Weight Loss and What Trainers Don’t Prepare You For

I’ve been working out hard and watching my diet for several months now, and I am doing well. I enjoy exercise and it’s one of the few moments that I get to have to myself during a busy day. It’s not really so much about changing the way that I look as opposed to changing the way that I feel. My back pain has become more manageable and my moods have become stabilized. I sleep better at night and also can shift between time zones more easily. There’s a spring in my step and I feel younger overall.

Of course I love food and I cheat on my ‘diet’ every day, and when I say ‘diet’ I mean eating pretty much gluten-free/grain-free/sugar-free foods but of course there’s always cookies and shit in there. It’s all about being consistent and doing something for myself physically every day.

I work with different trainers and they’ve helped a lot – but what they cannot prepare you for is when your body does change. How do you deal with being physically different? For me this manifests itself in a lot more attention from others. This is not always positive. In fact it can be quite disturbing. Being thinner, I have noticed people approaching me – mostly men, and it can be very strange. I don’t know what this is about. When you adhere more to a socially ‘acceptable’ body, there’s something that attracts others more to you. Last week on the Atlanta airport tram, an angry man sat down next to me and demanded to know why I was had so many tattoos because it was obvious I was old and really only young people should have them. He was very aggressive and I think was trying to hit on me, but really could only come at me in this very insulting way. I didn’t say anything – as I was actually truly terrified. He kept saying I was too old to have that many tattoos and kept looking at my body and my face trying to find some explanation. I wanted to run away but I was trapped on the tram and couldn’t find an escape. I remained silent, which triggered him further and made him come closer to me. Fortunately the tram stopped and I was able to run away from him. The male attention I have received since losing weight has been both aggressive and hostile like this and more tame, yet still boundary violating like some dude grabbing my waist and rib cage on the street, catcalls, etc. I am not sure what to attribute this to other than my changed appearance.

I also have been receiving more positive attention – and that’s a bit of a problem too. I think that trainers need to educate their clients on what to do with the amount of attention we receive in our new bodies. I think that for me, being thinner always meant being more sexual, and this is not necessarily appropriate for me. In the past, whenever I got thinner, I wanted to show my body to as many people as I could because I was convinced I wouldn’t have it for long, and so I wanted proof that it existed in the approving glances of others. I am old enough (not too old for tattoos) and mature enough now to know not to go crazy like this anymore. I want to keep my body healthy and enjoy being fit, and not feel that I have to be thin in order to be valued. I am valued at any size.

The other thing that trainers don’t really warn you about is shopping. It is such a rush to go to a store and be able to buy clothing! Before, when I shopped with my beautiful, thin actress friends, I would never be able to buy anything but housewares! They’d be trying on the cutest outfits and I was limited to mugs and bead curtains. Now I can wear different kinds of things and it’s so exciting that I want to shop all the time! It’s absolutely insane! To look at clothing tags that say ‘m’ and ‘s’ and even ‘xs’ sometimes is a total rush for me. It’s an expensive high though, and it’s not the right thing to do. It’s wonderful to be able to treat yourself to beautiful things, especially if you’ve been working hard toward a goal, but for me it’s a dangerous preoccupation!

Trainers have helped me so much in finding a good balance with eating and exercise, but the social behaviors are something that I need help with too!

38 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. Margaret,
    I can’t believe you’ve noticed it too. I thought I was just imagining it. After many years as a chubby teen, I lost a good bit of weight rather quickly (and not safely…who knew diet pills at that time were SPEED?) For the first time, I was lean and dressing in fashion. All of a sudden, I was being invited to parties, hit on left and right, and treated totally different by people I had known all of my life. People who had never even noticed me before. I guess, psychologically, I couldn’t handle it. After a few years, the weight began to come back. I saw it happening but did nothing to stop it. I think I liked it better when I was chubby. I knew who my friends were.

