I’m dreading a corporate meeting because of my weight gain

A reader writes:

I was hoping for some perspective, a pep talk, or some advice. Our large corporate meeting (the one time in the whole year where the whole company gathers) is coming up, and I am so embarrassed that I have put on some weight.

I’ve actually put on some weight each of the past three years, but this year was the point where I looked in the mirror and thought “oh no!”

Like a lot of my company, I work remotely most of the time, so although I do make periodic trips to corporate, it has been a whole year since I’ve seen a lot of these folks. I have a (hopefully irrational) fear that some of them won’t recognize me or will sit in judgment.

In fairness to myself, my work/life balance has been truly nonexistent this year due to a reorg. I am talking marathon weekdays, many weekend days, and very little PTO. I also recently came down with a medical condition that has required several medications and greatly reduced my energy level (so if I wasn’t working, I was sleeping). However, I feel like this in turn is displaced blame because why did I allow myself to work those hours? I also will feel like this is not a situation that deserves blame, but then I turn around and do it anyway. Additionally and especially, I don’t think people should be judged by their weight — it’s not right! However, that does not stop the loop in my head.

I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, but I also suspect I may have an undiagnosed social anxiety disorder. I feel like greeting everyone with a disclaimer about my weight. I was extremely overweight for many years, and if I’m honest, I do think it held me back at that time (not that that should hold anyone back, but I think in reality it did).

Any insight or advice to get through this would be helpful! I am already on track for greater work/life balance and will never do that to myself again.

I’m also curious to hear from other readers if it’s normal to get a little bit of nerves before these meetings. I am a seasoned professional with many years of experience and a respected title, and every year I still get jumpy before each of these events! (So it’s not a function of being new to the workforce.)

Oh, I’m sorry! This is a crappy feeling.

But definitely do not greet anyone with a disclaimer about your weight! I know you’re likely not seriously planning that, but just in case: That will come across strangely and create awkwardness, particularly by putting the focus on your body in a work situation where people shouldn’t be focused on it.

The reality is, people don’t think about us nearly as much as we think they do. It’s so easy — especially with anxiety, but really for most people — to assume that the weight gain / a massive forehead zit / a stained shirt / etc. is jumping out as other people as incredibly noticeable and distracting and A Major Thing That Demands Acknowledgement, when most people just don’t think about it that much.

I’m not telling you people don’t notice it at all. (Although, some people really don’t notice.) I’m telling you people don’t care that much. They notice, they barely care, they move on. They’re not dwelling on it. Most people register it as, at most, “oh, okay.”

No decent person will see your weight gain and think, “OMG how horrifying! What a scandal!”

It might help to think about what you’ve thought when you’ve encountered someone who looks different than they used to. Are you judging them and thinking “what a humiliation”? I bet you don’t. It’s just not something people tend to get preoccupied by in others.

Also, remember that people know weight gain is a thing that happens. They probably know and love people who are larger than they’d like to be. For some of them, they themselves are larger than they’d like to be. You almost definitely aren’t the only one!

It also might help to think where your urge to greet people with the weight disclaimer is coming from, because teasing that apart might make it clearer how your brain is messing with you (as they do). I suspect it stems from feeling like, “If I announce it, they’ll know I know and it won’t be this awkward thing hanging between us. I’ll have acknowledged it and owned it, and that will make everyone more comfortable.” But they’re not assuming you don’t know, and this isn’t like having a piece of lettuce in your teeth where someone needs to say something. You’re just a different size. That’s it.

One other thought! Ahead of this meeting, can you make a point of seeing/socializing with non-work people who haven’t seen you in a while? That might help you take away some of the panic over the “must not be publicly viewed” thing you’re having now.

Also, I am HERE for your battle to regain control over your hours and feel healthier as a result. That’s been my battle too recently, and it is hard, and we will do it.

{ 268 comments… read them below }

  1. Dragoning*

    If I haven’t seen someone in a year, not even by video conference or something, I would be well on my way to forgetting what they looked like regardless of any changes. Perhaps re-framing it that way could help. I’m sure most of your coworkers have also had significant physical changes! Drastic haircuts or colors, balding, weight loss, maybe someone had a baby or became pregnant, or other medical conditions.

    1. Dragoning*

      (Also–and I don’t know if this will help–but, I work with a lot of coworkers around the world, and when they stop by for long meetings or other work-related visits, I am usually struck by “wow, they’re way more attractive than they were in my head/the company photo.” So you know. Maybe people will think you look fantastic!)

    2. EPLawyer*

      That was my thought. If I haven’t seen someone in a year I am very unlikely to remember a lot about how they look. Hair color — maybe. But yeah, most people won’t remember what you weighed last year and compare it to this year. Because they haven’t thought about what you look like for a year.

      Which sounds kinda counter intuitive to someone with anxiety. OMG they are are all noticing me, then going to Wait No one Even Thought about me? WHYYY??? Don’t get caught in THAT loop either.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yes, when I’m at conferences and meet someone I should know (but haven’t seen since the last conference), I always have to do a quick check of their name tag. I really, really don’t remember how they looked the last time. If you only see these people about once a year, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll remember enough about what you looked like to make any comparisons at all.

      So wear whatever makes a nice professional outfit in your industry, and pin your name badge near your collar on your right side, so people can sneak a quick look at it while they shake your hand.

      1. Jossycakes*

        Oh gawd I love name tags! Even when I know their name it’s hard to recall it all at a conference. Also, some people spell their name differently than it is spoken and sometimes it takes me a moment to register.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          And make the name tags large enough I don’t have to get really close and squint to read them!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Agreed, I’ve had many a ‘I’m not reading that name tag because it’s tiny and on your chest’ moments.

    4. Jennifer*

      That’s a good point. People really don’t think of us as much as we assume they do. Sounds cold but it’s an oddly comforting thought to me.

      1. Free now (and forever)*

        Even people that you work with daily don’t notice that much about you. Weight loss support forums are full of complaints like “I’ve lost 30 . . . 40 . . . . 50 pounds—why hadn’t anyone at work noticed?!?!” People just aren’t that observant. That’s why witness accounts of events can differ so much in descriptions of what happened.

        1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

          Exactly. In the opposite scenario, when I was six months pregnant I had colleagues who didn’t notice. I was asking one about her experience with maternity leave, and she got this confused “what??” look on her face and started looking for my belly, which was *right there.* At first I was a little insulted at the idea that those colleagues thought I had always been 20 pounds heavier than my normal weight. Then I realized it’s a good thing that they didn’t spend any time at all looking at or thinking about my waistline.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            To be fair, an additional 20 lbs doesn’t make a whole lot of difference on most people. Not so that the average coworker would notice at a conference, anyway.

        2. Harvey 6-3.5*

          Absolutely. My son shaved the neck hair off his beard yesterday, as his mother had asked, and we didn’t notice (but that isn’t as bad as when I was a kid and my dad had shaved off his mustache of many years, and my mom and two of my brothers and I didn’t notice until a third brother got home from basketball practice and asked what happened to the mustache). And those were people we see/saw everyday!

          So yeah, while some may notice, don’t be surprised to get compliments on weight loss either.

        3. Assistant Manager*

          I have a coworker who lost about 60 pounds, and I honestly didn’t notice until she started bragging about it. (It was well deserved bragging! We haven’t discussed it, but I’m 99% sure she started changing her eating habits to get a better handle on her diabetes.)

          I’m pretty close with her and work with her most days and it still didn’t dawn on me until she started sizing down her clothes. I can guarantee you it would take me forever to notice if she — or anyone else — started putting on weight.

          1. Karen*

            Hahaha, my dentist lost about 100 lbs and I asked if he had shaved his beard! I just never thought much about his physique because he’s such a nice guy.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      This. Guarantee you I don’t recall the particulars of your appearance unless (even if) I see you regularly, and I’m definitely not going to spend any time analyzing it.

      1. UbiCaritas*

        Almost everyone is wondering how they look. They’re thinking about themselves, not about you. Personally, I’d wear something I’m comfortable in, in a color that I feel good in. (It wasn’t until I hit 60 that I stopped worrying about what everyone else was thinking about me. The fact is, almost everyone else was thinking about lunch, or traffic, or what they needed to get on the way home.)

    6. Joie*

      I was coming here to point this out too!

      Seeing someone once a year means of course there are some people who won’t recognize you AND IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR WEIGHT. I struggle with people I only see every few months let alone once a year

      1. Joie*

        that came out much more aggressive then I meant it. but the point is, you have some time to separate the two things in your brain and you should, because no one thinks about our weight and appearance as much as we do about ourselves and we are our own worst critics.
        I recently gained about 40lbs, and funny thing – most people did not notice. It was all I could think about but when I said something to one of my friends she stopped dead and thought I was messing with her. Because she didn’t even notice and I see her regularly!

    7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yup. I’m a bit exceptional as a case b/c I’m face blind, so the chances are I’m going to be going “… Oh, right, that’s what Soandso looks like,” and not even register differences year-over-year. But even people with better memories for faces than mine, I think with that long a lag time in between they’re more likely to assume they misremembered instead of assuming you’ve had a major change over time.

      1. Dragoning*

        There are coworkers I see nearly every day, and when they met me, they commented on my particular haircut, because it’s unusual.

        A couple months later, I got it cleaned up and freshly-done, as one does, and they were like “wow, new haircut!”

        No one remembers what other people look like.

        1. Law Student Life*

          Exactly this! I’ve had braces for three years. As a 29-32yo legal professional and evening student I was so self-conscious about them all three years.

          I FINALLY got them off last Monday and NO ONE has noticed or commented at work. People I see in face to face meetings daily didn’t notice. I’m torn between being thrilled and sad that nobody noticed.

          OP, I hope you have a good, if not great, time at the conference rocking YOU as you are and making no apologies. If people don’t notice a thing like braces after three years of seeing them on a daily basis, your peers are unlikely to notice (or comment or be bothered) by a change in your appearance. And if they do, well that says much more about them than you.

    8. nnn*

      Building on this, what if you made a bold, awesome change to your appearance – a fantastic new hair colour or something? That would provide a lightning rod for any comments about your appearance.

      This isn’t for everyone (Maybe your hair is already at peak amazingness and any changes would just be messing with perfection! Maybe your inner voice would outsmart you and think that any positive comments about your hair are really negative comments about your weight!) but it’s something to consider and think about whether it would be helpful to you.

    9. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      This happened to me. I had gained weight in the year since seeing people. I was so nervous about what they would think. One person did walk right past me without recognition. But I had said hi and she wheeled around, looked at me and the light bulb went on. She said “oh! I’ve been looking for you, but tuning out anyone who didn’t have long hair and your got yours cut. Ack!” And she was truly delighted to see me.

      1. SebbyGrrl*

        So Not the Boss of Me – THIS!!! x infinity!!

        I hope OP reads these because this is a fantastic pure example and thought they can use when anxiety weasels start their tirade.

        OP one of the ways I fight anxiety thinking (which is flawed and usually not accurate – that’s the first thing I say to remind myself/talk myself down) is using these kinds of examples or what I call roll call therapy – an example would be “I read this AAM column and 5(0) rational people said X. I can rely on that information to be rational and likely true. Alison said it directly too – another expert with reliable data. So I have multiple sources of reliable data that prove what my brain is telling me is inaccurate and I can disregard those thoughts.”

        Another version is a run down a list of friends, clients, experts and say “X person says Y thing and I can rely on that information to refute what my brain is saying.” I often need to go through 5 or more people but shortly/eventually I can see/believe and behave from a place relying on good expert info. not flawed anxiety thinking.

        OP you mentioned 2 different types of anxiety – so you’ve got it doubly bad – you can use that KNOWN truth to refute what anxiety weasels are trying to spin.

        Along with this blog and this community another outstanding blog that has helped me with mental health issues is Captain Awkward – that is where I got the term anxiety weasels. I can’t tell you HOW MUCH just that terminology has helped me in fighting that stuff that comes from a malfunctioning brain system.

        In other words – while yes, you know you have gained weight – all the other mean, hurtful, self demeaning talk is not you, it’s your brain working against you.

        I’ve never met or seen you but I am 100% certain your brain is making this 90% worse than it is. I’ve only read what you wrote – but I respect and value you as a person in this place. If I (an internet stranger) can extend that kindness to you, surely you can see others will also and that you could give yourself that gift too – you are completely worthy of that and thinking more highly of yourself.

        The negatives you note about yourself are completely normal things that happen to humans. You are not less than because of this current result of recent conditions. There is nothing inherently wrong about you or your current state – it is just that, your current state some parts of it will shift over time. This is NOT the sum total of who you are.

        Lastly if it is in your budget I would do as someone else said – get a hairstyle change or ask a trusted friend to help you shop for an outfit that makes you feel great in it – ;) another lesson I learned the longest way – sometimes I DON’T actually know/see what really flatters me, I have recently taken to just believing and doing something else clothing/ style wise that feels ALL wrong because I can trust this other person and there’s some chance my perception of how I look/what looks good on me is miscalculated.

        Best of luck – you can SO DO THIS and feel 100 times better on the other side.

        1. Advice Column Addict*

          I’m generally always a lurker, but I thought I’d come out of the woodwork to +1 the Captain Awkward suggestion. The commentators there are just as lovely as here, and there’s also the Friends of Captain Awkward forum.

          I don’t know if this is helpful, but when I feel uncomfortable, I try to flip the narrative to take the pressure off myself. I imagine everyone else is feeling super self-conscious about themselves, so I imagine it’s my job as the secret hostess of the event to try to help others ease that stress (the way I might not necessarily be able to help myself). I end up being more actively engaged and it mutes my jerkbrain.

          A bonus to being warm and genuine and willing to laugh (with kindness) at how clumsy we all are is that the sunshine circles back to me, too, so when I think back after the event it feels warm and fuzzy, not rife with lingering dread.

    10. CheeryO*

      Your second point is huge. No one else’s body is static, either, and they might have their own things that they’re self-conscious about. I definitely have a little voice in the back of my head at our annual conference that my skin is just a little bit crappier than it was last year, my hair is less shiny, etc.

    11. Quill*

      Yeah, it would actually take me less than a year to forget the fine details of a coworker’s appearance. I’d probably retain relative height (shorter than / taller than me) hair color, maybe “that’s the blonde with freckles.”

    12. Sophie before she was cool*

      Yes, exactly. I attended my own large corporate meeting of mostly remote workers last week. I didn’t immediately recognize one of my colleagues because she *had* gained a significant amount of weight in the past year. But honestly, there were other colleagues I didn’t immediately recognize for various reasons. One woman was dressed significantly differently from previous years (suit rather than jeans). Most embarrassingly, I didn’t recognize one person because he is in fact significantly shorter than I remembered him being. (No, he didn’t shrink.)

      1. SebbyGrrl*

        Another great example.

        In particular you noted the weight gain kind of in hindsight (as to why you may not have recognized that person at first).

        Your observation was “Oh, that’s why I didn’t recognize them.” There are no negatives there, just observation that something is different.

        That is how most people are likely to process the situation.

