When Weight Loss Isn't Celebratory

Most of us are think when someone loses weight, it's for positive reasons. There are occasions when weight loss is a side effect of something much deeper happening in that person's life. One woman tells of her significant weight loss—and the surprising reactions from friends—to the New York Times. In "Cancer in the Family: Compliments on Being Thin" writer Jennifer Liebrum, shares the plight of trying to take care of her twin daughters, one who is in in isolation at a Boise, Idaho, pediatric oncology unit receiving chemotherapy to treat her acute myeloid leukemia. Between traveling 2.5 hours to the hospital, taking care of her daughter at home, and not eating in front of her daughter who got nauseous at the scent of food during treatment, Liebrum lost weight (her husband claims to gained weight). Liebrum found herself taken aback when a friend kept complimenting her about her weight loss. At the time, she was a loss of words. In retrospect, Liebrum had something to say about the odd compliments: Please, I want to tell them, do not admire how thin I have become since my daughter’s diagnosis — unless you are suggesting I look undernourished and want to give me a cupcake. My weight loss is not a goal you should aspire to, nor should it be confused with health and well-being. I was perfectly happy and fit in my pre-cancer-kid size, and a little hurt to hear that this shrinkage that could cost me a lot more than new pants makes me more beautiful than ever. But what is most painful for me is the collateral damage to my daughters. When they hear that Mom is enviably thin, they hear that this is a reward, a take away for the suffering. That thin is best no matter the circumstances. Society tells us that being thin is paramount. When someone loses a significant amount of weight, we're conditioned to recognize it as an achievement. But we don't take into account what is happening in the person's life. Maybe we should think twice about giving props when someone who loses a lot of weight in a short time. The reason may not be as simple as portion control.

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