  2. i totally agree. when i lost weight, i found myself being accepted into circles that had rejected me before, people were coming on to me(which rarely happened before) and i had no idea who to really trust. i felt like no one liked me for what i really had to offer, but only for my newfound “acceptable” looks. i had not changed inside, only outside but it almost makes you feel like a new person because of how different people treat you when you “get skinny”

  3. I think a lot of trainers themselves are so focused on the weight loss aspect of fitness that they are always so “fat forward” with their training. A lot of trainers also have never had to deal with being overweight. I myself lost 80lbs and became a trainer and never pushed for my clients to look a certain way. But I noticed the other trainers around me always emphasizing weight loss. Same with diet. There are a million diets that help you lose weight but what about overall health? I would always tell my clients ” I can’t make you look a certain way, I can only help you be stronger and more fit and give you help with your nutrition, but how you want to look is out of my control.” Atlanta trams are fucking terrifying period and the best advice is if someone starts even talking to you just start macing. Don’t lose sight of what exercise is really about which is feeling great and extending your life and increasing your quality of life. Not decreasing your size.

  4. Part of me enjoys the distance/barrier that being fat creates. Like wearing ratty sweatshirts and sunglasses that make you feel delightfully invisible. With each cycle of weight loss I am reminded of my “transformation” between 6th and 7th grade when I went from being a fat girl with features that were too big for her face to a slender “exotic” looking woman child. My weight often fluctuates and with each new period of “skinniness” comes a new level of “attention from strangers/street sexual harassment” which can often be quite jarring. Thanks for the interesting reflection, I don’t often comment on blogs but this really resonated with me.

  5. Dude….

    This epitomizes exactly what I have felt for years about losing weight and being thinner. More attention terrifies me. I don’t like being in the spotlight but I love how I feel when I’m thinner. Like you, I have never enjoyed shopping because I can count on one hand the number of times I have had fun doing it and trying on clothes.

    The attention from men (positive or negative) is jarring and I think on a very deep subconscious level it is what has impeded me from allowing myself to go to the gym to take care of myself. Of course, there’s as bunch of other crap in there, too, but the attention thing is a sore spot. I don’t know where I get this from…..except to say I was probably ill prepared for being on the receiving end of male attention.

    Annnnnd like you, when I have been at a healthy weight, I would take it too far and feel like I had to “prove” myself, now that I looked “normal” and “socially acceptable.” Self-worth and value at a heavier weight has been a stone around my neck for years.

    Anyway, I just thought your whole post was succinct and makes a great point that I have read nowhere else. I’m sure psychologists and other food therapists discuss these things but not couched in such readable terms. Thanks so much for writing this. I hope to gain some personal freedom from this ‘aha’ moment!

  6. People are stupid, I guess. But you look great, and if you feel great that’s the most important thing. Great going Margaret!

  7. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been on a weightloss journey myself (I hate how pretentious that sounds, but I don’t know what else to call it) and the smaller I get, the more attention I am getting from men. It’s really hard to go from being invisible to getting glanced at like you’re in a Tex Avery cartoon.

    I am still by no means near the weight that I would like to be. Once I DO get to a healthy weight, what am I to expect? How should I react to unwanted attention? I am 29 and have a good head on my shoulders, but getting those kind of glances are intrusive and make me feel insecure. Jesus! This is the reason I got fat to begin with! Why didn’t Oprah and Bob Greene prepare me for this (haha)?!

  8. Thank you for this, Margaret. I’m currently losing weight, but I’m more in the beginning stages. (So far, I’ve gone down a size or two). I am already starting to get excited about wearing smaller sizes at clothing stores. You’re right – it is such a rush to try on a smaller size at a store, and not only does it fit – it looks good.

    And thanks for the heads up on the other things that might happen to me as I lose more weight. At least I can be somewhat prepared for it (at least more so than if I didn’t have the warning) and not feel alone.

    The tattoo attitude from that guy was dumb. Tattoos are supposed to be forever, right? And they’ve been around for years, so there are lots of people of various ages with tattoos. I guess he was trying to find a lame way to hit on you. I’ve also noticed that when someone has tattoos, some people feel like it’s suddenly okay to touch them and the tattoos, even if you’re a complete stranger. Not okay.

    Anyways, Margaret – Kudos to your improving health and all that you’ve achieved.

