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

Remember the letter-writer in January who was dreading a corporate meeting because she’d gained weight? Here’s the update.

I was so truly in awe with the advice, analysis, thoughts and compassion that came back in response to my letter.

It was posted during the trip in question, and because of the hours involved with the meetings (pre-breakfast to late at night) I couldn’t break away to respond. However, I read every single response and was honestly moved to tears by how helpful and kind everyone was. I reread every response again today and found myself smiling, laughing and again, tearing up a bit. I’m not a very emotional person–at all–but I was so touched that readers took time not just to respond, but to respond with such insight. Of course, I see the same insight and kindness on other posts, but being on the receiving end of it is–very special. Thank you to all!

Of course, now we are in the middle of the pandemic, and it makes things that loomed large at the end of January seem like much smaller potatoes at this point. We just hope that next year, we are able to have a corporate meeting and that no one is laid off or has health issues or worse.

This is how the meeting panned out: Almost everything that the readership predicted came true. NO ONE commented on my weight–not a single person. I did see one of my closer coworkers do a double-take, but it was brief and we moved forward. Although I had not had the benefit of the advice column yet, I thought along the same lines and made sure my hair, makeup and jewelry was all in order, which made me feel as comfortable as possible. That was a great suggestion that many people made.

I did NOT bring up my weight proactively, and I am so glad I didn’t. It would have been a weird move for all the reasons you pointed out.

People were happy to see me! I was happy to see people! I used to be rather extroverted, and I feel like the last years of focusing so much on my career have taken me down a long tunnel where I have really lost touch with other more important things. I began to see that perhaps I was worried so much about what my coworkers thought about me (much as I like my coworkers) because I didn’t have enough other people or priorities in my life. I also started to realize that I was not as concerned about gaining the weight as I was about what other people think, and I found that rather sad.

I actually won an award and when I was called up to the stage I was touched at the applause and cheers, which were very warm! That also helped me notice the human connection rather than just an accomplishment.

It was very helpful to hear that other readers struggle with anxiety in general and in relation to these types of annual events. I liked the pointers toward body positive literature and philosophies. Someone pointed out to be helpful at making other people comfortable, and I think that’s a wonderful strategy. Lots of readers pointed out that people are not thinking as much about you as you are–also very helpful. Interestingly, commenter Jaybeetee suggested the opposite strategy of assuming that everyone IS noticing and judging, but then spinning into “so what?” That tactic and way of analyzing actually works well for me.

Since January, I’ve worked to try to reconnect with some friends and with life in general. I don’t work on weekends anymore, and I’ve scheduled time off and have not answered email during that time off. I have found that the muscles to connect with people, to have fun, and to be creative have atrophied. Although I’m better at taking down time, I don’t always know what to do with that down time.

I’ve joined an online plan to lose weight and to feel better physically and I really like that it stresses a healthy relationship with all food–it feels balanced.

Even though we’ve had lots of conference calls, this week was actually the first time I’ve had to have a camera presence on two of them. I thought this would be really difficult–I’ve avoided having my picture taken like a plague, but it was actually reassuring and I made myself say “Hey look–there I am! My face is a little fuller than I’d like, but that’s OK. that’s me!”

Again, a profound thank you for all of the sharing and advice on that thread. Because I think (in my particular case) the hyperfocus on my career over several years caused the kind of imbalance that leads to (ongoing) obsessive behavior and anxiety, my advice back to people earlier on in life would be to not paint yourself into a corner. I truly think my concern over this particular meeting, and what acquaintances think, is symptomatic of being out of balance in other areas. As horrible as the pandemic is, it is useful at putting more important things in perspective.

{ 48 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I don’t want this thread to become promotion for Noom (or debate about it), so I’m removing those comments and ask that we keep that out of future replies. Thank you!

    1. Artemesia*

      Great feedback. I love the idea of assuming then dismissing the worst case scenario — that sort of thing helps me as I tend to catastrophize myself and find that works. Yes this awful thing will happen – so what? Works for me. And NEVER being defensive about it is great advice. I have a couple of friends in a book group who are both very overweight and very fine business women — they are successful and proud of it and really throw themselves into life – work and social life and I have never heard them ever make a self deprecating remark about their size. They accept whom they are and no one gives it a thought as a result. One has been steadily promoted, the other started her own successful business last year although the pandemic may put an end to it.

      I think also that many, perhaps most, have had weight struggles and so there is a lot of empathy for that.