  2. Lilo*

    I think Alison’s advice here is terrific. Please don’t lead with a disclaimer on your weight!

    But it does also sound like you’re in a telework cave. This can be a danger of teleworking, that you end up having it be your whole life. I’d urge you to come up with an “appointment” every week that you have to put work down for and go to. It can be anything from a yoga class to a book club, whatever makes you happy. A regular group where the motivation is external, it can’t be put off, you put the work down now.l and go.

    1. Working Mom*

      Yes! Try to find some small way to make time for yourself. Honestly – even if it’s 5 min to step outside and breathe fresh air. Start small!

      And also about the meeting – know that everyone else is more concerned with how they appear themselves… they are not likely to be too worried about your appearance. As a young HS kid… I remember getting ready for a wedding of a family member. I was legit stressed out about running out of time to paint my nails. I was horrified that I’d be going to wedding with unpainted nails!! (Remember, I was about 15-16, ha.) I remember my Mom asked me if I really thought people would be paying attention to my nails? “Don’t you think they’ll be paying more attention to the bride than you?” Duh. Good reminder that no one is that focused on you – they are focused either on the center point of the meeting/event, or themselves :)

      Good luck to you!!

    2. Texan In Exile*

      Yes, this. I am recently unemployed (my position was eliminated) and am forcing myself to attend at least one networking-type thing a week. I hate leaving the house. I would much rather stay in and feel sorry for myself and read and watch season 6 of Longmire, but I need to get my butt out of the house.

      I have made some rules for myself: Apply for two jobs a day (although that’s slowed down because I have cleared the backlog of positions that were showing in mid-December), do at least one chore or thing to make the world better a day (dropping clean, empty yogurt containers at church for them to use for Sunday school class counts), and exercise every day.

      I don’t get to wallow in self pity or watch TV until I have done these things. :)

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, my last poisition also ended last month and I have made a list of stuff to do every day so I wouldn’t slip into a depression/unhealthy habits. It includes “shower/get dressed”, “go outside”, “cook and eat a healthy meal”, “meditate”, “call grandma” (or whoever that is for you!), “contact 1 friend per day” (which means reconnecting with a lot of people I’ve been too busy to meet when I was working), “apply for one job” (which I’ve been letting slide because I’m currently preparing for a test/interview for one job I have applied to, but I still look for stuff I could apply to) and other things I personally need in my life, like “listen to music” and “read before bed”. I feel like it helps.

  3. ThatGirl*

    I’ve gained weight over the years – I’m now in my late 30s and the metabolism isn’t want it used to be, plus stress levels go up, activity levels go down, etc. It sounds like you’ve had some serious health challenges on top of everything else, and that can absolutely make it even more difficult. But I agree with Alison and specifically wanted to highlight this:

    It might help to think about what you’ve thought when you’ve encountered someone who looks different than they used to.

    When I see someone who looks different than the last time I saw them, I *might* notice, but I would never say anything unless it was complimentary — “I love your hair!”or “ooh, cool new tattoo” maybe. Never a comment on weight, even positively, especially if it’s someone I only know in a professional context. That would just be weird and rude.

    Might it help to buy a new outfit you feel really confident in, or get your hair cut/done just beforehand? Then you’ll have something positive and happy to think about instead of feeling self-conscious.

    1. Mbarr*

      I’ll second all of this. Remember how you’ve reacted when you see other people in similar situations!

      And definitely make sure you have an outfit you feel fabulous in. Do your hair and makeup if that helps. Also, I don’t really condone spanx (cause society shouldn’t tell us we need to pretend to be thinner than we are, nor match their unrealistic body standards), but if an undergarment like this will help you feel more self-confident, go for it!

      1. Mimi*

        Yes, if you can afford it, I highly recommend an outfit that you like and makes you feel good about yourself, or, if you aren’t at a place where feeling good about yourself is a possibility, an outfit that you think is inherently cool: My dress has SPACESHIPS on it. And it has pockets. Booyah!
        It’s harder if the meeting is really formal, but you still might be able to find a color or fabric you like a lot.

        I also second what someone else said up-thread, that most of these people probably don’t remember that well what you looked like before/if they don’t recognize you it’s not the weight gain, it’s just been a year and they don’t see you that often/you almost certainly look better in person than at the weird angle and lighting of a video call.

        1. nnn*

          Building on this, if you’re struggling to find clothes you feel good in, get yourself some fantastic earrings, or a statement manicure, or some bold shoes.

          One of my secret weapons is a pair of bright red Fluevogs, matching earrings, and whatever nondescript black outfit is most comfortable that day.

      2. Meg Murry*

        I also came here to suggest you make sure you have at least one outfit per day of meeting that you feel comfortable and confident in. If it is at all in your budget, don’t even go into your closet (unless there is something there that you absolutely love that you think might be an appropriate size) – just go buy yourself a new outfit for this event. Even though the number on the tags may sting a little bit initially, wearing clothes that are the right size for who you are today is going to draw far *less* attention to you than squeezing into something you already have that doesn’t quite fit.

        In fact, if this is one of the only times a year when you need to step out of “work from home” clothes to business casual (or business formal or wherever in between these meeting fall) – I’d suggest working it into your personal annual budget to get something new every year for this event. Don’t be me and procrastinate and then discover you have literally zero clothes that fit and meet the dress code the morning of the meeting.

        1. Smithy*

          Yes to all this.

          When you know that you’ve put on weight and then there’s your “oh this is the outfit I typically wear to XYZ meeting” – it really can be areal gut punch to realize the week/morning of that it no longer fits. Or that it fits but is frumpier, less flattering, whatever, than you remember. If you already are feeling self conscious of your appearance, giving yourself the time and space to see what you will look like is recommended versus allowing for a surprise.

          If a true whole new outfit isn’t possible, then again – a new lipstick, pair of earrings, shirt, shapewear – just something that amps you up.

        2. Student*

          For women in this situation, if finances are a concern, a free month’s subscription to a rental service like Gwynnie Bee that is size-inclusive can get you access to a few work items that actually fit. (I don’t know if there are comparable services for men, I’m sorry.) The trick is to sign up a couple of weeks in advance and then cycle through your available options as quickly as you can, holding on to anything that looks great on you. After the meeting, send everything back and cancel your subscription. I actually paid for two months’ subscription for a summer internship, and it was a very good way to look professional on a budget after having kids and gaining lots of baby weight.

          1. SebbyGrrl*

            Oh that’s an outstanding idea that wouldn’t have occurred to me.

            Gwynnie B has a GREAT reputation.

            Might steal that for myself, THANKS!

        3. WantonSeedStitch*

          THIS THIS THIS. I’ve gained a lot of weight over the past 5-6 years myself, but buying new clothes that fit comfortably and make me look my best keeps me feeling confident and happy, even though I’ve had a lot of emotional issues around my weight all my life.

        4. Eurekas*

          I went to a wedding this summer, where most of the women I visited with said some form of “This was the only thing I had that fit”. (We were part of the Choir, so we’d been asked to wear dresses, in solid colors. )

          Yes, this was not a professional gathering, but it does emphasize how common the challenge of weight gain is, especially for women.

        5. Easter*

          Seconding/thirding/fourthing this. I’m plus size so I 100% feel your anxiety and stress. I would absolutely treat myself in this situation — more than just making sure I was wearing clothing that made me feel confident and comfy, I would treat/bribe/reward myself: “yeah, okay, stressful conference but woohoo! as a reward for getting through this gross situation, you get to buy that great bag/totally unnecessary cashmere sweater/fancy shoes/expensive haircut/etc!” Good luck!

      3. irene adler*

        And, warmly greet all the folks you haven’t seen in a year or more. That makes folks feel good. They will return the feeling.

    2. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

      Yup, get clothes that fit you well and totally get your hair cut if that’s something that gives you a boost. Also, when you see your coworkers think of something nice about them in your head. It could be something that you like about what they are wearing or what an infectious laugh they have etc. It keeps your mind from going into the self conscious cycle and reinforces the positives. Good luck!

    3. Jay*

      Seconding/thirding/fourthing the suggestion to figure out what will make you feel *fabulous* and finding a way to do to it. Might be clothes, might be shoes, might be hair, could be anything – the important thing is that you will feel better in your own skin.

      I was very fat for a long time. I’m a doctor. When I was in a particularly anxious headspace, I’d get into a spiral thinking about what terrible things people must be thinking about me, which reinforced the shame I already felt, and on and on. The reality is that in 30 years only one person ever said anything, and we all already knew he was an ass. Did people notice? Maybe. I didn’t really care, though, as long as it didn’t interfere with my professional relationships, and it didn’t.

      Also: if you’re over-working to the degree that you’re not getting enough sleep and you can adjust that, sleep deprivation is toxic and leads to worsening anxiety. You’ll feel *so much better* if you get good sleep. Wishing you rest, peace of mind, and a successful meeting – however you define that.

    4. drpuma*

      I’ve never been good at dressing the same as everyone else, so my goal has been to look like the best possible version of myself. That’s much more of a boost to my confidence than trying to fit in. I’m sure there is an outfit that will make you feel like the best possible version of present-day you.

      And if you have any fun, bold accessories that you particularly love (and it would be appropriate for your company) – maybe this is the trip to bring them along. So that every time someone meets or sees you, you know you’ll stand out because you always wear a fun pin/scarf/earrings and that’s what people will remember about you – not how your body is shaped.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I was also thinking about accessories. When I feel down, I wear my most colorful socks to cheer me up! Something like a nice scarf or earrings can also make you feel better about your appearance. As a bonus, they can be a conversation piece if they are unusual. The first time I wore owl earrings to work I had a conversation with a coworker about the symbolic meaning of owls, for example. (If you don’t like comments on your appearance, I’d suggest accessories without any animals on them.)

    5. F.M.*

      When I moved to a new city and was filled with social anxiety, and constantly thinking about what strangers might think of my face/hair/clothing/posture… what solved it was going out and getting a dramatic haircut. Like, shockingly dramatic: I cut my hair from below the shoulders to less than two inches, dyed it purple, and spiked it.

      And then whenever I thought a stranger was looking at me, instead of being self-conscious, I would think, “Ah, of course, they’re looking at my cool hair! It’s pretty unusual around here!”

      Now, that specific remedy isn’t going to work in a lot of corporate work environments, but something similar might help. A dramatically different haircut, a sharp new outfit, a really cool scarf/necklace/whatnot, can give an anxious brain a safe “answer” to wondering about people looking at you and noticing something is different. “Yes, of course they’re looking at me, I have these cool new glasses on.”

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I put on a lot of weight after being made disabled and going on certain medications. I can’t exercise it off. If I eat less it doesn’t work. For a long while I outright hid from the world.

      But now? No. Anyone who feels the need to comment negatively about another’s weight is rude and just not worth my time. I’d no more announce my weight at a meeting than I’d leap into a medical history behind my walking aids.

      One thing I know now is that I love, and look great, is long fitted flowing gothic dresses and it’s amazing how many I have that are actually work appropriate. So I wear something I absolutely love I’m way more confident.

      Fat shaming people etc. do not deserve even a second of your time. You’re intelligent, you’re good at your job and you’re an amazing person. We’ve got your back.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Long fitted flowing gothic dresses, you say?? I’m going to immediately need links to where you purchased your favorites, please! :) <3

    7. HeuristicChick*

      Yes! Came here to say this. The most-negative comment I could muster in my own head was, “I hope they are doing okay!”

      But even assuming that I noticed a weight gain, I would never judge someone negatively for it (besides myself, but I am faaaaaaaaaar meaner to me that I would ever be to any other human).

      1. Avasarala*

        This. I tend to notice people’s clothing choices and haircuts (I’m a detail-oriented person) and if I saw someone who had gained a lot of weight, I would notice, and think “Oh, I hope they’re OK.” If they seemed happy and well-dressed (ie their clothes fit, not clearly straining or something that looks like they haven’t got new clothes to fit their size) I’d figure they were fine and eating well and focusing on other things than exercise.

        And I would say none of my thoughts, other than “You look great!”

    8. kms1025*

      i was coming here to say this too…if you can buy a new outfit and be comfortable knowing you are looking your best self right now, thats all you can do…i am not minimizing your pain, in my fifties menopause killed my figure…i gained weight and no matter what ive tried i have not been able to lose it…its beaten me, but im determined to be the best, bigger, me that i can be…good luck to you

  4. Amber Rose*

    Find some clothes that look nice, feel nice and make nice sounds when you move around in them. Take some time to shower and make your hair neat and tidy. How you look plays such a huge role in how you feel. Since you can’t drop the weight all in one go, dress in a way that makes you feel good and that’ll hopefully help offset some of your self consciousness.

    Not that you have any reason to feel that way! But feelings aren’t rooted in logic usually. You can’t do anything about how people think of you and you can’t do anything about the weight right this second so focus on what you can change to help your nerves.

    1. Hilda Dyonne*

      Came here to comment the same thing. Look at where you are now. Accept that there is nothing you can do in this moment to lose the weight. So stop thinking about losing the weight, for now. Stop thinking, next year will be better. Now is what you have. It’s not giving up or giving in to work with what you have at the moment. Buy a new suit, get a new haircut, new shoes. Have an answer to the question, “what have you been up to?” Create one of those elevator pitches to describe your work year. What have you achieved? What are you working on?
      Focus on the positive and people will follow.
      Signed,
      Lost the 35 of the 45 pounds I gained in two years.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Also came here to say the same. I really want to highlight the clothing part – wear clothes that fit and are comfortable! Not too big or too small as either can draw attention to your body. And if it’s uncomfortable even at the right size, then you might be fidgeting more which is another problem. I will say that it’s quite likely hardly anyone will notice and no one will say anything. If they do, then that is a statement on them.

      1. Ellen N.*

        To the commenters who are recommending wearing attractive clothes that fit:

        The original poster doesn’t say what size he/she is, but if he/she is obese/morbidly obese; he/she has extremely limited fashion options.

        To see for yourselves, pretend you’re a size 3X and shop online for clothes. If he/she is short, it’s even more difficult to find nice clothes.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I said nothing by way of attractive-ness of clothes. And yes, this may be a bigger challenge than we think, but it is something that will make such a big difference in how OP feels (which is all that matters) that it is worth a try.

        2. Amber Rose*

          I was a size 3X for close to a decade. It’s harder to find nice clothes, but far from impossible. The fashion options are more limited by budget than anything, but there’s always clearance and sales.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Pretty much most of my clothes are gothic clothing from a firm that does made to measure for any size (I’m rated as obese on the BMI and I’m over 6 foot tall which I know is another issue!)

          It’s harder when your not this mythical ‘normal’ range for sure. But as long as you personally feel comfortable and well presented it still leaves options. I can’t find suit jackets that fit me so I have some smart corset-back black jackets.

          (And a cloak instead of a coat, but that’s my personal preference to cover me up!)

          1. BrandyTeapot*

            Gozer, where have you found plus corset back jackets? Torrid did one as a coat once, with purple lining. Breathtaking, but then they threw tons of Disney villain (Maleficent? Ursula?) embroidery on it. Great for the segment of people who want a $90+ cartoon coat for some reason, but I’m personally still seething at the memory and it’s been years. Are the gothic dresses from eShakti or Sanctuarie, or have I maybe lucked into a new hookup?

