Anonymous 'Uyghur Girl' Breaks Her Silence About the Plight of the Uyghurs in China
"I can't just go about my day as if nothing is happening. I'm writing to you because I don't know how to help, and I can't help, not really. No donation is going to help my people," the message reads. The author identifies herself as "an Uyghur girl," and she asks me, should an article be written, that her identity remain anonymous, for the sake of protecting her family. She is willing to speak, perhaps at great risk to herself and those whom she loves. "I want people to know," says the young woman whom I'll refer to as Meryam, "and if not understand, at least acknowledge what is happening."
The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group, most of whom––an estimated 80 percent––were born in China's northwestern Xinjiang province. The World Uyghur Congress estimates the Uyghur population numbers between 1 and 1.6 million. Human rights groups note that in the last decade hundreds of Uyghurs have been forcibly relocated to China from their homes in places like Egypt, Turkey, and Thailand. Many are interrogated by Chinese agents on foreign soil, detained indefinitely in foreign jails. Those who live in China don't fare much better, and are subject to the Chinese government's "re-education efforts."
We've seen this sort of thing before. In Canada, the Indian residential school system, a network of boarding schools for the indigenous population, removed children from their homes and assimilated them into the dominant Canadian culture, a policy initiative which, in turn, deprived indigenous children of their ancestral language and subjected them to physical and sexual abuse. In the United States, legislators passed Americanization policies as part of an assimilation effort which robbed the Native American population of much of their tribal traditions and forced Native children to learn English and convert to Christianity. And in Australia, the "Stolen Generations" of children forcibly removed from their families and made to integrate into Australian society lent credence to "die out" and "breed out" policies which sought to preserve white supremacy across the continent at large.
Such is the plight of Uyghur children. A Radio Free Asiareport from July, for example, details at length how dozens of Uyghurs have been sent to live in orphanages. It is in places like these, Meryam revealed, where these children are expected to abdicate themselves from their culture; the government has made this clear "by not allowing kids to learn the Uyghur language or enter mosques to pray." Their parents suffer, of course. "The government threatens their identification documents (passports, visas) and their family members. They are forced into indoctrinating classes where they are to renounce their faith, their Uyghur identity, and claim loyalty to the current Chinese government," Meryam told me. "They are degraded and treated inhumanely. They are held for an indefinite amount of time and tortured."
The Chinese government, she continued, "claims this is a countermeasure against Islamic extremism." Indeed, state media quoted State Councilor Zhao Kezhi telling officials in May "to comprehensively implement measures to address the root cause and improve anti-terrorism work system" and to amp up efforts to "destroy the breeding ground of terrorism." But these are hollow justifications which, Meryam relayed, are part of a smear campaign to scapegoat the minority Muslim Uyghur population. She notes that "what the Chinese are doing to my people is basically genocide."
"The government is punishing them for their most horrendous act: being Uyghur," she said. "They want Xinjiang to be under their control for resources, and they want Uyghurs to be either absorbed into Han Chinese or just gone. Uyghur women are being forced to marry Han Chinese men in what is basically government-sanctioned rape. They are told that their family members will be returned if they marry Chinese males."
The Uyghurs have been steadily losing their culture since the 2009 riots which left hundreds dead and thousands more injured in Ürümqi, the capital of the Chinese-ruled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Tursun Izchi, a witness to the riots, recalled "a confrontation between Chinese soldiers and Uyghur students" which quickly escalated when soldiers began rounding up Uyghurs at the People's Square "as they tried to flee from arrest in all directions." Suddenly, he said, a group of Uyghurs arrived and began to cause significant damage to storefronts and property. "Surprisingly, Chinese soldiers and police didn't arrest these Uyghurs but just watched and videotaped them smashing things. It was as if the Chinese soldiers and police intentionally left them alone for some other purpose," he said. "My impression was that these were saboteurs sent by the Chinese government to intentionally create a scene of total chaos and riot to justify the later armed crackdown."
A mix of ethnic Uyghur and Han shopkeepers hold large wooden sticks as they are trained in security measures on June 27, 2017 next to the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province, China.
The military crackdown did, in part, embolden the Chinese government's efforts to relocate Han Chinese to Xinjiang and other heavily Uyghur populated areas. The indoctrination camps themselves, I was told, are an opportunity to subject Uyghurs to cultural cleansing by way of praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping's hardline nationalist Communist Party, self-criticism, and belittlement, if not outright physical torture methods.