  2. Guy*

    Read the original letter and this followup just now and almost cried. I’ve struggled with my weight and recently I was concerned about a conference because of the opposite reason — I had lost more than 80 pounds. I was so concerned that people would notice and talk about it, and I didn’t want them to. It gave me such huge anxiety leading up to the conference. Thankfully, during, no one said anything. I got a lot of double-takes, some people mentioned I was more energetic than usual (which, in my opinion, wasn’t true; they just weren’t used to seeing me much slimmer). That kind of thing. But no one said anything.

    All that to say: I empathize with you, OP. It can be difficult when your body goes through a drastic change and you have to sort of “debut” it at a large, professional setting. It’s a very unique type of situation. And it doesn’t help that sometimes friends and family members (and even strangers!) feel like they can comment on your body all the time, so we expect it to happen at a work conference too for some reason. Glad to read you’re doing better!

    1. anon for this*

      This happened to me too. I was at a healthy weight that never changed much and then an underlying condition I didn’t even know I had suddenly came up on tests. Two months on a medication and WHAM, I lost 40 pounds without trying (it was so unlikely that I didn’t even notice until my clothes kept basically falling off). All this happened while I was away on an 8-month training thing at our satellite branch on the other side of the continent. So I had to return after that with my body looking very different and with all new clothes because none of my old ones fit anymore. I got a few comments on how “healthy” I suddenly looked, which was probably nothing but societal standards of attractiveness talking. Weirdly my body image had always been fine but now that something had CHANGED so dramatically, it got thrown way off. It’s still not as steady as it was, which makes me feel embarrassed because the world is far, far more fatphobic than the opposite. All I can do is reaffirm my commitment to be awesome to other humans and push back on the idea that anyone’s body is supposedly “wrong.”

      Thinking of you, OP. I’m so glad no one said anything!

      1. twig*

        Something similar happened to me: I lost around 35 pounds last fall as my marriage was falling apart. I was barely eating.

        “how did you do it?” “You look great” — Yeah, not eating and being gas lighted by someone you thought was your best friend and life-mate will do that to you.

        Now that the divorce is final, I like to say I lost 280 pounds (him).

        I avoid commenting on folks weight loss if they don’t bring it up. “You’re so skinny, you look great” comments carry with them a connotation of “you looked like crap before” for me.

        1. MAC*

          11 years ago, I lost about 20 pounds in the 6 weeks after my dog died. I had been through a terrible 3 months leading up to that – a bad breakup, a bad injury, an unfair and inaccurate work evaluation, and then the loss of my 11-year old dog less than 2 weeks before my 40th birthday. I was a mess.
          As I was slowly coming out the other side of grief, a co-worker’s husband who knew none of this saw me at a mutual friend’s birthday party and in all sincerity exclaimed “You look great! You should keep doing whatever you’ve been doing!”
          It … did not make me feel better, or better about myself.

      2. Toothless*

        I’ve been intentionally losing weight for a few months now, and the change in my body is WEIRD and has done strange things to my body image even though it was 100% on purpose and something I wanted and expected to happen. Body image is a strange thing, and it just takes time for your brain to catch up when your body changes.

  3. BigRedGum*

    This is such a nice update and I love it. I’m so happy things went so well!

    1. Daniel*


      The point about balance near the end definitely hit home for me–I was much worse about doing that, when I was much younger (still in school). Since entering the formal workforce, I’ve tried pretty hard about maintaining a work-life balance. I feel like I now know how that affects my own well-being and how it affects my career, which gives me much more insight into what I want to do for myself.

  4. nep*

    Deeply grateful for this letter/update. Hugely inspiring and heartening. Thank you. I wish you peace and the best of health.

  5. Lovecraft Beauty*

    God, was that letter from January? It feels like I read it a thousand years ago.

    I’m really glad you’re feeling less self-conscious in your own body, LW!

  6. FuzzyFuzzyCat*

    And if anyone ever does comment on your body, that’s totally out of line and unprofessional on their part. No one should ever comment on another person’s body, but this is especially true at work.

  7. Tobias Funke*

    This is wonderful, OP.

    I am a very fat therapist and I made the move to telehealth in the second week of March. I have spent eight hours a day for the last nearly two months staring at my face in the corner of my doxy screen. AND I LOVE IT. It has been like exposure therapy for my face. I love my chins. I love my expressiveness. I love that I have gotten a glimpse of what my clients see. It has really been fantastic for accepting myself as I am.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      But can they see you at dusk? Love the UN.

      This is so lovely to hear – people’s energy and emotion and warmth is such a huge part of attraction (not just sexual -but as humans wanting to be around other humans). Affinity to people and a real regard for them as a person comes out of that expressiveness, the way that you contribute to their work or their life, the consideration you give them in small things. I love that seeing that animation and the connection and warmth you’re projecting to your patients is so affirming.

    2. Quill*

      I’ve got a similar problem. I like myself from the inside, and I like my face in theory, and in the mirror, but photos for some reason don’t look right.

