fat – and its confusing to people in terms of acknowledging significant weight loss.

Lately, I have found that there is almost some kind of virtue attached to my weight loss by others. I find it troubling that virtue and weight have become linked somehow in the minds of many people. There in nothing virtuous about being thinner and their was nothing morally troubling about being fat. Its not a moral or characterological issue – its a complex condition that weaves together the realms of the emotional, medical, social and behavorial; but moral, not at all.

Clearly, I need to stop ranting in your comments and just go post on this topic.


scfrogprincess • December 25, 2008 at 3:57 pm

I used to put off visiting my relatives thinking, I just need to lose some weight first. Well, it wasn’t happening and I did not want to put off the visit any longer. My grandpa had not seen me since I was 16, I was then 25 and no longer the 160lb teen. I think I weighed about 100lbs more then and the first thing out of my grandpa’s mouth was.. “girl, what’d you go and get so fat for?” I just wanted to die.. my grandma interjected something that took the spotlight off of me, but I do not remember as I was in shock and still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. Did I mention I had brought my first fiance along to meet them? The whole visit he kept saying little comments which made me miserable and not want to come back. It should have been a kick in the rear for me, but it just made it worse… well, I made it worse because I let it get to me in the wrong way rather that do something constructive. Eeks, sorry for the run-ons!


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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