An Associated Pressreport from May, for instance, details the internment of Omir Bekali, a China-born Kazakh Muslim who described being strapped into a "tiger chair" which immobilized his wrists and ankles and being hanged by his wrists against a barred wall only to be transferred to a compound which housed more than 1,000 detainees who each day were made to sing the Chinese national anthem, raise the Chinese flag at 7:30 a.m., exclusively study the Chinese language and culture, and thank the Communist Party effusively upon receiving meals. A separate report describes how Dolkun Isa, the president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) exile group, learned his mother died while in detention, a fate which seemed all too certain given the Chinese government's propensity for detaining the relatives of exiles abroad, many of whom are jailed on suspicion of harboring "politically incorrect" thoughts.
In a piece for Jacobin, David Brophy, a senior lecturer in modern Chinese history at the University of Sydney, observes that international attention on the oppression of Xinjiang's native Uyghur population "still lags behind the well-publicized case of Tibet." This makes for a sobering reality in Xinjiang, where there are "police stations at every major intersection, ubiquitous checkpoints where Chinese sail through as Uyghurs line up for humiliating inspections, elderly men and women trudging through the streets on anti-terror drills, television and radio broadcasts haranguing the Uyghurs to love the party and blame themselves for their second-class status." He recounts witnessing Uyghurs clearing the streets as the city went into lockdown for divisions of Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers who chanted and stressed the need to maintain "stability" in the region. This desire for "stability," as well as the Chinese government's calls for terrorism prevention measures, however, is not based in fact: The Uyghur resistance is far less organized and militarized than China would prefer the global community to believe:
It is true that some desperate Uyghurs have found their way into the ranks of Islamist militias in Syria and Iraq, hoping to acquire the military training and international jihadist solidarity which they see as necessary for a fight in Xinjiang. But this dead-end strategy poses no threat to Beijing — and certainly not one that could justify today's crackdown. China maintains a choke hold on Xinjiang's entry and exit points; only the Chinese state benefits from the presence of Uyghur militants in this far-off battleground.
These facts––not to mention our surreptitious conversation––weigh on Meryam. "I just need the world to know that there are one million people held illegally and are being tortured right now. There has to be something that can happen because I'm going out of my mind here," she said.
The reaction within the United States to the Uyghur diaspora has been to pursue sanctions on Chinese officials involved in Xinjiang's security crackdown. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Laura Stone said in April that the U.S. would impose sanctions under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to enforce travel and financial restrictions on individuals anywhere in the world who are implicated in human rights abuses.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China respectively, have taken vocal stances on the Uyghur plight, urging U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to visit the XUAR and present a report on the Embassy's observations of a "grave and deteriorating human rights situation":
We are seeking a report on the Embassy's efforts on these issues, both in terms of diplomatic engagement and the Chinese government's response. In the cases of the detention of the RFA reporters, we urge you to personally lead diplomatic efforts to prioritize these cases, seek clarity as to the whereabouts and well-being of these individuals, and press for their release. If there is no immediate resolution to these cases, we ask that the State Department consider denying visas to executives or administrative staff of Chinese state-run media operating in the United States.
A hearing entitled, "Surveillance, Suppression, and Mass Detention: Xinjiang's Human Rights Crisis" was held on July 26 and included testimony from such individuals as Gulchehra Hoja, an Uyghur Service journalist with Radio Free Asia whose career began in Urumqi, the capital of the Uyghur Region.
"For the 17 years since I've worked for RFA, local police and authorities have harassed my family," she said. "They've watched their every step, monitored their movements, and constantly questioned them about my whereabouts and whether I plan to return. The treatment my family has had to endure is because of my decision to come to America. Authorities considered it a betrayal."
Jessica Batke, a senior editor with ChinaFile and former research analyst with the State Department, noted that "The Party-state's policies related to Xinjiang have become startlingly more repressive in the last two years, even for a region that was already under more intensive digital and physical controls than most other areas of China," and stressed that, among other things, "the recall and forcible repatriation of ethnic Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minority Chinese citizens from abroad" and the "rounding up of those same populations in Xinjiang to put them into what are frequently called "re-education camps" do not "represent the full scope of day-to-day repression that we see in Xinjiang."
"I do believe that we can only treat the phenomenon with the seriousness and alarm that it merits if we first label it accurately," she added. "Therefore, I encourage further thought and discussion about how the U.S. Government and the international community more generally should refer to these camps."