  9. Hey Margaret Cho,

    I say fuck all those people giving you shit about your tattoos. I work in surgery, and a doc asked me the other day “why on earth would you ever do that to yourself” (meaning my tattoos. I have, on my forearms, left and right “Serenity, Courage, Wisdom” and “Happy, Joyous, Free”, respectively, written in Hindi) At first, I felt both like reacting negatively, and/or thinking what I did WAS dumb, For a millisecond. Then I just told him that I did not think any less of him for NOT having any. I have learned to let negativity move right through me. And as far as your weight-loss, you go, sister, and rock that body. I myself have been working out, and losing some lbs., and people have noticed, even though I am wearing scrubs! I find it encouraging, and it compels me to continue, not toward any specific goal, mind you, just for health, both physical and mental. I will never have the body of a 21 year old again,( I am 52), and that’s ok. And I don’t do it for anybody but me and my dawgs. But I like seeing the progress; the other day I caught my self in the mirror, and saw definite awesome bi-cep action! I have been listening over and over to Eckhart Tolle’s ‘Power of Now’ on CD-what a difference this has made in my life. I have gone from the pit of despair (wah!) to a wonderful happy life. Love you, baby!

  10. yeah, i actually decided to gain weight about 6yrs ago because i got tired of the ridiculous amount of unwanted and sometimes frightening attention. i debated taking a self defense class or something, but couldn’t afford the regular classes, so i decided it’d be cheaper, easier, and tastier to get lazy, stop working out, and eat whatever i wanted…i may be a size 20, (used to be a 12/13), but people leave me alone now. but yeah, shopping is a serious drag and when i DO want to get noticed it’s not happening cause, i’m, ya know, FAT now. it’s moments like those that i fantasize i’m samantha from bewitched…*sigh* ; )

  11. I’ve had this experience as well. In the past 6 years I have lost over 100 pounds through diet and exercise alone. The difference in attention from both genders is noticeable. Men are much friendlier and include me in more activities and I get approached by women now when I never did before. This doesn’t surprise me, what surprises me is the hypocrisy I see in people who never gave me the time of day when I was fat. Guys greeting me like old friends, girls chatting me up. The other unexpected outcome I’ve experienced is all the subtle hatred and jealousy from my heavy friends who mock or ridicule me for the attention I get as if I seek it out. I lost the weight because I wanted to be healthier and feel better, not to gain popularity. Like Julie said, though, I think it’s an issue most trainers don’t even realize exists. The majority of trainers never dealt with weight issues. If they did, it was usually being too skinny rather than being too heavy. This is the type of experience only another person who has made that transformation can relate to. I’ve considered becoming a trainer specializing in obese clients because there are so many issues (physical, mental and emotional) that only a former obese person can address. It’s easier now to find support online among people who have gone through similar experiences, but next to impossible when you’re at the gym.

  12. Thank you Margaret for sharing your story, I am glad someone is opening discussing this!
    In mid January I decided to start getting healthier and in this past 6 months I have lost 17 lbs. As a Chinese American, almost all of my Chinese female friends are skinny. Thus, I have always been pressured to be skinnier. Since losing some weight, the reactions that have surprised me and disturbed me the most are those from my family. My mother used to criticize me everyday about my weight and now she smiles more when she sees me. Other people also act friendlier as well. I really don’t like how I am treated with more value or with better attitude simply because I have changed in appearance.
    At the same time losing weight feels great, it also adds a fear. I am beginning to think omgosh if I go back to 17 lbs heavier then all this approval would go away. Like many of the commentors, I would like to be treated with love because of who I am on the inside. I am trying to not build confidence based on the way I look but based on the strength and spirit I feel on the inside.

  13. The reason we hang on to excess weight is not because we’re always hungry and love food; it’s because we subconsciously try to avoid the very thing you just noticed. It’s a constant push and pull between wanting health and wanting to be left alone. If people, mostly men, didn’t act so weird, we would all be thin and fit into any pair of jeans.

  14. I noticed a change in way people treat you when you gain weight. It’s harder to get a job, no guys look at you and your friends don’t call you to shop any more only to have lunch because they think that’s what your good at now. Or they call you up and ask you if you know of where a good place is to eat even if you never have been to that area?! Embrace your attention because it’s lonely when it’s all gone!!!

  15. I actually have a similar problem… I don’t like to go outside or go to the gym to exercise because I don’t like getting attention from men, and I’m afraid one night I’ll be walking home and I’ll get raped or something. I wish I could afford a treadmill. -.-

  16. I agree that there is the need out there for the social adjustment of weight loss to be addressed, but I’m not sure it is a trainer’s job. Granted, a trainer who did this would likely have a very loyal following, but this sounds like something you’d find more easily in a support group or online support group. At least, that’s been my experience. Here’s to your health and long, tattooed existence!

