I am American, but I have lived in France for over 10 years. When I came here, I was quite overweight. I'd guess around 180 lbs (I avoided scales like the plague but I remember one doctor's appointment when I was at 172, and not at my heaviest) for my 5'6'' frame. I knew perfectly well I was overweight, but no one had ever quite said so to my face. I was lucky not to have been the butt of bullying in high school or university (except, oddly enough, one remark once from a girl heavier than myself!). My family and friends never mentioned it to me. They would always sugar-coat things to spare my feelings. If I specifically mentioned it to them, they might make a kind remark about how it would be good to be active or healthy, or something of the sort. We Americans just don't like to point out or comment on each other's fatness. It's rude, right?

Then I moved to Europe. I had not one, but two or three people I barely knew, tell me outright that I was fat. They didn't do it to be mean, they thought they were being helpful. One woman kindly suggested I try doing some situps:  "30 minutes a day - is good for the middle, no ?" As if she were the first person to tell me about exercise, ha. Of course at the time I didn't think it was funny. I went home in tears. If there was a silver lining to that story, it was that it made me face the facts a bit. I lost a lot of weight that first year in France, some intentionally, some not.

It's taken me years and a lot of perspective to see the humor in it, and grow tougher skin. I married an Albanian. Albanians, like people of many other cultures in the world, will freely comment on each other's weight. "Hey, how are you? Man, you've gotten fat!" "Hey! Yeah, I know! I've put on 20 lbs, can you believe it? So how's your family?" They discuss it like any other subject. I've never seen any of them take offense. Then they move on. This was shocking to me at first. I'm still a bit uncomfortable with it, but at least I've relaxed enough to discuss my own weight issues with my Albanian family. I even joined in my family in a laugh-filled game of "let's weigh ourselves and see who has the healthiest BMI" last summer. That's more than I could do years ago!

A summer or two I was taking Spanish lessons. When I came back from vacation, my Spanish teacher (who was Mexican) said, (or so I thought) "Boy, you've lost weight! I hardly recognized you!" I thought that was odd, since I'd put a few pounds on, and it was only later when I looked up the word she'd used that I realized she'd actually said "put on weight!" At first I was miffed, but then I just shrugged it off.

I wouldn't say I'm totally open about it all now, but I'm definitely more open than I was. And what I've come to discover is that weight is just a number, and that we're all struggling (even those who appear skinny). Just the other day I learned that a friend of mine, who I think looks great, is only a pound or two lighter than me. She's just got a different shape than me. That gave me a bit to think about.

Sometimes I wonder if we Americans wouldn't be healthier, and happier, if we were a little more open about our weight. 

What are your experiences with this? Do you discuss your weight with your friends and family?