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              It’s two companies in the UK. I get most of my stuff from Moonmaiden or Dark Angel (second one is more expensive and have a smaller range but are better quality).

              Afraid I’ve never set foot outside the British Isles! :(

        4. BrandyTeapot*

          3x is still relative easy mode, I’m a 6x / 30/32US and there are 1.5 stores I can shop at in person (Catherine’s which stocks it, and Torrid where hopefully someone bought size 6 online and then returned it because it wasn’t to their personal taste, not that the garment itself sucked). I have to shop online and plan things in advance.

          1. Hei Hei the Chicken from Moana*

            Check out Universal Standard – they are 00-40 and their stuff is amazing!

        5. Theophania*

          If you’re willing to invest, there are lots of nice clothes in the 3x and up range.

          Signed, someone who used to be a 5x and is short

        6. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          Yes, it’s hard. And trying on clothes can be awful (flash back to me sitting on the floor of a dressing room crying). But it also something that OP needs to do, and by doing it, once accomplished will help OP get through this. So my advice is to start ASAP.

        7. Lucyloo*

          I agreed with having good fitting clothes that she felt good in. I’m a 3X who is 5’1” so I know a little about having trouble finding clothes. It’s hard but not impossible, especially if she has some lead time. And it’s well worth the time.

    3. SoapiestEagle35*

      I was just coming to comment on this as well! I would also take time to pamper yourself beforehand, whether that means going to get your nails done, having your hair done or getting some new outfits that fit properly. treat yourself to something that gives you that confidence boost!

    4. Name of Requirement*

      Yes! Try on your outfit and move around in it. Make sure you’re comfortable and don’t need to adjust or cover an area or limit movement to be at ease. And if needed, go buy new undergarments/shoes/tights/suit jacket that allows you to lift your arms and sit without covering your stomach, etc.
      Some people may register that you are a different size, but won’t really think anymore about it. The thought may be wearing a path in your mind, but it won’t be staying with anyone else.

  5. LinesInTheSand*

    As someone who changes size and shape fairly regularly, my advice to you is if you haven’t already done so, BUY CLOTHES THAT FIT. Even just one outfit. It’s easy to let clothing standards slide when you’re constantly remote (hellooooo pj bottoms).

    If you are comfortable in your clothing, that will come across at a subconscious level: you won’t be fidgeting, your body language will reflect an easy confidence, etc.

    1. Lucyloo*

      Just came here to say this. Get clothes that fit and that you feel good in. It will help immensely and you’ll feel so much more confident walking into that situation.

      Good luck!

    2. alacrity*

      And if you have trouble finding clothes that fit really nicely (which I empathize with immensely–they just don’t make clothes for Big&Tall women!), find some clothes you like that may be a bit too big in places and have them tailored. It’s an added expense, yes, but it takes outfits (and confidence) from nice to WOW.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Side rant – I’m a size 16, which means I can luckily shop straight sizes or plus sizes, and I HATE the way most plus-size clothing fits. I’m not sure what they do, it’s cut or tailored differently, but every time I’ve attempted to wear something from a plus-size store, it’s just fit in a really awkward or unflattering way. Weirdly enough, I’ve found Wish to be one of my best sources of clothing that fits and flatters (and doesn’t cost a fortune). I have to deal with the ego blow of ordering two sizes up from what I usually would, but then it’s just… regular clothing, in my size, no weird “plus-size tailoring”. I don’t know why they do that.

        Figured I’d put that out there in case LW isn’t sure where to shop to find outfits that she’ll like.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I think they tend to put far too much fabric up top, so the whole thing can look like it’s hanging off you in places. I’m ok in the (UK) with Marks and Spencer’s stuff though, they seem to at least try to get the fit right.

          1. Kelly L.*

            A lot of times, they scale up things like the neck holes while scaling up everything else, and while, yeah, my neck is bigger when I’m heavier than when I’m less heavy, it’s not bigger by as much as, say, my butt is. So I’ve got this giant neckline shifting around as I move, and then I need a second top to cover possible bra strap peekage, and so on.

        2. Old Biddy*

          I’m in a similar situation. Lane Bryant and many other plus size specific clothes just do not fit me correctly, and the straight size retailers near me have all but stopped stocking size XL and barely stock the L’s. I recently discovered Torrid and it has been so amazing to find stuff that fits my actual size and body type.

        3. sb51*

          Whereas for me, in some ways it was a lot harder to find stuff that fit when I was bouncing between size 14-16, rather than being 18-20, because at 14-16 what I really needed was 14W, not 16-straight-sized, because of the cut difference.

    3. MtnLaurel*

      And new clothes that make you look fabulous (regardless of the size they are) will go a long way to making you feel comfortable and building your confidence.

    4. Washi*

      I think this is a good, concrete step that OP can take. Make sure you have an outfit that you feel amazing in, and if you get regular haircuts, schedule one soon before the meeting. If you are coming across as warm and confident, that’s what’s most important to your work colleagues, and a change in your appearance will most likely be a brief blip in minds, if at all.

      1. Jay*

        And if money is an issue, check out ThredUp. They have awesome stuff at excellent prices in a range of sizes.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Smaller clothes that are too tight will give the visual impression that you’re heavier than you are. Even if they’re a bit bigger overall, clothes that fit are always more flattering.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yup. I’ve steadily put on some weight over the course of the past year, so I recently went and purchased duplicates of my go-to work pants in 2-3 sizes larger. After wearing the (better fitting but otherwise the exact same) clothes for a week, a couple of my coworkers commented that I was looking good and had I been losing weight? Clothes that are very snug or straining at the seams make you look larger than clothes that fit properly.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        That was my one big takeaway from Stacey and Clinton: Wear clothes that fit. I have a lot of wishful thinking clothes in my closet. I remind myself they do not fit. They don’t look good. I try to obey Stacey and Clinton.

      3. Elsajeni*

        It’s also a good idea just for the sake of your mindset, I think. It’s so, so common for people to avoid buying new clothes in a bigger size, out of some combination of intending to lose the weight (so I won’t need these new clothes for LONG, so it’s SILLY to spend money on them…) and just plain shame about the number on the tag, and also so common to hold on to “aspirational” smaller clothes that don’t fit anymore. If you want to hold on to stuff you love that no longer fits, and you have the space for it, do! But don’t let it crowd out things that actually fit you in your closet, and don’t let the goal of a different version of you crowd out the version of you that actually exists in your life. You, as you currently are, deserve to have clothes that are comfortable and look good.

    6. Zeez*

      Totally this! I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling self-conscious about weight gain but not wanting to buy new clothes I plan on losing it, but then wearing clothes that are too small/out-dated/etc. made me feel even more bleh about how I looked.

      While this is definitely easier if you fall in part of the size spectrum that has more accessible shopping options, finding clothes that fit your current body and style can really help on a confidence front.

    7. LinesInTheSand*

      And if it’s an option for you, take your clothes to a tailor so they really, *really* fit. I have a few casual blazers that I had to buy for my biggest dimension (shoulders and chest, in my case) and I had them taken in at other places. It was night and day. I don’t do it with everything, but a well fitting blazer and an equally well fitting pair of work appropriate slacks can get you a week’s worth of outfits, depending on the office dress code.

    8. Traveling Teacher*

      Yes! A friend of mine swears by ordering two custom blazers/suit jackets and one pair of really nice trousers every year, all tailored to her size, on Etsy, where she can find fabulous, professional styles made to measure for a fraction of the price of big brands (who don’t make stuff in her size anyway…!)

    9. Ann Onimous*

      Yes, yes, yes!

      I’ve had the same problem as OP, with the exact same feelings of anxiety, even though I haven’t been working remotely. Still, whenever I’d have to meet someone after a few years, I would all but break out in cold sweat. So yes, the quick solution to this is to buy clothes that fit, so you can feel confident in your clothes. Also consider trying a different haircut, which may be more flattering to the current you.

  6. Employment Lawyer*

    Don’t say anything.

    1) Most people simply will not notice, or care. Of all the things to be on their mind–schedules; boss; their upcoming presentation; family/friends who are texting them on their cell–the “relative weight change of a random meeting attendee” is very low on the list. Most remaining people may notice, but will rapidly forget.

    2) Nobody normal will comment. (How horribly rude would they have to be to do that? And if they’re that rude nothing you can do will change them anyway, so just forget about them.)

    3) Saying anything will draw attention from the otherwise-failed-to-notice people. And it will force conversation (and mental stickiness on the subject) from the notice-and-forget people. It won’t fix the uber-rude assholes, but there are always such assholes and there isn’t much to do about them.

    1. Dragoning*

      It also, I think, reflects a need to “apologize” for the change, and I don’t think OP should lean into that feeling. It’s going to be scary to ignore it, but giving into it will encourage the mindset that she should apologize.

      1. ampersand*

        This is such a salient point! And a good reminder for the rest of us, so thank you for that. We (I…) do feel the need the apologize for such changes and when you think about it like that, it’s kind of weird AND you realize how unnecessary it is!

    2. The Original K.*

      I worked with a woman who opened a meeting by apologizing for not touching up her gray roots, so of course the first thing I did was look at her hairline, which I had never done before because … why would I look at her hairline? It was very awkward; no one knew how to respond, but she’d mentioned it so people felt like they SHOULD respond. I’m definitely in favor of just letting this stuff go unmentioned.

      1. Sara without an H*

        How odd! Maybe it was at attempt at a joke that fell flat? I’m sure that remark undermined whatever credibility she otherwise would have brought to the meeting.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Funny story: just after I’d learnt to walk again I was a bit paranoid about going to a fairly important meeting with one of our suppliers in case someone would make comments about my sticks. So I wore my favourite heels. The neon green ones with zombie faces on them. With my black business suit etc.

        Afterward, my boss told me it was the first time she’d never felt the need to ‘apologise’ for her greying frizzy afro because absolutely nobody noticed it. Or my walking sticks really…

      3. hbc*

        It’s the worst when they make a comment like that and there’s someone in the room who’s “worse” than they are on the subject of the apology. No one who’s solid gray/white haired wants to hear that a little gray needs to be explained, and the never-wear-make-up set doesn’t need the implication that they’ve been lacking every day.

        1. The Original K.*

          I think her hair was a sore spot for her because she was young and almost totally gray (which, again, I only noticed when she brought it up). Someone else in the room lightened the mood by making her own quip about hair color. Coworker #2 was very open about not having seen her natural hair color since high school (she was in a red phase at the time but had apparently been every color under the sun), so she made a joke about that.

      4. Filosofickle*

        I’ve been watching body positive youtubers lately. It’s shocking how often they start a video by peering into the camera and then apologizing for their messy hair, or lack of makeup, or even the lighting in the shot or the sound of traffic outside. Just get on with it! Do not apologize for being normal and imperfect! It drives me crazy. It seems to be self-deprecation to prevent commenters from dragging them, but they don’t seem to realize it undermines their entire message.

    3. Viette*

      #1 is so true! And I think that when you’re struggling with an appearance issue that you personally hate and that gets a lot of hate in advertising, etc, it becomes difficult to remember that there are actually a lot of people who don’t care at all. OP, not only are there people who don’t have an issue with you being fat, but there are people who don’t have an issue with *anyone* being fat. I’m not here to say people don’t treat fat people terribly in general, but this is a professional event. Don’t do everyone at the event the disservice — even just in your thoughts — of assuming they think weight gain is shameful! Lots of people do think that (you think that), but lots of people don’t and it’s only hurting you to assume that everyone who sees you is going to notice and think negatively about you.

      It can seem impossible to imagine when you have anxiety plus an appearance issue with yourself, but I cannot recommend strongly enough the tactic of approaching other people with the assumption that they think you’re fine.

  7. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Oh, OP, I have so much empathy for you.

    If I can make a recommendation – please check out the works of Christy Harrison. She released a book recently called The Anti-Diet and has a wonderful podcast called Food Psych that really dives deep into diet culture and the shame that people in larger bodies feel and discrimination we face. It’s helped me a lot and may do the same for you.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Beauty Redefined is another good resource. I shared my absolute favorite quote from them downthread.

      You’re the second person I’ve seen recommend that podcast in the last week so obviously now I have to go listen.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Yesssss! Christy Harrison is life-changing. Start with the more recent podcast episodes rather than starting at the beginning.

    3. Gail Davidson-Durst*

      Yup, while all the practical, right-now advice people have shared is really great, I also encourage you to check out fat acceptance, body neutrality (see Jameela Jamil), Health at Every Size, and other anti-diet-culture sources in the long term. It made me sad to see you feeling so defensive and like you have to justify being heavier. I used to be in the same headspace and I’m so glad I escaped!

      For what it’s worth, I remember very clearly binge-reading the back-catalog of Shapely Prose and practically having a religious experience. Ideas like “you don’t owe anyone thinness or even health” were revelatory! https://kateharding.net/

      Get you a nice haircut and outfit and go concentrate on being awesome!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Kate Harding has contributed considerably to my recovery from severe depression. Amazing site.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Sophie Hagen’s book Happy Fat is really great as well. She doesn’t just talk about weight and fat activism, but also how weight plays in with other factors, like race, disability, gender identity, etc. Plus she’s so funny. It was probably the best book I read last year.

  8. Cordoba*

    I also work mostly remote, and have many colleagues who I only see on a ~yearly basis at big meetings or trade shows etc.

    Please count me as one data point indicating that most people won’t notice, and most of those who notice won’t care.

    Over a decade+ of having this working arrangement I can clearly remember exactly one change in a colleague’s appearance that was significant enough to stick with me for longer than 5 minutes: when a straightlaced grandfather-type senior engineer showed up for a conference with a rockin’ Mohawk as part of some charity fundraiser he was doing. Anything less dramatic than that is not going to make much of an impression on the vast majority of the people in attendance.

  9. User 483*

    I highly doubt your co-workers will care that you gained weight as they will be happier just to be able to see you again.
    But, can you afford to get a few new outfits before the meeting? Even if you are planning to lose the weight (and it is fine if you don’t), if you can get a few things that fit you great at your current weight that can be a huge boost for confidence in your appearance.

    1. Kiki*

      Seconding new outfits, if possible! A good outfit can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable and confident, which will probably be projected outwards. Rihanna once said:

      ” I actually have had the pleasure of a fluctuating body type, where one day I can literally fit into something that is bodycon, and then the next day – the next week – I need something oversized.

      Granted, this is coming from a notably beautiful person, but hearing her say this radically changed my mindset about weight. When my pants feel tight, perhaps I should get another pair of pants instead of obsessively changing my lifestyle to fit into something that is no longer working for me. It’s about feeling good in the skin you’re in (which I know society makes easier said than done).

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I read an interview with an actor who said her therapist asked, “Why are you upset that you don’t fit into your clothes? Shouldn’t your clothes fit you?”