  17. I was talking to a young woman who is a sales clerk at Title 9 in Los Gatos this morning who is very thin, and I am taller, wiegh more, and just bigger than her…anyway she didn’t quite get that clothes, as we get larger or are larger, don’t look as good on us as they do on thinner people. I am 5’4″ at 160. I am fit and look good for 56 but I remember being 125 and feeling better because I wasn’t pulling all this weight around. Like a previous poster said we’ll never see that weight again, so enjoy it while you can. As we age it just gets harder and harder to lose the fat so keep up the good work Margaret and everyone else, lift those weights, get out and walk or whatever you enjoy doing and be happy with who you are.

    Now that you can move that body better…try dogsledding!!!!

  18. I totally know what you mean but in the other direction. In my thiner but not thin life the only people that would hit on me was the oldest and/or ugliest guy in the place with out fail, I’ve put on about 40 lbs and I have to say the one thing I like about it is that now not even the that guy thinks i’m worthy. This does not bother me one bit and i think it may be why I am savitoging myself everyday. Why would anyone want to go back to that life. But you are right about the clothes as well. A closet full of beautiful and cute closes and no one to wear them. Thank you so much for seeing more to weightloss then a smaller #.

  19. Good points. I can relate and trainers would be wise to address these issues. After losing weight and being pursued by men who had previously rejected me when I was chubby (often with cruelty) I found that when I’m thin I don’t trust the men I date. I don’t know they’d still want me if I gained weight. This contributed to developing an eating disorder. I was convinced my boyfriend would leave if I gained weight. It’s not an easy thing to overcome. I definitely feel more secure and confident in relationships when I’m heavier.

  20. Margaret, I’ve been a fan and admired you for a long time, and I really appreciate this post. I sympathize with you about the pull of wanting the good things about weight loss, but being aware of the bad things. It’s refreshing to see someone who has lost weight and gained health (which are two separate things that don’t always go together) acknowledge that there are some emotional minefields to walk through. So many people who lose weight revel in the increased attention and their increased clothing options and such, but don’t acknowledge how fucked up it is that suddenly people treat you like you’re worth more, which means that you were worth less when you were bigger, even though you were the same person inside. Some people have internalized that fat hatred so much that they believe it’s appropriate and natural for people to respect and like them more when they’re thin. I’m so glad that you’re reaping the health benefits of your hard work but still have your eyes wide open to reality, although I’m truly sorry you have to put up with bullshit from people like Scary Tram Guy. Rock on, girl.

  21. I have been there and I agree with you. I was definitely not used to the attention when I lost weight years ago and feel that part of the reason I put the weight back on was due to some of the turbulence I experienced. My mother became jealous, so did my female friends, and as a result I lost those friends. Plus there was the new attention in my life from men that I didn’t always welcome and a new mistrust of them that was a pain to deal with. I think it would have been good for me to talk to somebody about it, but I never did. I think trainers are just used to being in a fit physical condition but nobody prepares you mentally for some of the negative aspects of being more attractive. You are an insightful person and I believe you will work through things. Life always presents new challenges as you go through its successes as well as its failures and sometimes we can all use some guidance when our lives change. Its good that you are recognizing these challenges so that you can decide how you want to deal with them. You are always so inspiring to me *hugs*. Stand tall, stay centered, and when someone bothers you, you can always say “Listen, no offense but I’m trying to think, and I’d just like to be left alone ok? Thanks.” Really. You need your space.

  22. I can sympathise with anyone who says “they don’t know who to trust” when people treat them differently depending on their size, but it would be good to remember that 99% people don’t do it on purpose. It’s an uncoscious behaviour much like internalised sexism.
    As an introvert, being heavier has always been a sort of a protection even though I didn’t realise it until a few years ago. It’s been like wearing a burqa: I can easily tell myself that my physical presence shouldn’t matter as much and being a sexual being is over rated and that because I have an awesome personality, my neglected physical appearance in forcing myself and others to simply concentrate on “who I really am”. But I’m not just a brain in a jar and being a sexual being is a large part of myself and my life and it has been so wonderful to remember how it feels to be present in my body and life as the weight has dropped off (thought of course connecting with your physicality doesn’t necessarily mean losing weight). But it also made me remember how exhausting it can be to exist on other people’s radar. When you’re overweight, you ted to become invisible, but it’s not just how other people treat you, it’s also what you want for yourself when you put up that protective shield and “tell” them to not treat you as a physical being but just look at your personality.

