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My Driver’s License Tells My Weight-Loss Story

Illustration: Sarah Wilkins

The TSA agent looked at my driver’s license, and he looked back at me. He looked at my driver’s license again, and then again, at me. He gently shook his head and said, “I didn’t think this was you at all.”

I smiled and nodded. “I have to renew in November. It’s been a while.” I knew what he was trying to say, and he, possibly better than anyone, had done it in a way that was tactful but clear: I don’t look like the girl in the driver’s license anymore.

My hair is the same. It is curly in the photo. It was curly that day he checked my boarding pass and ID at the Birmingham airport. I was wearing a bulky sweater in the license photo and a light blouse in real life. Those aren’t the things he was talking about, however. It’s my face.

Fifty pounds makes a big difference. Some days, I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything, and then there are the days I look at photos of me from a year ago, and I know: It’s been a hard battle, but I’ve done really well so far.

Not that driver's license photos are ever flattering, but this one is particularly awful--and a definite encouragement as I move forward in my weight-loss journey.


That TSA agent said what many of my friends and family members have tried to say, some in not such artful ways. They’re all compliments, I know, but some of them just aren’t delivered in such a way as to suggest that intention at first.

A friend I hadn’t seen in about three years told me a few weeks ago, “Man, you’re so beautiful! You’ll definitely get a husband now.” Gee, thanks. I never knew overweight folks only got married if they lost weight.

My chiropractor, bless his heart (I’m Southern, y’all). He still hasn’t figured it out. Every time I go for an adjustment, he says, “Something’s different. New makeup? New shirt?” Every shirt is new to you. I don’t see you enough for it not to be.

My grandmother, after not seeing me for about two months. “Your pants are too big.” I know, Nanny. Thanks.

When you lose weight, people notice. And some people even comment. It’s almost a human experiment at this point. When I know I’m seeing someone who hasn’t seen me in a while, I just wait. Don’t roll your eyes! They mean it from the heart.

I asked our Facebook fans to share their experiences with strange, funny, or downright rude comments they’ve received after a recent weight loss. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

I am in my 60s and was chitchatting with a long-time acquaintance who noticed I had lost weight. "You look great, Barbara … and the best thing, YOU are thinner, but your lips are still pretty full." Not sure if it was a compliment or not, but I took it as one, albeit left-handed, as they say. I think she was referring to the fact that as we age our lips (and eyebrows and hair) tend to thin. -- Barbara Brito-Trujillo

After losing 40 pounds my good friend finally noticed and said, "That outfit makes you look slimmer." -- Susan Wyrostek

I went for a mammogram, and immediately after, the nurse/technician (who has never met me before) says, "Oh, I see you've lost quite a bit of weight." Lol. -- Angela Orentas

It’s good to know I’m not the only one who has had her share of cringe-worthy comments/compliments. They’re funny, for sure, but here’s the truth about them: I love hearing almost every single one of them. (Not you, friend who asked me if I had weight-loss surgery. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but no, I did not.) And anyone who has lost weight does, too.

Compliments are a sign that you’re doing something right. They’re an indication that the people you see every day can tell you’re changing your life and getting healthier. Whether they know it or not, people who compliment you are your cheerleaders, and just like high school, some are better than others. On any weight-loss journey, we need all the cheerleading we can get!

Tell us: What funny, odd, or strange compliments have you received about your recent weight loss?