      2. Mockingjay*

        At my annual physical my doctor and I were discussing my recent weight gain and its health impacts. She looked at me and stated firmly, “everyone has at least 3 sizes in their closet. I don’t care what size you wear. I care that you are healthy as possible and happy with yourself.”

  10. Rey*

    We are constantly barraged with information about weight gain/loss (in part because of tabloids that publicly shame celebrities for the smallest weight fluctuation). Your coworkers will visually notice your physical appearance, in the same way they might see that so-and-so has a different haircut or so-and-so grew a beard. But professional norms are that as soon as the conversation starts flowing, the weight thoughts are going to be surpassed by the actual business reasons for the conference. You deserve to be there and you’re going to do great!

  11. cheeky*

    Absolutely do not bring up your weight! That would just invite people to think about/scrutinize your body when they likely would not otherwise. Your weight is not something to be ashamed of, it’s not a reflection on your value as a person or an employee, and it’s not something to apologize for or draw attention to. Please give your self, your body some slack.

  12. Renata Ricotta*

    I don’t have a ton of advice, but want to express Internet stranger support for the OP! You can do this!

    I am one of those people who don’t notice changes in people’s weight 50% of the time, and the other 50% have the reaction Alison described – a mental “oh, ok” and moving right along. Promise.

    Very occasionally if it’s a surprising amount of weight in a short time, my only other thought is “I sure hope they’re ok,” in case the rapid weight gain was due to illness, an accident, depression, something like that. And then I’ll try to be a little more mindful of how I could be more (professionally) supportive or thoughtful to that person. But that is ALL.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      I did want to say that I recently noticed a woman’s appearance. She was promoted to a notoriously stressful director position, and then I left the group, and ran into her 3 months later. She looked, well, sick. She’d gained a lot of weight, had huge bags under her eyes, and seemed stressed and disheveled.

      You know what I thought? “Oh, man, I hate to see how terribly our company treats its hardest workers. I feel so terrible that they’re taking her health from her.”

      If you’ve been putting in those horrible hours with your teams, they know. They know who’s fault it is, and they don’t blame you. Heck, chances are, they’re in a similar boat.

  13. drpuma*

    Do you think it would help for you to redirect your mental energy toward something more positive or at least professionally useful? I am an introvert, and before the big annual corporate meetup trip at my old job I used to make a list for myself of people I wanted to reconnect with and people I’d communicated with a lot who I wanted to meet for the first time. A couple times I even reached out to one or two of my HQ buddies to ask, “Who at HQ is super awesome that you think I should meet?” Knowing I had a mission made me feel less anxious – if I was at a loss and not sure what to do, I could go in search of one of the folks on my list.

    1. Tuckerman*

      Yes, agreed. Maybe write down what you remember about other people so you have something to focus on when you see them, “Hi Sue, good to see you again! I remember last year you had a mentoring project in the works. How is that going?”

    2. Al*

      This is smart! It reminds me of a lot of the advice Captain Awkward suggests for people who are stressed about trying to make friends.

  14. Caroline Bowman*

    I am so sorry for what the OP is going through. Yes, it’s horrible to have gained weight unintentionally and to feel ugly because of it, but if you have battled in the past significantly and struggled to get it under control, it’s worse because it represents (irrationally!) that you ”couldn’t make it stick”. Of course that’s totally not the case, you have at least 3 compelling reasons for having changed in appearance, and undoubtedly it’s far, far worse in your head than in reality.

    But here’s the thing; even if you look like Shrek, that is irrelevant. You are you. You do your best every day and I’m certain you have many people who care greatly about you and admire your resilience and ability to deal with stuff, despite not being well. You sound like you are struggling deeply with anxiety and possibly a bit of depression. Please, for your own sake and wellbeing, reach out to whoever is most applicable, a pastor, a counsellor, a close and trusted friend and if at all possible, go and get just 10 minutes of fresh air and light each day. NO NOT TO LOSE WEIGHT… but to give your spirits a bit of a boost. SADS is a real thing, please don’t struggle alone, you are worth 1000% more than any number on a scale or pants size.

  15. Third or Nothing!*

    I agree with Alison that thinking about where this anxiety about your weight gain is coming from is a good idea. I think this is the sort of thing that will keep coming up again and again unless you deal with the root issue. If you feel your body image is the cause, I’d like to share a phrase that’s really helped me make peace with my body: My body is an instrument, not an ornament. Focusing on what your amazing body can do takes away some of the internal preoccupation with how others are viewing your body.

    1. CM*

      Yes, this! I totally relate to the feeling of needing to apologize and be ashamed of weight gain, but it’s so freeing to imagine what it would be like if we all weren’t so preoccupied with our weight and size, and instead just thought of our bodies as wonderful instruments that let us move around and interact with people.

      If I notice someone has gained or lost weight, I think about it in the same way as noticing that someone has changed their hair color or gotten glasses. I don’t see it as something positive or negative, just noting a difference in the person’s appearance. If somebody is judging you for that change, that’s really their problem that they will eventually need to resolve before they can be at peace with themselves and others.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I know right? Focusing on all the cool stuff this body can do has been so healing for me. Sometimes I look at my half marathon medal and just think “dang girl you’re Wonder Woman.”

  16. Mary*

    How hard for you. Really people do not notice as much as you think. My childminder has several large skin lesions removed from her face which she mentioned to me when it was healed, and if I thought hard about it, I remember them but I just saw the person, not the lesions.

    As long as you look professional and put together you will be fine. A new going to corporate event outfit could help boost your self esteem, and if you feel people are looking at you they are just admiring your clothes.

  17. Aaron*

    Definitely normal to be nervous before big events! Even people who do them all the time get a little nervous.

    My spouse works remote and the periodic giant meetings where all the field staff get together are exhausting and stressful, but also an opportunity to bond with and get to know people you otherwise only ever see on email or the phone.

    1. MtnLaurel*

      Ditto!!! I work remotely and travel a lot to client sites. I’m ever so much more nervous about the big, annual company events than I am about a client visit. If it helps…LOTS of your colleagues probably feel the same way. You’ll do great, I’m sure.

    2. Sarah*

      Yes! I work remotely and just got back from a big annual conference. It starts with a dinner event, and walking into I though – what if I don’t know anyone (which was stupid because I was meeting a colleague there). Of course, I knew a number of people since this is the fourth year I’ve gone, and even the people I didn’t know, I had good conversations with.

      So yes, nerves are normal, and I’m sure you are going to be pleasantly surprised by how great it is.

    3. Veronica Mars*

      Yes, super normal! In general, social situations with large groups of people just completely drain me. I hate having to be constantly “on” and I hate the pressure of saying exactly the right things to all the people. Plus I have anxiety so I spend the next 40 nights lying awake replaying and over analyzing every conversation. Its totally normal to have jitters, especially when you aren’t in the most positive headspace.

      I totally second/third/fourth getting a power outfit. Its what got me through interviewing at my heaviest and least confident. If I can recommend, try White House Black Market. The sales ladies there are so wonderful. They’ll bring you lots of outfits and be your own personal hype squad.

  18. EmSpinach*

    I think it might also be worth coming up with a script for the inevitable jerkface who does make a comment (because there’s always going to be that person who has no sense of why it’s inappropriate to comment on people’s bodies). I recently had a medical condition that cause me to take steroids for an extended period and I BALLOONED–like, it still makes me teary to look at the driver’s license picture I had to have taken during that time because it’s just not someone I recognize. A couple people at work did comment on it and I just said “yes, I’m on some medication that causes weight gain, but it’s not something I want to focus on at work.” (That is VERY different from what I was saying to them in my head!) Coming up with and practicing a short neutral script like that might make you feel more prepared to encounter people who might not be up on their social graces.

    And–without pathologizing what’s going on with you–I will just say that seeing a therapist who specialized in CBT and body image issues was tremendously helpful for me, as a person with anxiety issues and some serious hangups around my physical self!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      YES to practicing something that deflects them. Your medical issue phrasing is perfect.
      I too have lost & gained weight with medication changes. I actually deflected during the weight loss year, too, and I’m using the same phrase now too: “It’s amazing what medication can do to our metabolisms.”

    2. Veronica Mars*

      This is great advice! Sometimes just having a plan for how you’ll deal with it makes things easier. I don’t necessarily love blaming medication, because its ok to gain weight even if you don’t have a clear ‘excuse’ for it.
      But maybe “I’ve been prioritizing the new X launch over my health this year, but moving forward I’m going to make a huge effort to cut back my hours and reduce my stress. Which means I could use your help [doing your fair share of the work] [not being a judgey judy] [leaving me the f alone about the toll our stupid company has taken on my body] [helping me out with __ task].

  19. Undercover Bagel*

    One thing that might be helpful to remember is that people will often look to you to gauge how to respond to something. If you treat new haircut/outfit/weird rash/weight change/etc. as something that doesn’t need to be worried about, others will likely follow suit. Thinking about that always helps me when I’m feeling self-conscious about something.

    Best of luck with things! I hope everything works out okay :)

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      So true. If you radiate a sense of calm and “everything’s fine” people will generally react that way.

  20. Marny*

    Most of us are so caught up in our own insecurities that we don’t have the bandwidth to focus on other people’s “flaws”. Please know that no one is focusing on your weight as much as you are.

    1. Anne Elliot*

      +1 to this. And I say this not to be brutal but to be, as one person put it down thread, “oddly comforting”: Regardless of whether your weight is up or down, most work people won’t know you well enough to care. If they remember you from before, it may register that you’ve put on some weight, but it will be a passing and unimportant thought to them, just like they might notice but dismiss a new hair cut or the addition of glasses if you’ve never worn them before.

      The problem is that it is an issue TO YOU, not to them. And for that reason I can only echo what others have said: Look as good as you can for the sake of your own confidence, so you don’t undermine yourself by spending the whole time feeling bad or insecure for no good reason. Absolutely do not mention it proactively. Honestly, no one will care and if you raise the issue you will be implying that they should. You’ll do great!

    2. emmelemm*

      Absolutely. As I’ve gotten older, I still beat *myself* up like nobody’s business about how I look, but at the very least, I no longer spend a lot of energy worrying about what other people are thinking, because I really have come to see the truth of “no one is thinking about you as much as you think”.

  21. Lynca*

    I have consistently struggled with my weight and my long hours are a contributing factor (though not the only one). I pull easily 12 hour days including commute. It’s safe to say cooking well and exercising isn’t high on my hierarchy of needs right now. And I say that as someone that loves to cook. I’m glad you’re taking charge there. I can’t change my hours yet and I am looking forward to when I can.

    I still get nervous going to large meetings (quarterly or annual) because I am just not comfortable in large groups. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with still feeling nervous even when you’re a seasoned professional. Honestly I find a lot of people downright hate these types of meeting for all sorts of reasons.

  22. Rusty Shackelford*

    Yes, there is a chance people will notice you’ve gained weight. And they’ll think to themselves “yeah, LW gained weight; happens as we age, doesn’t it?” and will never think anything about it again.

    1. hbc*

      Exactly. I would probably notice, because I tend to register these things, just like I’d probably notice that someone started/stopped wearing glasses, got a nose job, breast reduction, significantly changed hair (cut/color/balding), developed a droopy eyelid, or any number of other things. And it’s just a mental, “Huh, that’s different, I think.” At most, if I was running the event, I might worry that I didn’t account for appropriate chairs.

      Noticing and judging are two different things.

  23. JJ*

    Oh OP, a thousand hugs to you! You are being so hard on yourself, I hope you can get some encouragement here and be a little gentler from now on (I’ve definitely been there too!). I’m sorry you’re struggling with all this. To me, it sounds like you’re a dedicated, hard worker who is doing the difficult work not only AT work, but also getting yourself diagnosed and treated and cared for, the latter of which is so hard and scary. Kudos to you!

    If all else fails, remember what RuPaul says: What other people think of you is none of your business. :)

  24. Lily*

    I once met a mentor randomly in town and seriously did. not. notice. that she was 8 months pregnant until she mentioned it. Because I was looking at her face and not at her belly while talking to her.

    1. Amber Rose*

      A friend of my husband’s came over suddenly once and I never even noticed he wasn’t wearing any pants until he said something. =P

      I remember reading about a group going through help for social anxiety and their final test, so to speak, was to draw on their forehead with marker and then go out and see if anyone noticed. Very few people did. And that was on their actual face.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        (Tangentially, can you tell us that story on one of the open forums? Because DANG now I want to know if he was in a kilt or shorts or swim trunks or what.)

    2. Cruciatus*

      These remind me of the line in The Shawshank Redemption where Red narrates “how often do you look at a man’s shoes?” when Andy wears shiny loafers back to his cell before he escapes and no one noticed.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I barely notice when my spouse gets a haircut – for co-workers, friends, people I don’t live with – I won’t see the changes at all. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I don’t see that part of you.

  25. working be cray*

    If you lead with the disclaimer it potentially becomes A Thing they feel like they should respond to. Like if you mention your weight gain they may feel like reflexively saying “what no you look great” or something like that and now before you know it you’re talking about your weight or whatever and that’s probably what you want to avoid. Think of it like a haircut. You look a little different but you are still very much who you are and recognizable as who you are. Is it possible that it may take someone that only sees you once a year a second to register that you’re that person they know but with different hair.

    I hope you feel better. I hope you’re able to get your work life balance back where you’d like it to be. Getting everything in order and feeling good will help you feel better about yourself regardless of our weight. It will probably also help you come up with a routine to exercise or whatever self care you need to do.

  26. Lora*

    OP, when I see someone I haven’t seen in a year and they look different, I chalk it up to my memory for people’s faces being less than awesome, they got a new haircut, something like that. At a big corporate meeting, it’s all I can do to keep all the 27 Jennifers correct in my mind – at CurrentJob we have literally >200 guys named Steven / Stephen / Stefan and when you get to the Head of [fill in the blank]? Literally half of them have the same name. Someone looks different than they did last year? Unless there was something strikingly unusual about them last year, I won’t actually remember that this was how they always looked. What I will definitely remember is if they were the idiot who messed up the Big Client Account, or if they are the annoying person who asks frivolous questions at a Friday afternoon meeting at 4:59pm, or if they are the smart one who did a great job on the design for New Client, sort of thing. I also remember if they were the one who got completely drunk at the last Big Meeting, barfed on the CEO’s shoes, etc.

    1. Washi*

      Yeah, if someone seemed bigger than I remembered, I would just assume they were always that size and I didn’t notice before. I definitely wouldn’t start thinking about how much weight they’d gained or anything, just a mental note and then moving on.

  27. Elizabeth Proctor*

    Also, the people you’re seeing are not friends with each other. It’s highly unlikely anyone is going to go back and talk to someone else about your (or anyone else’s) weight gain. Your appearance will not be the topic of anyone else’s conversations.

  28. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    When I have to deal with stuff like this, here’s what I take comfort in: more than half of all the people going to the conference are going to be as anxious about themselves as you are right now, over something YOU would never notice. Jane will be worried that everyone will make fun of her hair going gray; Fergus will be worried that everyone will make fun of the orthopedic shoes he has to wear now; Sue is going to worry that that guy who dated her sister is going to notice her giant crush on him; Mike is going to be worried that everyone will make fun of him for accidentally farting during someone’s presentation ten years ago; the Chris who just started a twelve-step program is going to be white-knuckling it through the cocktail reception, etc.