    We’re complex beings of physical, sexual and psychological. All of these aspects of ourselves are equally worthy and important. Being present in all of these aspects unfortunately means having to deal with all of them from other people too.

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  24. Margaret, you were beautiful before your transformation so don’t you dare for a second doubt that. If there’s one thing that I am learning from life it’s definitely to not give a f–k what people say. Just be happy! We love you regardless of your outer appearance. I like to think that our bodies are only shells of our souls. So if you shine bright on the inside you’ll definitely have the energy to shine bright outside. I hate to sound so cheesy but I just felt I needed to add to this. Society is so judgemental on outer appearances! I feel like we’re all fighting a war against ourselves. Don’t know if you’ll read this but I totally ship you and your efforts for a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your inner musings. Good to know other people ponder these things too. ; )

  25. I’m so glad someone with such a prominent – and brilliant – voice is speaking out about something which is actually a pretty common phenomenon … because it happens a lot, to a lot of people, and there aren’t a lot of people willing to talk about it.

  26. I use to be the funny fat guy. Now I’m the skinny a-hole. ..and I am the same guy telling the same jokes too.

    You look great Margret, ..but losing all that weight made you less funny and killed your comedy career.

  27. Wow! I’m really late on this one but couldn’t help myself. Cho, I love your blunt comedy and style. Congrats on getting your body to a healthy state. To you or anyone else who wants to waste time reading my thoughts: First and foremost, I’m not here to address why or how trainers don’t generally train people’s minds. Second, grow up people! Of course strangers don’t know you for what you are worth on the inside since they are strangers. The next thing we all analyse by is looks. If you are obese, that tends to say you don’t respect yourself enough to treat your body right and you probably have a very low self esteem and screwed up life. Granted, you could be skinny and still have the all of this crap wrong with you but this interpretation is obviously more apparent when you’re obese and people first look at you. Sometimes it’s conscious and sometimes it’s subconscious. Why would anybody want to be with such a person when those are the first vibes they pick up from you? Same thing with skimpy dressed women and poorly dressed raggedy men, then again there is someone out there for everyone but think about the people that would be attracted to those looks and what that generally says about them…….. Treat your body right by getting in shape and yes, you will get positive, unwanted and negative attention in different ways. People are more likely to approach you if you are well dressed, groomed and fit since that subconsciously indicates the same about other aspects your life. That’s just how it is and whether it’s the attention from that person that you want or not just depends on the situation. Yes there are douche-bags/disrespectful/overconfident/etc. (men and women) out there that are in good shape and may come across the wrong way when they seek your attention but know this, it comes with the territory and every fit person for the most part goes through it just like every obese person goes through it on a similar but different level. You’re not immune from undesired attention just because you are naturally skinny either… Skinny and fit people have had to deal with it for a while to the point that it tends to be part of life. Yes, if you’re fit, members of the opposite sex will be sexually attracted to you and your fit friends are generally more welcoming. Duhhhh! In terms of family, if you’re obese, that tells other people you’re not in good health and they will tend to act on it depending on the level of obesity whether you want it or not. You already know how they act on it (push you to loose weight, avoid you if they are the problem avoiding type, more subtle ways, etc.) Would you want your kids growing up seeing a 400lb uncle Joe or a fit 180lb uncle Joe? Grow up, grow some balls and handle it people, it’s life!

  28. I stumbled in here via a link after seeing a pic of a very slim Margaret Cho. I’ve always liked Margaret and her comedy and her attitude… but I’m very impressed with her getting healthy and choosing to lead a healthier lifestyle. She’s more of an inspiration than she knows, I’m sure. I’m sorry to hear about the negative and aggressive male attention but I think if you told them something like, “Hey, you want me to teach you karate the hard way?” and then they’ll just slink away because gettin’ beat-up by a girl is embarrassing and they’ll never know it was a spoof. Anyway, I’m lookin’ forward to seeing more Margaret Cho comedy in the not too distant future. How ’bout you?

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  30. I really appreciated reading this and all the comments. I felt a little crazy recently with all the attention. I’m a bit angry about it, but also just trying to take it a step at a time and learn how to navigate. I don’t want to gain the weight back, but i would like a man who is interested in my person first and foremost.

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