      Could stand to spend more time looking at myself in motion.

      1. allathian*

        Photos don’t look right, because we’re used to seeing ourselves in the mirror. Take a photo of yourself and flip it horizontally and see if you like the mirror image better. Faces are asymmetrical, some more so than others.
        I guess most smartphones also let you use the front camera as a mirror, and some have an app that lets you flip the mirror image so that you can see yourself as others see you.

    3. Ew, David*

      What a sweet and lovely comment on a sweet and lovely update! This whole letter and subsequent comment thread are balms for my soul.

    4. Alli525*

      A psychologist I know is a big proponent of “mirror meditation” which is essentially just nonjudgmentally looking at your face for periods of time. Apparently over time it can really help boost self-esteem, because you stop looking at your face as something that needs makeup or hairs removed or to be “fixed” in any way. You just get used to the look of your own face. I’ve never tried it but it makes a lot of sense to me.

    5. Liz*

      You and the OP have really helped me with your remarks today! I’ve gained a bunch of weight in isolation, and as much as I’m joking that I’ve cultivated a new chin along with my sourdough starter, the truth is that I’m a bit self-conscious. You and OP have given me a new internal monologue about it, and I thank you both.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This update really made my day, too. I’m so glad the conference was a success but also love your reconnection and work to make time for yourself.

    2. Kay*

      +1. I don’t know why any diet company, especially on that is known to be scam, is being promoted on here.

  8. Jules the 3rd*

    Sure is dusty in here.

    Congrats OP, and may your life be long, healthy, and happy.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      I hadn’t read your comment on the original post, but you helped me, as well!

  9. LT*

    I missed the original post, but I’m glad to hear it was a good update! This brought to mind a line from a great book (by Melissa Bank – I think it was in ‘The Wonder Spot’, but might have been ‘The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing’), where the main character is in Jr High & goes to the roller rink and (paraphrased!) “I felt like everyone was watching me, then realized no one was, and felt the distinct shame of each.” We’ve all been there! Glad everything worked out & good for you getting your work/life balance back – I know I need that.

  10. Zephyrine*

    What a great update! I’m so glad everything worked out. And congratulations on your award!

    I started wearing glasses about 6 months ago (I had 20/15 vision as a kid but developed astigmatism as an adult…weird). I spent a lot of time thinking about what people would think and say. You know how many people commented on my new glasses? ZERO. Not a single one. It was a good reminder that most people just don’t notice or care that much about other people’s appearances.

  11. Third or Nothing!*

    HECK YES!!!!! Don’t forget: your body is an instrument, not an ornament. I wish you all the best as you continue making peace with your body and cultivating balance in your life.

  12. MissDisplaced*

    So glad you went and enjoyed yourself at the event.

    Most people are uncomfortable about something to do with their looks. But, you know, sometimes you just gotta say that’s the way it is right now. You can decide to change it if you want (or not) later, but don’t let it hold you back from enjoying the here and now.

  13. Champagne Cocktail*

    Very happy for you. Best wishes!

    Anxiety is tough to manage. I’m glad you know you aren’t alone with it.

  14. CM*

    So interesting that you say you didn’t care so much yourself about the weight gain, only what other people thought of it. During this period where I’m at home all the time and nobody ever sees me, I feel like I’m learning for the first time in my life which aspects of my appearance and grooming are important to me, as opposed to what I do for other people. I’m glad the conference went well and you learned you are not alone in these kinds of worries — and that the worries themselves were unfounded because it turns out your connections with people are genuine.

  15. HMM*

    What a lovely update from a lovely person. I hope life continues to take you in a positive direction, whatever you wish that to be!

  16. Amethystmoon*

    It is a good update.

    I long for a world in which no one is judged by their weight.

  17. Charley*

    This is one of my favorite updates where the lovely supportive comments on the original post have really changed the original poster’s point of view on life :)

  18. Echo*

    LW, thank you for writing in to share such a lovely update! I’m glad to hear you are doing well.

    “Interestingly, commenter Jaybeetee suggested the opposite strategy of assuming that everyone IS noticing and judging, but then spinning into “so what?””

    As someone who’s dealt with anxiety my whole life, I just want to second this strategy strongly. One of my old habits with anxiety was to try to avoid thinking about the possible bad outcomes of things I was anxious about. They just seemed too scary to contemplate. I’ve realized that playing out the “so what?” really helps the anxiety lose its power. “I can’t possibly make a mistake at work. Panic!” becomes more like “Well, the worst possible outcome here is that I lose my job, and if that unlikely outcome comes to pass I could always take it as an opportunity to learn a new skill…”

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