    Everybody has their stuff. Feel compassion for them; it will likely help you feel compassion for yourself.

  29. Alex*

    No one cares. No one is thinking about or dwelling on your weight. They might notice. They will forget 3 minutes later.

    But for your own brain weasels, can you put together an outfit that makes you feel awesome? Buy something new that fits you well if you need to/can afford to. Well-fitting clothes can do wonders.

  30. Paul*

    Tough question but great advice. Especially “The reality is, people don’t think about us nearly as much as we think they do. It’s so easy — especially with anxiety, but really for most people — to assume that the weight gain / a massive forehead zit / a stained shirt / etc. is jumping out as other people as incredibly noticeable and distracting and A Major Thing That Demands Acknowledgement, when most people just don’t think about it that much.”

    I have no clue how many people will be at this meeting. Last year was my first year in a new position where there were about 100 people in my group, spread across the country. The group meets in the same place once a year for a couple of days and for me it was the first time I met face to face with people I had only talked on the phone or e-mailed with. It can be tricky to quickly match real life people with their actual real life bodies …. one key thing for me was to focus on the work / project we might have shared and talk about that as an ice breaker — make it about the work.

    If the meeting includes social time, yes, that can be awkward, because a lot of people want to talk about anything other than work at dinner / bar / outing. But I always try to turn the conversation to let the OTHER person talk about themselves first, rather than try to break the ice myself.

  31. DarthMom*

    I agree with many of the comments, that others won’t focus on your weight/size like you will. And wear an outfit that makes you feel professional and gives you confidence. You’re going to rock this!
    Given the fact that you work remotely, I’m hoping for you that many folks forget your size and just focus on seeing YOU. Try to stay focused on who you are to these people, and remember that your value – both to them, and in general – is not tied to your weight. You are valuable because you are uniquely you, and you are amazing. :)
    Good luck!

  32. londonedit*

    It’s very normal to be nervous ahead of something like this, and it’s also normal to be critical of ourselves and our appearance. But people really don’t notice these things in as much detail as we think they do. I know from my own experience that the ‘oh no!’ moment in front of the mirror happens way before anyone else would ever notice a real change in my weight, because I’m the one who knows how tight or otherwise my favourite jeans are. I also know that I’ve never encountered anyone – certainly not in a work environment, and actually not in my personal life either – who has ever commented on any weight fluctuations I may have had. There’s a funny thing where if I lose a little and my weight hits a certain point, it’s like a trip switch for people to start saying ‘Hey, is that a new dress? It looks really nice!’ – because I’ve lost a few pounds and my usual clothes are fitting a little better – but no one ever says ‘Wow, you’ve lost weight’ or ‘Wow, you’ve gained weight’. They attribute a slight change in appearance to a new dress or my hair looking different or something.

    And these are people who haven’t seen you for a year – I doubt they’ll be able to remember exactly how you looked 12 months ago anyway.

  33. I Will Steal Your Pens*

    Ive been in this situation for a majority of my life, so I can relate. It sucks – like woah. But what I can tell you is that it can change like that. But it takes some work, a LOT of practice, and learning not to beat yourself up. All very difficult.

    The first thing you need to do is set some boundaries. there is a lot going on at work, yes. But is the world going to come to an end if you unplug for a few evenings a week? No. And if it does, than you need to evaluate whether or not this is the type of organization you want to work for. This is when I hit my breaking point. My mental and physical health wasn’t worth the over-effort I was putting into a job that wasn’t really in the business of saving lives.

    as for your coworkers? If they judge you on anything other than your work, then they suck.

    Lastly – I am going to give you some unsolicited advice. Pick an activity you like (running, walking, boot camp – SOMTHING). And book the time on your calendar, with several reminders. And then stick to them. Again, taking a few hours off isn’t going to ruin the reorg. Once you start doing so, you will start to feel better, maybe start to lose some pounds, and for me, once I start to feel change, I get more and more motivated to keep it up.

    this above is what I did. I was in your situation in 2016, which is a very big reason of why I left. It took me a good year to get back on my feet healthwise, but I am proud to say that this morning I wore a winter coat to work I haven’t been able to wear since 2012.

    SO if I can do it, so can you. While I don’t know you, I KNOW you can do it. Boundaries my friend, boundaries….

  34. Shark Whisperer*

    I work remotely. I see all of my coworkers in person about once every 3 months. I change my hair style very frequently and sometimes dramatically. I also gain and loose weight on the reg. I show up to one meeting with long hair and the next meeting 25lbs heavier with a buzz cut. One of my coworkers usually notices my hair, but most don’t notice anything. The only appearance thing that they’ve commented on is my penchant for oversized sweaters (our company headquarters is in a significantly colder climate than where I live).

  35. Queer Earthling*

    The other thing about apologizing for your weight gain at random: not only will it draw attention to it, but if there’s anyone else nearby who’s struggling with weight, they’ll think, “This person clearly thinks they look terrible. They must think I look terrible.”

    May I also suggest googling around for fat acceptance content? The more you see people celebrating and enjoying their bodies, the less you’ll feel like you have to apologize for yours. That isn’t to say that you *can’t* lose weight if you want or need to, of course, but you can also appreciate it as it is, or at least, not hate it. It’s like growing out your hair: you can love your hair and style it as you like at every stage of growth, even if you have an end goal in mind that you may or may not reach.

  36. Bree*

    Sending lots of love to you, OP, as someone who also has anxiety. I often find it helpful to remember that no one pays as much attention to our bodies, our actions, or quirks or our mistakes than we do. There’s a very good chance most people won’t even notice your weight gain, because they won’t have a strong memory of what you looked like last year.

    Also, if you have a therapist, it might be helpful to book an extra appointment before or after the meeting (or both!). You deserve the support.

  37. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    Aw hell, this reminds me of one of my less than stellar moments. I once worked with a guy who had had a heart attack right before I met him and made a huge commitment to weight loss and fitness because of it. Because of this, when I knew him he was very lean and doing ultra-marathons. I left that org after 3 years and then another 3 years later was at a meeting and saw some folks from that org. I walked up and said hi to the people I knew and introduced myself to the ones I didn’t know. I ended up introducing myself to him because of his pretty significant weight gain. I’m not sure if he was mortified, but I know I was mortified. I stammered something inane, (“Oh hi! Jeez I am an idiot, of course I know you!”) Even thinking about it is making my face burn. So, LW, if something like this happens to you, there is a good solid chance that the other person is feeling equally crap.

  38. Jennifer*

    Sometimes if I feel like I look my best it helps with my confidence. If it’s something that’s in your budget that you’d enjoy, get a new outfit for the occasion, have your hair and nails done. Give yourself a facial so your skin glows. Clothes and makeup are almost like my armor some days. This isn’t really for your coworkers’ benefit, but for you.

  39. Ana*

    Responding to the last part of your message – I totally get feeling jumpy before big meetings! I work in an office, go to meetings regularly, and have done for years, but I’m nervous before pretty much every one of them.
    I also understand the awkward feeling of people noticing that you’ve put on weight. We’re conditioned to believe that weight gain = failure and lack of control in one area of our life, so when we go into a professional situation where we should be able to demonstrate that we have everything together and where we should be in control, the fact we’re heavier than we’d like is an outward sign that we aren’t reliable, don’t have everything together, etc. But actually, have you ever thought that about someone? It’s what you say and how you act that matters, not your outward appearance. I also have the added excitement of having hyperhidrosis (essentially, I sweat way more than I should), so any social situation generally leads to my face pouring with sweat, which then causes a panic attack. In my logical mind I know that no-one is judging me for that, but my monkey brain is saying ‘run run run!’.

  40. Spek*

    I mean this in the best way, but if these are people you only see once per year – they are probably not very invested in you and are likely not even to notice, and if they do, it will be a half second internal beep, almost immediately forgotten. Unless you reinforce it by mentioning it.
    Your struggle with your appearance is a huge deal for you, and important to those close to you, but it’s significance fades exponentially with each degree of separation to other people. I wouldn’t worry about it – and hopefully by next year’s meeting it will be a non-issue.

  41. Alia*

    I gained 90lbs in about 7 months – at the grand old age of 23 – thanks to a hormone disorder set off by the very medication that was supposed to fix it. I went from a slim, athletic build to a very clearly overweight one. Turns out I had a separate genetic thing that the new medication interacted with, and even after identifying the cause of the weight gain and stopping the medication, my body would never be the same and weight loss was near impossible. It’s taken 4 years of daily exercise, diet modification (not diets, but figuring out which foods my body processes well), and lifestyle modification to lose only 20 of the 90lbs gained. Working through buying bigger clothes every couple months, looking in the mirror and not seeing myself anymore, and all of the cultural value I’d placed on my former figure killed my mental health and energy for way too long.

    All that to say – I totally understand how you feel and why you feel that way! I HATED seeing people I hadn’t seen in awhile, and even dreaded meeting new people because I so badly wanted everyone to know that I hadn’t just “gotten fat” – something had happened to me and it wasn’t my fault. While there are still days that are tough – I’m now more thankful for the push to redefine my own beauty and extend the same body positivity I gave others to myself. I came to realize that while I was mentally fighting lots of negative ideas, my body was fighting to keep me functioning as well as possible – and if it had to gain weight to do that, that’s okay.

    What helped me in the beginning was thinking about how I would respond to anyone else’s weight gain. Even if I noticed, I wouldn’t have made any judgement about them. We are so much more than our bodies! And in a work context especially, I’m far more concerned with my colleague’s contributions and minds than what size clothes they wear. Size doesn’t even come up in my evaluation of a person – so it shouldn’t come up in my evaluation of my own worth or value either. So I fill a little more of the chair – it was there to be filled anyway.

    The anxiety, depression, lethargy, and negative self talk that comes from rapid weight gain is a big adversary. I’d encourage you to work through that with someone around you, a therapist, friend, anyone who can help you reframe your own value and worth outside of your body. Obviously taking care of your physical self is important, but health looks different for different people in different stages, and mental health is the most important piece of that puzzle. I’d still love to lose the remaining 70lbs, but if I never do, that’s okay. My body can handle the things I expect it to, and that’s enough. Work toward realizing that your reputation at work is not at all about your size, but about what you bring to the team! If anyone makes you feel otherwise, that’s about them – not about you.

  42. Amethystmoon*

    As someone who isn’t skinny and never was, one thing that has helped me gain a lot of self-confidence is Toastmasters. There are a lot of people in Toastmasters and not everyone looks perfect, but we still may have to speak in front of people for our jobs.

    It does help to dress up for a presentation. Wear something that is comfortable to you, but yet that is also slightly dressier than what you usually wear (depending on where you work) and will help you feel more confident. For me, it’s a nice pair of dark-colored slacks and a jacket that doesn’t have to be overly dressy, but a nice bright scarf or necklace will help. The accessory draws people’s attention and they’ll look at that as opposed to other stuff.

    1. Cathie from Canada*

      Yes, accessorize!
      I came here to recommend a new outfit that fits well – say, a solid or minimal pattern jacket with a defined waist or belt, worn with dark pants or a skirt, a same-colour blouse or tshirt, and an interesting bright scarf or great pin around the neckline somewhere – or both.
      And an interesting bracelet or ring or earrings.
      Or, if that is too corporate, just a tunic-length plaid or patterned shirt, worn open over a new tshirt and same-colour pants. Again, with a scarf at the neckline.

    2. Certaintroublemaker*

      Yes! And one thing Toastmasters advises is not to apologize for yourself. No, “Sorry my slides aren’t great” or “Don’t mind the stain on my tie” or “I’m super nervous about this presentation.” Your audience wants to hear what you have to say, not reasons to be distracted from your message.

  43. Fikly*

    People are amazingly wrapped up in their own lives. The vast majority won’t give your weight a second thought. Of the ones that do, the vast majority won’t comment. The few that do? They’re the assholes, and not worthy of your notice.

  44. Ms. Anne Thrope*

    I need to tell you this: YOU HAVE NO REASON TO FEEL ASHAMED. Weight is a just physical thing. Its not a character flaw or a moral failing. You do not owe anyone a particular shape, weight, or “look”. Its extraordinarily unlikely that anyone is judging you or your professional capabilities based on a theoretical estimate of what you might weigh. And if they do, screw ’em! That’s a really pointless and ineffective way to evaluate someone, and only a loser would do it.

    Go to that meeting wearing clothes that fit you well, that you feel comfortable in and hold your head high. Impress your colleagues with your ideas and professional abilities. That is all.

  45. Fiona*

    Sometimes it helps me to do a deep internet dive on larger women who have amazing fashion and style – it helps normalize it for me and as others mentioned, the best thing you can do is not try to “hide” the weight, but rather make sure you go to this conference feeling happy with your outfit and clothing, if your budget allows. Some people I follow on Instagram include @gabifresh, @glitterandlazers, @katiesturino, and @nicolettemason.

    And as Alison mentioned, everyone at this conference will be thinking about themselves above anything else!

  46. Ruth (UK)*

    For what it’s worth, I’m one of those people who would probably not notice at all (and especially after not seeing you for a year – the chance of me noticing is pretty small). I agree with Alison’s advice that most people won’t notice and those who don’t notice mostly won’t (and shouldn’t) care, and are often too focused on how they themselves look and are coming across to worry too much about how you look.

  47. Observer*

    Three thoughts

    Firstly, please so NOT blame yourself for allowing the company to do this to you. It’s not so easy to prevent it or stop it, especially when you don’t realize that it’s coming down the pike. And the medical condition was REALLY not something you could have prevented from happening (assuming you didn’t do something like walk into moving traffic.)

    Also, anyone who knows you and your work should not be “judging” you for your weight gain, even if they notice. If they do, they are jerks who you shouldn’t try to please anyway because they have unreasonable expectations. I’m not dismissing the negative stereotypes of overweight people and how that can hold people back. And that’s bad. But when people know you and your work, for their opinion to really change because you put on weight is a whole different calls of nope.

    Lastly, I am glad that a takeaway from this experience is that you are going to find a way to keep your work from taking over your life in the future. It’s a good thing – for yourself and for others, because the more we normalize decent balance, the better it for everyone.

  48. clodia83*

    I’ve been there–every year, I attend a national conference and see many old friends, colleagues and professional connections. In the 15 years I’ve been in my field, I’ve had three children, I’ve (gasp) aged the normal amount, I’ve dealt with minor but visible health issues, I’ve accumulated the skin issues that come with all of the above. I’ve seen people at a size 16 who last saw me when I was a size 6. It didn’t feel great. But in the last couple of years I’ve realized a couple of things–1, the people I respect and enjoy were glad to see me and treated me no differently at any size or age. 2, most people were way too wrapped up in their own fears to worry all that much about my waistline–time comes for us all. And 3, dressing well for the size I actually am at the given moment and keeping my hair and make up more or less on point made me feel like I looked remarkably professional and organized, and that’s the goal. It’ll be okay!!

