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06/29/2016 03:05 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2017

How Losing 80 Pounds Made The World See Me Differently

Do people treat you differently if you lost a lot of weight to become slim and fit? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Leah Alissa Bayer, Architect, on Quora.

What are your impressions of this girl?

Would you offer to buy her a drink? Show her off on a date? Would you think she's ambitious and healthy? Could you fall in love with that face in a week, or get excited about the idea of moving things to the bedroom? Do you wonder what her hair smells like? Do you want to know what her dreams are? What her history is? Would you hold the door open for her and let your gaze linger a little longer than it should? Would her smile make your heart flutter? Do you think she makes friends easily? Do you think she's a top contender for a competitive position at an awesome employer? Would you pick her to be on your team? Would you notice her in a crowd, or miss her when she's gone? I'm guessing most of those spark a big, fat "No", right?

I'll tell you what, I got really good at pretending not to see the looks of disgust and mockery from men and women alike, but some days I preferred the cruelty to being completely ignored altogether. Being fat was terribly lonely. I often didn't leave the house because I was so uncomfortable in my (extra) skin, and ill-fitting, hideous plus size clothing didn't help. On rare occasions, I'd get dressed up and spend hours on hair and makeup in an attempt to look attractive for an evening but I always came back home feeling like an outcast. I wasn't always fat, but I was for long enough to forget what it felt like to be treated well by strangers or chased after by men.

This isn't an essay about how to lose weight, so I'll skip that part. Needless to say, after hitting rock bottom I made big changes and worked my ass off, literally. 80+ pounds, gone.

Let's try this again. What are your initial reactions to this girl?

A little more favorable? Yeah. Even if you've been through it yourself, some things are engrained in us, like thinner = better.

That girl made friends, found love, and lived a happier life. Partially because she was happier and more confident, but a big part was the external approval and inclusion. It's amazing how subtle the treatment between fat and not-fat can be. There were the obvious compliments, but beyond a healthy option of dating prospects were unexpected little things: bigger smiles from strangers, more academic attention from professors, more employment offers, people going out of their way to get to know who I am and what I do. People were more curious about my ideas, wanting me to succeed, and that conditional support was one of the hardest things to swallow because... why did my weight have anything to do with my ambition and potential to do great things?

I'm not mad at those who treated me like a waste of space when I was heavier. I get it, we judge - it's deeply engrained in animal nature to pick the most attractive mates. I do it to myself, and I'm guilty of judging others. Rather than pretending that we don't, which often leads to ignoring the individual that triggers our shamefully discriminatory behavior, take a moment to acknowledge your reaction and then counteract it with a step in the right direction - connect. Fight the distancing, listen, make eye contact, understand, and recognize the potential and value in everyone despite physical appearances. You know nothing about the person you're treating poorly (or over-the-top nicely), make an effort to learn.

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