The global response has been considerably more muted. A petition to the United Nations and humans rights groups by Freedom's Herald has gained some traction, thanks to the commitment of bloggers both in Tibet and Xinjiang. The organization has documented a slew of humans rights abuses, including the decisions by the Chinese government to burn all Islamic holy books, force Uyghur government officials to "sign for cremation instead of Islamic burial" and to criminalize the usage of "Halal" labels for food production.
"From the Uyghur I have spoken with, the incarceration of their family members doesn't matter whether or not they speak out and many are speaking out now," said Jack Churchward of Freedom's Herald in an email. "What motivates my advocacy - I coordinated activities against the Florida Splendid China theme park and became friends with the Uyghur, Mongol and Tibetans being portrayed there. When the theme park closed and the Chinese consulate in Houston called my house and threatened family members, I backed off as part of a family decision. When I started to read about the concentration camps, I had to jump back in and do what I could to help."
But the call to help the struggling proved stronger than any threats from the Chinese government, says Churchward. "As far as others criticizing me, what are they going to do to me that the Chinese government hasn't already threatened?" he said. "Here is where the narrative will be spoiled - I am a white heterosexual aging male Republican that voted for Donald Trump and will vote for him again if given the chance."
And yet the Uyghur struggle is not trending news. As Meryam pointed out to me, the human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang as we speak rarely make it onto major news sites. It's not the subject of viral social media campaigns. The likelihood of it making a major international splash akin to the fervor which defined #BringBackOurGirls is low, given the Chinese government's surveillance measures and the very real possibility that those who speak out––even from abroad––risk condemning their family members to internment. Unfortunately, as the tumultuous public policy in the case of Boko Haram's abduction of 276 schoolgirls from their dormitories in Borno State demonstrates, the probability that the fates of Uyghur men, women, and children will continue to be tragic is all too real, and accusations that China has wielded its economic clout to silence any criticism continue to mount.
This is not to say, however, that there is no value in speaking out against the crimes of an oppressive regime, or that advocacy is a fruitless endeavor. But there is a tinge of exhaustion in Meryam as she contemplates the relative silence from the international community and the potential dangers increased attention might mean for Uyghurs and their family members both inside and outside of China.
"I reached out because I want the world to see the crimes done against my people," she says.
Reddit user Isitjustmedownhere asked: 'Give an example; how weird are you really?'
Let's get one thing straight: no one is normal. We're all weird in our own ways, and that is actually normal.
Of course, that doesn't mean we don't all have that one strange trait or quirk that outweighs all the other weirdness we possess.
For me, it's the fact that I'm almost 30 years old, and I still have an imaginary friend. Her name is Sarah, she has red hair and green eyes, and I strongly believe that, since I lived in India when I created her and there were no actual people with red hair around, she was based on Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.
I also didn't know the name Sarah when I created her, so that came later. I know she's not really there, hence the term 'imaginary friend,' but she's kind of always been around. We all have conversations in our heads; mine are with Sarah. She keeps me on task and efficient.
My mom thinks I'm crazy that I still have an imaginary friend, and writing about her like this makes me think I may actually be crazy, but I don't mind. As I said, we're all weird, and we all have that one trait that outweighs all the other weirdness.
Redditors know this all too well and are eager to share their weird traits.
It all started when Redditor Isitjustmedownhere asked:
"Give an example; how weird are you really?"
Monsters Under My Bed
"My bed doesn't touch any wall."
"Edit: I guess i should clarify im not rich."
"Gosh the monsters can get you from any angle then."
"At first I thought this was a flex on how big your bedroom is, but then I realized you're just a psycho 😁"
Can You See Why?
"I bought one of those super-powerful fans to dry a basement carpet. Afterwards, I realized that it can point straight up and that it would be amazing to use on myself post-shower. Now I squeegee my body with my hands, step out of the shower and get blasted by a wide jet of room-temp air. I barely use my towel at all. Wife thinks I'm weird."
"In 1990 when I was 8 years old and bored on a field trip, I saw a black Oldsmobile Cutlass driving down the street on a hot day to where you could see that mirage like distortion from the heat on the road. I took a “snapshot” by blinking my eyes and told myself “I wonder how long I can remember this image” ….well."
"Even before smartphones, I always take "snapshots" by blinking my eyes hoping I'll remember every detail so I can draw it when I get home. Unfortunately, I may have taken so much snapshots that I can no longer remember every detail I want to draw."
"Makes me think my "memory is full.""
"I have eaten the same lunch every day for the past 4 years and I'm not bored yet."
"How f**king big was this lunch when you started?"