    1. Old Biddy*

      This!
      One thing that has made it harder in the past is that some people make such a big deal when you do lose weight. Those are the ones that I was always the most embarassed to face when I gain it back. It helps to remember that these people are mostly projecting their own insecurities.

  49. AnotherAlison*

    We have a similar type of meeting, and I bump into people I haven’t seen in a year just because our office is so large (no one is remote).

    As the person who sees some people who may have put on some weight (or lost some), it’s not a thing you should worry about me saying something or judging you at all. As Alison said, most people register it as, at most, “oh, okay.” I’m even one of those people who has weighed the same amount for 15 years, and I realize many people (including my husband, mom, and sister) fluctuate more, and I don’t see it as a big thing at all. You may notice my face is more wrinkly and my hair is grayer, too. We all have something.

  50. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I see a few folks only once every 6 to 12 months and unless you’re unrecognizable, most fluctuations in weight aren’t drastic enough in that time period to register.

  51. Jaybeetee*

    I’m someone who has all kinds of body anxiety, social anxiety, etc. And while I’ve tried to internalize the above sorts of messages, that people really don’t notice as much as we think they do – frankly I do also know some noticing, somewhat judgmental people. Not the sort that would ever be rude to someone about it or treat them differently, but who do… notice things like, say, a 10 pound weight gain. And I know people who discuss other people when those people aren’t around. So I’ve spent years going around with “OMG, what are people SAYING about me when I’m not there?? Do they think XYZ about me??”

    What helps me is rather the opposite. I assume people are noticing and judging (even if they aren’t). Okay, what do I do about that? That pretty quickly leads me to the conclusion that I can’t control what people think, feel, or talk about… and as long as no one is being overtly rude to me, it isn’t my problem. Worrying about that sort of stuff is a lost cause, because there’s nothing I can do even if it is the case. If someone at a meeting is secretly judging me over my weight, or a zit, or how I’m wearing my hair or who knows what else… okay? Guess they’re allowed to do that, I’m allowed to get on with my life. If someone was being rude, treating me unprofessionally, asking invasive questions, what have you, then I would take action.

    I’m still heavy, I still get acne in my 30s, I’m still weird and shy and awkward around certain people. But overall, I’m happier with myself and my life than I ever have been, I have people who love me, if some colleague I never see might possibly be secretly thinking something negative about me, I have an easier time pushing that out of my mind now.

    1. Clever Girl*

      “I’m still heavy, I still get acne in my 30s, I’m still weird and shy and awkward around certain people.”

      Are you me? Did I write this somehow?

    2. CM*

      These are great points, and as I get older, I feel the same — sure, other people will judge me. And… so what?

      I’ve judged people in the past for superficial things. When I look back on that — or let’s be real, when I catch myself doing it now — I feel ashamed of myself and want to do better. It’s not about them at all.

    3. Allonge*

      Thank you for this, it is what I was trying to come up with a way to say. Suppose everyone is thinking Oh How Fat! They really are not, but let’s say. So what?
      If they let it out, that makes THEM terrible people. If they keep it inside, well – sometimes I think of things (what would it be like to have sex with random people, anyone?) and they stay in my head. That should be ok!

  52. Clever Girl*

    First, I almost skipped a family reunion once because I had put on weight (probably 50 lbs or more) and I was embarrassed for my extended family to see me. I’m SO glad I didn’t. Catching up with all those people was such a great experience and I would have missed that for NOTHING. Being overweight doesn’t make you a bad person and it’s not an indication of a failure on your part. There is no need to punish yourself by not doing (or doing but not enjoying) things you otherwise would. Even IF there are people who would think “wow (s)he’s put on some weight!” when they first saw you, I guarantee they won’t remember it months, weeks, or even days or hours later. We are all too busy worrying about our own weight, health, fitness, and lives to dwell too much on other people’s. Live your life! Don’t worry about it. We all lose weight and gain weight and go through times where we are in shape and times when we get winded climbing a flight of stairs. It’s just another season in your life.

    Second, well-tailored clothing goes a LONG way. Get yourself some nice structured clothing that fits well (have it tailored if it doesn’t), and maybe a statement piece of jewelry or a watch, and I guarantee the only thing people will think when they see you is that you look sharp. Resist the urge to dress in loose flowy things to “hide” your weight/size (I don’t know if you are a woman, but women tend to do this a lot). That usually has the opposite effect. Wear something that’s fitted and fits well on you and is structured enough to not cling to the areas you don’t want to emphasize. You will feel confident and professional and that’s what other people will see.

    You’ve got this!

    1. Observer*

      Excellent advice!

      I just want to emphasize that the point of the way you dress is not to “hide” your size. It’s more a matter of just looking good and put together, with your size not being the thing that draws all the visual attention.

  53. Hello*

    I admit it – I’ve missed former coworkers weddings and asks for meet ups because I’m horribly ashamed that I’ve gained weight since they last knew me and don’t want them to know or judge me (esp since I lost 75lbs while I knew them and have since gained a considerable portion back)

  54. HannahS*

    Sometimes, I find it helpful to tell myself the following (or similar): If I saw someone, and they were heavier than I remembered I’d think to myself, “Oh, hey, she’s heavier than I remember. Huh.” I might briefly wonder if they’d been on medication that made them bigger, or if, like, me, they got stressed and ate their feelings for six months and hey, turns out your already-slow metabolism slows down even more as you get older, whoops. And then I’d move on. I’m not a jerk. I also don’t think that I’m better than other people or unique in not being a jerk. I don’t hyper-fixate on other peoples’ weight, and there’s no reason for me to believe that other people do either. That’s the part I find helpful–I tell myself that I’m not a jerk, and I’m not unique in that.

    You’re not a jerk. Well, a small part of you that you’re struggling to control is being a jerk to you, but you aren’t a jerk to other people, even in the privacy of your head. And that’s true of decent people.

  55. CustServGirl*

    Hey OP! I totally understand your fear, but as advice/encouragement, try not to worry too much. Easier said than done, I know, but its highly unlikely that someone will ask you about your weight gain, or make any remark regarding it. If it’s an option, I’d encourage you to wear an outfit you really love on the day of your meeting, so you feel more confident. Best of luck!

  56. TR*

    I agree with those saying that many people will not notice (I probably wouldn’t), but I have one caveat. If you have a profile picture or something that shows you looking dramatically different, whether because of weight or something else, I may do a double take or not recognize you at all. For people I work remotely from, their profile picture is the primary image of them I have in my head. So the more it resembles you, the better.

    1. Kiki*

      I agree! If you have a week or more before this meeting, I would update profile pictures if they’re out of date. You don’t have to, but I think having big discrepancies between how you look irl vs. online tends to breed more confusion and thus more conversation. Not that work profile pictures have to be perfectly up-to-date and reflect exactly how you are now, but if it’s more than 5 years old, there is a high likeliness it needs to be updated.

  57. AKchic*

    I am going to chime in here, because I have had a lot of weight fluctuations in the last 20 years (my family is known for being very big, where I was always the “anorexic looking one”, and then I was in a car accident and on medications that just caused a lot of weight fluctuations, on top of a pain condition that causes lack of mobility).

    I changed medications and gained 40lbs in 6 weeks (I still haven’t lost all of that initial weight, 13 years later). I have changed medications and gained 75lbs in 4 months. I have been put back on a good medication and dropped 60lbs in 5 months. It’s all yo-yo weight fluctuations.
    I’m short. I’m generally large-chested (for a while, I actually was a K cup). I wear corsets for costuming. At one time, my weight ballooned so badly that I couldn’t fit into my costume and I had to buy a real quick, very cheap alternative. When I bought a better replacement, I dropped weight so fast that the next year, I could fit two of me into it and was devastated at the waste of money.

    Do not bring up your weight. I can guarantee that the majority of people won’t bring it up. Any that do will be the very rude indeed, and you are free to give them an icy stare and tell them that your medical care is not their business thankyouverymuch. Emphasize the word medical.

    In non-conference times, look at how much you are putting into your work. How much are you getting back? It may be time to re-evaluate and start getting your work/life balance back in order.

  58. Smoosh*

    OP, I’m in the exact same position right now: good deal of weight gain recently, and heading to an all-hands off-site with everyone I work with who don’t normally see me in person.

    Please remember anyone who brings it up without you prompting the topic will be out of line, and you don’t need to give any value to their rude, invasive thoughts.

    Best of luck to you!

  59. Bagpuss*

    Just to add to the chorus saying don’t mention yur weight.

    No one else is likely to – it would be incredibly rude and if they are that rude, then remind yourself that they are horribly rude, and that is the problem, not your appearance!

    Also – Alison is absolutely right that while you may be very aware of the changes in your appearance, others are likely to be far less observant. A co-worker of mine recently hd amedical issue which mean tshe was on a very restricted diet, and she has lost over 40lbs. I only know this because she overshares and I have heard her telling multiple people. I was vaguely aware that she looked slightly different but if put on the spot, I would have said she was looing better in herlsef (and would have assumd that this was because she was getting treated fro the underlying condition, which I did know about because if you have to call an ambulance for a coworker and they wind up in hospital or a week it’s kind of hard to miss) I would not have been able to say, from observation, that she had lost weight.

    If they don’t see you regularly then even if they notice,most people are at last as likely to think that they mis-remembered you look, as to think or comment that you’ve gained a lot of weight.
    On a personal level, I definitely wouldn’t notice (and I suffer from faceblindness so as I can’t recognise faces easily (or at all, a lot of the time!) I do actively try to recognise and remember other features)

  60. Nap time*

    Honestly, OP, most people probably won’t notice. I’ve gone through some similar things and it was more awkward when I lost the weight and people would be like “wow, you’ve lost weight!” and “what’s your secret??” (“yes, is it that noticeable? my secret is changing thyroid medications, you’re welcome”). The few times I’ve encountered people with a significant weight change, there’s probably 5 seconds of processing that they look different from before and then I never think about it again (so the awkwardness of addressing it with them would make them think about it way more than they probably would have otherwise).

    Further, with that amount of time, people will assume your appearance has changed a bit so it’s not that unusual (if you had gained a ton of weight in say, 3 months, people might not recognize you, but really, if you haven’t seen them in 3 years, they probably hardly remember what you look like in detail anyway and will assume this is how you always looked or that you have for awhile and they just didn’t notice).

  61. Coffee Owlccountant*

    Oh OP, I hope you feel the love from the commentariat on this one, because we are all you! I love the advice from Alison and definitely nth the suggestion to buy yourself new outfits that fit your body as it is now and that make you feel good to wear.

    I want to address the anxiety part, because hoo boy, I’m right there. Thinking back to your previous corporate meetings, how have you felt when you were actually there? Are there activities that you genuinely enjoyed? Do you stay at a place with a super awesome swim-up bar? Have you had great experiences networking with your coworkers you don’t see face-to-face often? What is great about this event to you?

    I ask this because in my experience, it is so, SO easy to transfer generalized anxiety about Having To Do The Peopling into a specific thing that you get hyper-fixated on, and maybe for you, for this particular year, it’s your body and whether people will audibly judge you on having one (spoiler: only horrid people who should never speak out loud would even consider it!). Maybe that is not you! However, I think a helpful exercise for you might be to think about the positive associations that you’ve had when at this event. Try to work on replacing “Oh god, Lucinda is never going to recognize me when I look like this!” with “I’m excited to catch up with Lucinda – I wonder how she’s doing with her llama grooming training?”

    Caveat as an anxiety-haver: this exercise has helped, but has never fully ameliorated the anxiety for me. Definitely consider what other strategies have helped and deploy them at will. Also, please try to schedule some conference after-care for yourself – this stuff is exhausting and you’re already working super hard.

    We’re all rooting for you, OP. Have a great time at the meeting!

  62. Uranus Wars*

    I don’t know if this will help or not, but I have a friend I see about once a month. Apparantly she gained 55 pounds in 2017-2018ish and has lost 60 since January 2019. When we went to our annual holiday dinner I didn’t believe it until she showed me the pictures. In my head she has been the same size the entire time we’ve know each other. I actually felt like a crappy friend but then realized its because it doesn’t matter.

    I wish I were so nice to myself, though. I hope you are able to gain some useful advice here and enjoy your meeting!

  63. Nonprofit Nancy*

    FWIW (sorry if anyone said this already) I do think it’s a little unusual that this meeting is such as source of stress for you. If you’re not like, a presenter, I’m surprised just appearing is this anxiety inducing. Everybody’s different, of course, but I have a big annual meeting in my job and if I don’t exactly look forward to it, it’s definitely not a major worry of mine. It may be a symptom of anxiety or perhaps this is more common than I think.

  64. aaaaaaaasssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeee*

    I think you’ll encounter two types of people, the kind who notice physical changes but would NEVER dare say anything because it’s rude, and the kind who have no filter. In my experience, the no-filter types are more easily put in their place than I once thought. When someone commented on my weight gain or loss it used to send me into a weeks-long tailspin (ED recovery and regular major weight fluctuations that I often don’t notice myself). I find people have even less filter when it comes to weight loss because some people have been living under a rock and think this is something that people 1. have always done on purpose and 2. are always psyched about.
    Recently, at a (thankfully former) job, the employees of another org we shared an office with could not stop commenting on my weight. I was way underwater and going through a nervous breakdown simultaneously and got less and less polite with my responses. At one point someone was like “Damn, what’s your secret?” and I said “Depression.” That guy gave me a really weird look, but I think he got the idea.
    So my advice for OP is – if people are rude, be twice as rude back. This doesn’t necessarily require sharing personal info as I did in the example. Another way to do it is to just say, “Wow, what a strange thing to comment on!” or “Please don’t comment on my weight, it upsets me. Thanks!”

  65. Aquawoman*

    I feel like the LW’s list of reasons for the weight gain suggested a lot of self-blaming that she was trying to cover up or talk herself out of. If so, I’d like to suggest that she find some more inclusive thinking about weight, health and beauty. I like Ragen Chastain, who blogs on Dances With Fat, and says that training for a marathon and a Netflix marathon are morally equivalent choices. I also like Beauty Redefined, which says your body is an instrument, not an ornament.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Hey I said the instrument, not ornament quote upthread! Nice to see another BR fan in here.

  66. ClashRunner*

    This is the grown-up equivalent of seeing last summer’s camp friends again. Everyone is a little nervous that the relationships won’t be the same, that people will look unrecognizably different, that old friends will judge them for not being the exact same as they were on Closing Day last summer. Honestly, dear LW, there will likely be at least a few folks who are in your same boat, but the important thing to remember is that everyone is just looking forward to reconnecting and they won’t notice or care about your appearance.

    1. SomethingCleverHere*

      Sorry, but no. The professional environment is not AT ALL like your summer camp experiences. It’s not fair to blow off OP’s concerns like this.

  67. Alice*

    All the best to you OP — I am in the same situation. I think that many people don’t care, and I definitely think you should not bring it up!
    When I feel unhappy with my weight, I am tempted to do the bare minimum to be clean and neat, rather than spending time styling my hair and picking out flattering outfits. But in my experience that’s counter-productive — it helps me get into the right positive attitude if I have well-tailored clothes, or at least a really nice scarf. It’s like professional armour.

