I imagine this is partially due to the fact that any amount of weight loss results in a lot of compliments. Both when I dropped several sizes my senior year of undergrad, and over the recent break, people could not stop talking about how great I looked, as if losing a few pounds were the epitome of achievement. It doesn't matter how many other successes I attain; I can publish stories or win scholarships or learn new skills, and I guarantee that those accomplishments will never earn me more compliments than if I lose weight--probably because weight loss is simply such a visible accomplishment.
Or a perceived accomplishment, anyway. It can only truly be an accomplishment if you're trying to lose weight. And I don't think health concerns are the only valid reasons to lose (or gain) weight. You should be allowed to make your body look how you want it to look. My senior year of undergrad, I was actively trying to lose weight, so I happily basked in the glow of the compliments. Who doesn't love compliments? But those same compliments struck me as odd over break, because I wasn't trying to lose weight. I only lost weight because I was unwell, so it seemed like people were inadvertently praising me for being ill. (Not that this was their intention, of course.) What's more, I wasn't prepared for how fast the weight would drop off, so my body physically felt wrong, even though it was thin--like maybe my internal organs were going to start showing or something.
But now that I've gained some of the weight back, I can't help feeling guilty. I was uncomfortable with it off, and now I'm uncomfortable with it back on. And the craziest part about it is that I'm not overweight in the first place! I'm only slightly heavier than I was a few months ago! I am still very much within a healthy weight range!
I know that many people have struggled with these issues far more than I have. But I wanted to write about it all the same, because...well, because it's been on my mind, and this is my blog, dammit. I wish we could change the language around weight loss, that our society could stop universally treating it as an achievement, even when it's not meant to be. If people were to say "you look thin" instead of "you look great," that might help stop the association between the two. Of course, that might not work, either. Because I want people to tell me I look great regardless of my weight! I guess it would be useful, then, if there were a better way of discerning whether someone means "you look great in general," or "you look great because you've lost weight." Or maybe people should just be more liberal with their compliments all the time. Surely everyone could use the boost.