    I will note — IMO it’s a little simplistic to say “decent people won’t judge you for this physical characteristic.” Weight stigma exists even in decent people — it’s unconscious bias. Well, I suppose, for some people it’s conscious, but I think it would be hard for anyone to live in our society and remain completely unaffected by stereotypes about weight. I’ll post in a reply a link to the Project Implicit association tests, which include a weight version as well as many others.

    1. TechWorker*

      I also know folks (including my manager) who are otherwise quite sensitive/on the look out for other forms of discrimination like sexism/racism, but seemingly have a total blind spot when it comes to people being overweight. (You may reasonably conclude that makes them ‘not decent’, but these aren’t people I would generally consider to be unpleasant or difficult to work with…)

  68. Itsjustanothergirl*

    I work remote 100% of the time. Twice a year, my entire company flies into one city and we have a week-long retreat. The weeks leading up to these retreats fill me with dread – why didn’t I lose weight, how will my looks be judged, and so on.

    Then I get there and I see all my friends I haven’t seen in months and all I can think is how good it is to see them, and I don’t think I’d even notice a bit of weight gain or thinning hair or any other flaws, just that this buddy of mine is live and in person and we get to hang out, and I can’t think of one time I’ve ever heard any one say (to the person or behind their back) anything negative about someone else.

    So, my advice is to go, enjoy getting to see your peeps in person, and let yourself off the hook for life taking over and adding a few extra pounds.

  69. West*

    OP, I understand. I’ve recently been treated for breast cancer and every time I see people I look different and I worry I need to say something. One day I came in to work with a flat chest after my mastectomy. The next month I started to have breasts again as my reconstruction began with chest expanders. Then I lost my hair to chemo. It’s a lot of changes, and mine happen to be very sudden changes, but I know how you feel. I’ve ultimately decided it’s not anyone’s business but mine. I’ve had one or two people asking me why I won’t take my hat off in the office (As in, “Haha, West, are you so cold you won’t take your hat off? Should we turn the heat up?”), but after a little awkwardness and me mentioning chemo, they realized it wasn’t something they should be asking about. Truly, you don’t owe anyone an explanation about your body changing.

  70. Laurel*

    As another anxiety person, sometimes I find it helpful to go into this kind of stressful situation with a mantra ready. When I catch myself falling into negative self talk or catastrophizing or whatever, I just come back to whatever it was that I already planned out. It needs to be something that feels authentic and true, but it can be really helpful to be ready to tell yourself “It feels like everyone is looking at me but most of them haven’t noticed. This outfit looks good on me and I’m here to do my best work”—or whatever version of that works for you.

  71. ProdMgr*

    Totally normal to get jumpy when you haven’t seen colleagues in a long time and you have to switch gears from “home office” to “people all the time” for a few days.

    One suggestion – make sure you’ve got some clothes that fit the shape you are right now and make you feel good. How people perceive your body is largely determined by how flattering your clothes are. This is the kind of thing where it’s worth a shopping trip to get some stuff that fits really well and makes you feel your best. If Nordstroms is an option, their professional shoppers are brilliant for this too.

  72. MotherOfCats*

    I can sympathize with the anxiety. I had head & neck surgery for cancer a couple months ago and now look kind of like a chipmunk with a cheek full of nuts. I was totally self-conscious about going back to work (or basically anywhere) and letting people see me. The thing is, most people are basically decent and won’t give you a hard time. I got zero remarks from co-workers. One particularly obtuse person didn’t even notice! I’ll be having another surgery in a couple weeks to reduce the bulge & I bet nobody says anything about that either. Besides, if it’s been a year, they probably don’t remember what you looked like last year :-)

  73. BrandyTeapot*

    I’ve been extremely fat my whole career. I work remotely most of the time at my current job. When I do come in for meetings, people are just happy to see me! If it’s been a year people will be really happy to see you too.

  74. ampersand*

    I agree with everyone else that if you only see these colleagues once a year, it’s likely they either won’t notice your weight gain or will think they misremembered what you look like! Or they’ll have some vague realization that you *have* gained some weight, but they won’t know how much, and then they’ll promptly forget and start thinking about something else. It’s absolutely true that you’re thinking about this so much more than anyone else is, because that’s how humans operate, and everyone else is thinking about your appearance not very much at all, since most of us are focused on ourselves.

    If you can’t shake the anxiety before this work event, it’s possible you’ll feel better once you get over the hump of seeing everyone again. If it were me, I imagine that is how it would go: I would have to talk myself down from the anxiety (probably multiple times) and then once I got reacquainted with everyone I would feel better again. Like: “Okay, I’ve got this, no one has said anything, I’m good.” And if that’s the best you can do, totally understandable, and I would just aim for recognizing that your anxiety will eventually lessen!

  75. Automated*

    In my 7 years of corporate work people have gained and loss weight. It was never a topic of conversation and i probably notice more then others because of my own weight issues. Its always been a neutral – thats a thing that happened – sort of non entity.

    I recommend you get some well fitting clothes and probably most people will not notice. As long as you are not trying to squeeze into too small clothes it really wont stick out.

    In 7 years I can think of only 1 exception to this. “Wakeen” was a jerk about others weight. Constantly judging what people ate, how hard they were working out, etc. When Wakeen gained 100lbs in 1 year after quitting keto there was gossip about him. Thats the only example I can think of.

  76. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    On “your appearance is way more significant to you than to anyone else” – Due to a perfect storm of issues (physical and financial), I had zero not a single one absolutely no teeth in the upper arch of my mouth for two years and change. The list of people who never noticed until I told them included my aunt, my gran, my best friend’s wife (and their wedding, with the hell that was someone else’s wedding pictures, was in the middle of the two years), and my entire work team for the last six months straight, plus the two levels of management I interviewed with when I got promoted.

  77. Carlie*

    OP – I have lived through this so many times. I’ve seen former classmates after years apart, family I only see once every year or two, work colleagues I only see at conventions every few years, and major weight gains between all of them.
    Really, nobody will say anything, especially if you don’t. If you bring it up, it’s weird and then they have to figure out how to respond, but if you don’t say anything about it neither will they, even if they do register the difference. Wear something nice that fits well and makes you feel put together and professional, take up all the space you need and deserve (don’t slouch and cower and shrink), and it will all go fine. If you are able and want to, get a manicure or fresh hair styling right before to feel even more polished. Definitely watch a few Lizzo videos to psych yourself up right before you go. :)

  78. Happy Pineapple*

    OP, I completely empathize with your anxiety. It is totally normal to get nervous before big events, even if they happen regularly, and especially if you’re feeling self conscious. I was facing a very similar situation going into my college reunion; I hadn’t seen these people in years and had gained a SIGNIFICANT amount of weight since then. I was mortified about what people would think and how they would react. But it turns out… no one cared. People recognized me, I didn’t get a single weird look or snide comment, and most of my former classmates had also changed in one way or another. Life happens, and far more often than not other people are far too worried about themselves to even register that you look different.

    You never need to justify, forewarn, or explain your body and your heath to anyone. Just show everyone how great you are at your job, that’s why you’re there!

  79. LizardOfOdds*

    I’ve been there. To be honest, I probably didn’t deal with this in a terribly healthy way – I got a drastic haircut so people would have something else to focus on besides how much weight I’d gained since the last time they saw me. That way when I got the expected look of surprise, I could just say, “oh, right, you haven’t seen me since I cut my hair!” and we could make the conversation about that. I honestly don’t know if anyone would have noticed the weight gain, though… thankfully, no one has ever said anything to me about it, and in most professional environments I don’t think they would (to Alison’s point).

  80. AnotherLibrarian*

    As someone who struggles with her weight, the best advice I ever got was this- Wear clothing that you feel good in regardless of the size on the label. As long as I feel like I look well put together, in properly fitting clothing, my weight fluctuation don’t make me feel quite so self conscious.

  81. GreyjoyGardens*

    I’m with those who say that your weight gain is probably a LOT less obvious than you might think, especially to those who don’t see you often. We see ourselves every day in the mirror, so we notice things that someone who hasn’t seen you for a couple of years would not.

    Besides, someone who DOES say “Oh my God Cindy you’ve put on SO MUCH WEIGHT!” is a jerk, and would be outing themselves as one to anyone within earshot. I for one would be on your side and think “what a glassbowl that Fergus is! It’s not necessary or kind to say stuff like that to acquaintances!”

  82. Properlike*

    Let’s talk about anxiety: The reason I can’t work from home full-time (even though I’ve had the opportunity) is that I lose all my people skills and my anxiety starts to eat my brain. If you’re not regularly getting feedback from the outside world and only from the self-critical person in the mirror, you start to extrapolate that *everyone* thinks as you do. Then you miss the parts of life where you have interactions where strangers and friends think you’re great and they compliment you on stuff and you feel objectively capable. ALSO: I teach part-time, I’m very good at it, and sometimes I still get anxious feelings about walking in and teaching class. Not the first day! Like four weeks in. :)

    Go out and people at least a couple times a week until this conference so you’re warmed up and you recognize that you are amazing. Focus on the things you’ve accomplished, and your social strengths (I know you have them.) Think about the people you’re excited to see, and maybe even send them a note about how you’re looking forward to catching up IRL. I guarantee you’re going to get some notes back that say the same. You’ve got this! :)

  83. blink14*

    Pick out an outfit that makes you feel great, or buy something new (and don’t worry about the size!) . If you feel comfortable and confident in your outfit for the meeting, that will come off to other people without you needing to address or say anything.

    At the end of the day, almost everyone has some part of their body they aren’t comfortable with or don’t like. The best thing to do is to project confidence, and that will in turn project a positive personal image.

  84. NoLongerYoung*

    Also, you are not the only one who may have “something” that has physically changed, and all this does is sort out the polite from the jerks if they do or say anything.
    Example – mandatory celebration mix-and-mingle at our organization (think, once a decade level). One of our remote people came in with the worst adult acne flare I’ve seen in the corporate world.
    Did I mention it? No, nor did more than catch enough of a glimpse and process. (Definitely a no-stare, not even looking again except directly into her eyes… which is where the conversation should be, anyway).
    I have basically found that everyone just wants to talk about themselves. It works for me to remember that and divert / lead the conversation into “all about them” when I am uncomfortable.
    (and yes, I was in a fortune X company when I was 299, doing mult-million dollar transactions, and weight was a rampant discrimination item, but then, so was being female – I had a double strike against me).
    Sending a hug if it is welcomed.

  85. Anita Brayke*

    Sweet OP, you ARE beautiful! You just are.

    And when one is not healthy, one’s brain (at least mine!) doesn’t work quite properly, and it’s easy to stress out over things over which we have no control. Because you did (did you deliberately set out to gain weight and work too many hours? No. You did not) the best you could during the reorg and the illness and everything else that was going on your life.

    When I say this next thing, I don’t think you need to get more beautiful, because we’ve already established that you are beautiful. But I think you need to take care of YOU for a minute, and realize how beautiful you are. So if it’s in the finances, buy a beautiful outfit for the meeting, get your hair done, and do lots of mental self-care even if nothing’s in the budget. YOU are important. YOU are loved. And you are not alone!

    A few years back I lost 40lbs. I STILL dread meetings of this type. Many people probably feel this way…if it has to be done then do it, but look in the mirror first, tell yourself you’re beautiful, drink lots of water and rest as much as you can, and realize YOU’VE GOT THIS! YOU are the rockstar who got through the past year!!

  86. Dual Peppin Whiskey*

    I am 32 years old, and for the second time in my life, am having to deal with having braces–super fun! A few months after I’d gotten them on, I was talking with a prospective client for roughly an hour and a half; I was sitting right next to her desk, so we were only a few feet apart. On the first day that I came into work for her, I mentioned them during one of our conversations, and she was completely floored–she hadn’t even noticed them! Given that their actual braces and not Invisalign, and the fact that I smile constantly, I was absolutely flabbergasted that she hadn’t noticed them either! Ultimately, I think this just goes to back up everyone else’s point that other people notice the things that we feel insecure about far less than we do.

  87. Dancing Otter*

    I have a range of about forty pounds depending whether I’ve been depressed (eating my feelings) or dieting/exercising. It’s pretty obvious, though I’m never not overweight. Nobody has ever, EVER, not one person, not even once, said ANYTHING about my weight fluctuations. This is probably your own anxiety and internalized fat-shaming, not a realistic risk.

    If any of your colleagues are rude enough to make any allusion to your appearance, give them your best withering stare, and the standard, “I must not have heard you correctly. Did you really comment on my appearance?”

  88. GreenDoor*

    And if you do get a blank stare of lack of recognition, in your mind, just assume it’s truly because of the length of time it’s been, not because of your appearance. Be prepared to offer a friendly opener in a upbeat tone to diffuse any akwardness. “Oh it’s been about a year since we’ve seen each other…it’s hard to remember who we all are. I’m OP, from the midland office.” Or whatever. (And if you’ve forgotten them…you just gave them an opportunity to refresh your memory of their name, too.

  89. Not A Manager*

    Maybe someone said this upthread, but WHEN (not if) someone doesn’t recognize you, please don’t immediately assume it’s because of your weight gain. Many of us wouldn’t recognize our own mothers without a name tag, let alone someone we see once a year.

    Not recognizing people at big events like these is completely ordinary, but your brain squirrels might want to make it seem sinister.

  90. Melanie*

    Give them something else to notice about you. Get a really cool, bold, fashionable outfit, conversation-starter accessories, and treat yourself to a blowout/new haircut. If it makes sense for you, consider getting someone to do your makeup for the event.

    1. Melanie*

      Also- make the small talk about THEM. Compliment them, ask them about themselves, etc. People care more about how you make them feel about themselves. If you make them feel good/seen/heard they won’t thinnk about your size/appearance, just that they enjoy being around you.

  91. J9*

    If you don’t announce it, there is a good chance people may not take notice. But if you do announce it, you’ve just made them notice.

    It’s not just you. Anxiety is really something.

  92. Amy*

    OP, I know the feeling. I’ve been on both sides of this. On the occasions where one of my coworkers noticeably gained weight since the last time I saw them, it would dimly register in my mind the way any other visible difference would, then I’d promptly forget. That’s if I noticed at all. Unless you’ve drastically changed anything else with your appearance, people will still recognize you as you. Anyone with the slightest sense of tact will know that weight is a fraught topic and not appropriate to bring up at a work meeting; if they do, approach it as you would as a problem with them, not with you.

    On your side of things, it’s been helpful for me to not focus on the weight gain itself as a problem because there are so many reasons people gain weight, like medications and stress. Figuring out where blame lies in past actions doesn’t really help either. Instead, think of what would help you feel better overall in the future. Use that PTO, talk to your manager about decreasing the marathon days and weekend work, ask your doctor if there’s a way to mitigate the medication side effects, talk to a therapist about the anxiety, all that good stuff.

  93. inbetweendiets*

    I hope that your meeting goes well and that you can ignore your anxieties for the duration.

    One thing I’ve noticed – if your clothing fits you well, it will be less noticeable that you’ve gained weight. In fact, good fitting clothing is pretty slimming – I make a point of wearing a size that never pulls (in part because I can’t stand feeling like a sausage in a too-tight casing). I don’t look thin, but I do look professional and comfortable.

    Another thing – you might find that wearing a compression / slimming garment under your clothing helps. I did this for a wedding I went to a couple summers ago, when I was at my heaviest, and it made a huge difference to how my dress looked on me.

  94. Emilitron*

    Sometimes one of my coworkers or managers who I have a huge amount of respect for, or one of my role models, will come in with their shirt misbuttoned, or having forgotten deoderant and smelling funny, or stand up to speak at a meeting with granola bar crumbs all over their jacket. I do not lose all respect for them. I think “Oh, thank goodness, they’re human after all, there may be a chance that I too can maintain some amount of my coworkers’ respect despite the many times I expose how human I am.” One of your coworkers just knows you from the great remote work you do, and is prepared to be intimidated by you, but will meet you, see you’re just a normal person, and relax. People are more inclined to judge themselves than they are to judge you. You’ll be fine.

  95. LogicalOne*

    As someone who’s struggled with weight issues since middle school, let me tell you that what I’ve learned is to be yourself and don’t think about your own issues, as cliche as that sounds. You’d be surprised how many people are concerned more about how they look rather than what others are thinking. You all may be in the same boat. Focusing too much on your own looks may indicate that you need validation. While you may be thinking “Oh my gosh everyone is going to notice how different I look”, it may be more realistic in terms of everyone else concerned about what you think of them. Besides, looks aren’t everything. Persona counts more in this day and age and I personally am more concerned about whether or not I can get along with such person rather than how they look. It’s such a shame how Hollywood has heavily conditioned us to think that being thin and beautiful is the only way to acceptance. Nope. I am a big believer against that ideology. Wherever you go, let those pesky inner demon thoughts begone and don’t let it consume you. Don’t let those thoughts win because everyday is a battle against whatever comes your way.

  96. Kaaaaaren*

    I have a lot of the same fears/anxieties that the OP describes and I also work remotely and only see my colleagues in person once or twice per year . Like the OP, I become convinced that my coworkers will notice any weight gain, blemishes, etc. and I get unduly nervous about meeting in person, even though I have been at my job longer than almost everyone else/in the workforce for more than a decade. I don’t know if I have much advice to help, except that I’ve found it helps me to try to talk on the phone to a few of my coworkers in the days/weeks leading up to the meeting to reestablish to myself that they’re actually very nice and to reassure myself that my interactions with them aren’t *awkward*. Of course, I don’t have a TON of coworkers, so this is easier for me than for someone working on a large team, but still — reaching out to a few select coworkers might help ease some tension for you. And, it doesn’t need to be a chit-chat phone call; just consider calling once when you would ordinarily email or something.

    1. Kaaaaaren*

      Sorry, I meant to add: for the weight stuff, I find it helps me feel better about that if I make a concerted effort to eat better and workout more in the weeks leading up to a meeting. Even if I don’t actually lose weight before the meeting, being in that mindset, being active, eating more healthfully, etc. can impact how you feel — whether you “feel fat” or not — which is really the main thing about having confidence at these kind of events. And, even if you don’t lose fat, you can possibly eliminate some bloating, which can make your clothes feel more comfortable, which will also up your confidence.

  97. Sleve McDichael*

    Letter writer, you know that social anxiety feeling of ‘oh no, people are going to be mean to me about my weight’? I can guarantee to you that there are other people going to this event thinking ‘oh no, people are going to be mean to me about my braces/grey hair/scars/cheap blouse/missing eyebrow/acne/vitiligo/stutter/small chin/crows feet/crutches’. None of these people will be judging you as they’re too busy being afraid of you. Good news is, you can help them and yourself at the same time! If you are kind and helpful and friendly to people, the main thing they will remember about you is how you made them feel. And those with social anxiety will remember your kindness and think, ‘thank goodness at least one person was nice to me’. That’s how they will remember you, as Letter Writer who was kind, considerate and thoughtful. Take it from someone with vitiligo, people truly care more about how you make them feel than how you look. They’re self-centred, it’s human nature. Good luck, best wishes and have fun!

  98. Boldly Go*

    I totally get this (my former job was not remote but I worked for a global organization and saw people once a year or two. I wanted to look my best and didn’t always have that).

    This may sound silly, but if you can afford (time and money) I would get some fabulous outfits, new shoes, good haircut etc. Feel good and confident about yourself. I’m sure that others feel the same way.

  99. Marie*

    After a serious car accident left me disabled I had to find a new way to look at my body, not with judgement but with love based on gratitude at being alive. If I caught myself disparaging myself I changed my thoughts to thinking how my Loving God views me (all of us) with Adoration…. Further, if someone comments on my weight (unfortunately always another woman), I respond: “Are you commenting on my body? I love my body. But. I want you to know that not everyone loves their body, and your commenting on their body could cause that person to feel horrible and worse. I don’t want to hear your comments on my body, and I hope you won’t comment to others about their bodies.”
    Letter Writer, I hope you do get time for a work-life balance, and even before that happens I hope you see yourself with love and acceptance today. I hear a kind heart in your words, and I hope you will be kind to yourself. All best to you.

  100. Malty*

    Just chucking in some love as someone who’s gained a lot of weight thanks to medication – if it helps you LW I don’t love the weight gain but I don’t tell people why it happened, because the fantasy girl in my head doesn’t need to justify herself, and the fact that as far as other people are aware I’m totally cool with it has genuinely created a loop that’s made me more confident about it. YMMV but either way I understand and support you!

  101. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    OP, are you by chance a woman between the ages of 40-50? If yes, then it’s likely perimenopausal hormone changes are involved in the weight gain issue. The average weight gain during this time for women is 30 lbs. And that’s if we are still exercising and eating relatively healthy…the body will put on weight in most women no matter what, to compensate for declining estrogen levels. It’s frustrating for sure, and I feel the exact same way you do about having anxiety around people who I used to know before this 30-lb middle muffin thing rudely itself presented in my life. Do the best you can and try not to focus on it for this one meeting.

    1. Jdc*

      Oh yes. My neighbor is a body builder and dealing with this. If that doesn’t help your mind set what will. A woman who eats insanely clean, no drinking, works out every day, lifts weights. The body changes.

  102. Jdc*

    I totally get feeling this way. LW big hug. I myself have put on some weight due to a health issue and medication causing a very quick weight gain and happened to have that oh my gosh moment just recently.

    Know that people put on and lose weight for so many reasons so many times in life. Pregnancy, health, stress (I lose weight to a scary degree when stressed), love (all those long lingering dinners), you name it.

    Adults (most) realize this and won’t say a thing or think much of it. They might notice it but everyone looks a bit different year to year. Jim is grey now, Bob is balding, Maryann chopped her long hair off to a shaved head, Barbara looks pregnant but maybe not…

    We have these brief thoughts and we don’t care. It’s actually our brain noticing a detail that’s changed more than judgement. This is especially true as we get older. We all get a bit softer in one spot, less hair in another.

    Remind yourself of that. Also, because I know it mentally helps, if you can, go buy yourself a new outfit. Maybe a gorgeous suit. How great does it feel to strut in somewhere feeling confident in a new outfit. No one doesn’t love that. Plus, is you are like me right now, wearing my current clothes can be a bit uncomfortable. So buy the size or two up and feel beautiful.

    For what it’s worth i have been insanely skinny and bigger and I was critiqued when skinny non stop yet never heard a peep when I gained. Go figure.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      Re: your last two sentences: Same with me! At different times in my life, I have been underweight, average weight, and overweight. When I was underweight, people commented on my body quite frequently, but hardly at all when I was average weight or overweight.

  103. All Outrage, All The Time*

    Chances are no one will notice or care. If they are boorish enough to comment that you have gained weight, just look at them like they have two heads and move along. No answer required.

  104. Flying Fingers*

    Totally agree with Alison – people don’t pay nearly as much attention to us as we think. I recently shaved my head because of alopecia areata, and I was terrified that people would recoil in horror. The people that didn’t know about my condition prior to me showing up in a scarf barely batted an eye. They noticed, of course, but they didn’t say anything and it was business as usual. Have a good time catching up with everyone!

  105. BTS*

    I think this is all really great advice, but I want to say that the truth is sometimes people do notice and do care a lot, no matter how absurd that is.

    When I was in high school, I struggled socially because I was extremely self-conscious and was constantly imagining that everyone thought I was fat, ugly, and didn’t belong. It was like I could hear all of the negative thoughts they had about me and it was truly socially debilitating. I was able to get over that eventually and become a happier, less awkward, more normal human by telling myself that people probably weren’t thinking about me nearly as much as I thought they were.

    Flash forward six years and I’m working at a large, prestigious organization. I lose weight- something along the lines of 25 pounds over the course of a year. And as I begin to lose weight, people start coming out of the woodwork congratulating me on my weight loss. Many people I barely ever talked to in the two years I worked there are coming up to me saying how great I look. For others, it is usually their opening line when they see me, and the comments continue for many months.

    I’m sure these people were well intentioned, but it was actually very detrimental to me psychologically at the time. All of a sudden I realized, “wow, people really do notice my weight and what I look like” and they seemed to care about it way more than I ever thought possible. Some of the weight I had lost intentionally, but some I had not, and the result of all that attention to my weight resulting in me feeling enormous social pressure not to gain any weight.

    Years later, I gained the weight back (and have since partially lost it again) and realized that people- not just strangers and acquaintances, but my immediate family and close friends I had for many years- treated me worse as a result (and better once I lost weight).

    This is not at all meant to be discouraging, but just to realize that sometimes the “nobody will notice” advice doesn’t work. I am sure most of us have been in situations where people are gossiping about other people’s weight gain, or have had someone exclaim in horror that we looked like we gained weight.

    It took me a while to come to terms with that and balancing the truth of “they don’t notice as much as I think they do” with “they notice and this matters to them more than I thought would,” both of which are true some of the time. The advice I can give you then, is to remember that it really isn’t that important. What’s much more important is what you do. The other advice I can give you, which applies in all social(-anxiety generating) situations, is to focus on how you can make the other person feel good just by talking to you or being around you. Instead of focusing on and worrying about what other people think of you, purpose to focus on how to help others (whether this is connecting them with the right person or resource, or even just lifting their spirits with a joke or warm greeting). I guarantee you will have much more success at the meeting by doing this than focusing on your weight.

  106. Former Employee*

    “I’ve actually put on some weight each of the past three years, but this year was the point where I looked in the mirror and thought “oh no!””

    This is the type of comment that I always think of when people say that of course someone knows they’ve gained weight and there is no need to bring it up to them.

    I’ve read other comments online to the effect that the writer only discovered how much weight they’d gained when they either needed to buy something new for a special event and their size was no longer their size or they go to put on something they haven’t worn for awhile and it no longer fits.

    This is the kind of thing that can creep up on a person and someone who is close to them might be doing them a favor by mentioning it before they have an “oh, no” moment.

    Note: I am not talking about nagging. Mention it once. Unless the person wants to discuss it/brings it up on their own in the future, you never say it again.

  107. Allonge*

    I would be very careful with this line of thinking though. Think about it as risk management. What are you trying to achieve?

    In very very few situations is is appropriate to mention someone’s weight in the first place. In the appropriate cases, let’s say half of them know already. For those who have not noticed, the information may or may not be actually helpful (they cannot necessarily do anything about it, knowing may not inspire them to do anything).

    In no case will you have all the information to assess what is actually happening. It is not necessarily an immediate health issue – please don’t treat gaining weight the same as standing in a burning building.

    In almost all cases it causes hurt and can even lead to a disruption of the relationship. People who have anxiety may deteriorate. Etc.

    How about we just leave each other be?

  108. mourning mammoths*

    When I notice weight gain in others, instead of judging them for said weight gain, I wonder if they are struggling with something in their lives and if they are OK. Where I go from there depends on how close I am with that person, but in a work context – in most cases – it is more or less irrelevant.

  109. Esperanza*

    Like a couple of others in the thread, I got massively pregnant and some people didn’t notice. And I didn’t have one of those little basketball bellies. I gained 50 pounds and was huge, and wore tight outfits that made it quite obvious. Despite this, some people didn’t realize something was up until I was days away from giving birth. People don’t notice your weight nearly as much as you think.

  110. Socrates Johnson*

    For a long time I wanted to people to know that I KNOW that I am overweight and rightfully feel bad about it, and “not to worry, everyone, I DO feel bad about myself!”. As if I should feel bad about myself.
    Beyond the work thing, you probably have some digging to do about how you feel about yourself after gaining and it sounds like there is a lot of shame coming from your question.

  111. Admininja*

    OP, I feel your pain! Due to work stress & medical issues, I had to go to annual retreats heavier year after year- at an active living firm. My best strategy was to wear clothes that fit properly & had structure so I’d look & feel my most confident. Wear clothes your correct size in shapes & materials appropriate for your body. Squeezing a size 14 body into size 10 jeans will not make that body look like a 10. That body would look great in size 14 jeans, though, & go for thick denim rather than lightweight stretch. They’ll last longer & look better on you.

    If your size is stable, invest in good quality basics & layering pieces. If you fluctuate, buy cheap clothes that fit as your weight changes until it stabilizes. You want to smooth out lumps by containing them or wearing clothes loose enough & stiff enough to conceal them. Soft, body hugging silks & jersey tees are not your friends right now- sorry. (I miss them, too.) Foundation garments are key at higher weights, as are layers. Natural fabrics breathe better; avoid layering synthetics to not overheat. Camisoles, undershirts, blazers, & sweaters are all great for hiding weight. You can also use clothes to break up your visual form (blazers, tunics) & create your own proportions. That’s why an A-line skirt with a petticoat looks fantastic on curvy women: the wide hem makes the waist & legs look smaller.

    There’s a ton of advice on the Internet if you want to dive in, but those are the basics. I hope you find an outfit that makes you feel amazing. Walk into that meeting with your head held high. :)

  112. Vicky Austin*

    I wouldn’t sweat it if I were you. People gain weight for all kinds of reasons. Most Americans are overweight, anyway, due to our jobs that require us to sit down all day, our easy access to high-calorie foods, and our culture that encourages us to finish everything on our plates. I’m willing to bet that most of your coworkers wish they were thinner, too. Only a complete asshole is going to look at you and say, “Wow, you’ve gotten really fat!”

  113. Big Biscuit*

    I also go to a large corporate meeting annually. Our meetings are sort of “organized chaos”, so I can’t really say I notice that much detail regarding the appearance of colleagues I see once a year. My weight has probably fluctuated 40 pounds up or down over my tenure with the company. I’m not jumping for joy when I attend on the heavier side, but once I get into the swing of the conference I forget about it. Hopefully, you can relax knowing that your weight is probably not being noticed or judged as much as you might think if at all. There’s a lot going on at national conferences! Some people are just trying to survive their hangovers!

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