Not Sure Who Was Weirder
"Had a line cook that worked for us for 6 months never said much. My sous chef once told him with no context, "Baw wit da baw daw bang daw bang diggy diggy." The guy smiled, left, and never came back."
"I pace around my house for hours listening to music imagining that I have done all the things I simply lack the brain capacity to do, or in some really bizarre scenarios, I can really get immersed in these imaginations sometimes I don't know if this is some form of schizophrenia or what."
"I do the same exact thing, sometimes for hours. When I was young it would be a ridiculous amount of time and many years later it’s sort of trickled off into almost nothing (almost). It’s weird but I just thought it’s how my brain processes sh*t."
"Even as an adult I still think that if you are in a car that goes over a cliff; and right as you are about to hit the ground if you jump up you can avoid the damage and will land safely. I know I'm wrong. You shut up. I'm not crying."
"As a kid I would snack on my dog's Milkbones."
"Haha, I have a clear memory of myself doing this as well. I was around 3 y/o. Needless to say no one was supervising me."
"When I was younger, one of my responsibilities was to feed the pet fish every day. Instead, I would hide under the futon in the spare bedroom and eat the fish food."
My Favorite Subject
"I'm autistic and have always had a thing for insects. My neurotypical best friend and I used to hang out at this local bar to talk to girls, back in the late 90s. One time he claimed that my tendency to circle conversations back to insects was hurting my game. The next time we went to that bar (with a few other friends), he turned and said sternly "No talking about bugs. Or space, or statistics or other bullsh*t but mainly no bugs." I felt like he was losing his mind over nothing."
"It was summer, the bar had its windows open. Our group hit it off with a group of young ladies, We were all chatting and having a good time. I was talking to one of these girls, my buddy was behind her facing away from me talking to a few other people."
"A cloudless sulphur flies in and lands on little thing that holds coasters."
"Cue Jordan Peele sweating gif."
"The girl notices my tension, and asks if I am looking at the leaf. "Actually, that's a lepidoptera called..." I looked at the back of my friend's head, he wasn't looking, "I mean a butterfly..." I poked it and it spread its wings the girl says "oh that's a BUG?!" and I still remember my friend turning around slowly to look at me with chastisement. The ONE thing he told me not to do."
"I was 21, and was completely not aware that I already had a rep for being an oddball. It got worse from there."
"I bite ice cream sometimes."
"That's how I am with popsicles. My wife shudders every single time."
Never Speak Of This
"I put ice in my milk."
"You should keep that kind of thing to yourself. Even when asked."
"There's some disturbing sh*t in this thread, but this one takes the cake."
More Than Super Hearing
"I can hear the television while it's on mute."
"What does it say to you, child?"
"I put mustard on my omelettes."
– Deleted User
"Whenever I say a word and feel like I used a half of my mouth more than the other half, I have to even it out by saying the word again using the other half of my mouth more. If I don't do it correctly, that can go on forever until I feel it's ok."
"I do it silently so I don't creep people out."
"That sounds like a symptom of OCD (I have it myself). Some people with OCD feel like certain actions have to be balanced (like counting or making sure physical movements are even). You should find a therapist who specializes in OCD, because they can help you."
I totally have the same need for things to be balanced! Guess I'm weird and a little OCD!
Experiencing death is a fascinating and frightening idea.
Who doesn't want to know what is waiting for us on the other side?
But so many of us want to know and then come back and live a little longer.
It would be so great to be sure there is something else.
But the whole dying part is not that great, so we'll have to rely on other people's accounts.
Redditor AlaskaStiletto wanted to hear from everyone who has returned to life, so they asked:
"Redditors who have 'died' and come back to life, what did you see?"
SensationsHappy Good Vibes GIF by Major League SoccerGiphy
"My dad's heart stopped when he had a heart attack and he had to be brought back to life. He kept the paper copy of the heart monitor which shows he flatlined. He said he felt an overwhelming sensation of peace, like nothing he had felt before."
"I had surgical complications in 2010 that caused a great deal of blood loss. As a result, I had extremely low blood pressure and could barely stay awake. I remember feeling like I was surrounded by loved ones who had passed. They were in a circle around me and I knew they were there to guide me onwards. I told them I was not ready to go because my kids needed me and I came back."
"My nurse later said she was afraid she’d find me dead every time she came into the room."
"It took months, and blood transfusions, but I recovered."
Take Me Back
"Overwhelming peace and happiness. A bright airy and floating feeling. I live a very stressful life. Imagine finding out the person you have had a crush on reveals they have the same feelings for you and then you win the lotto later that day - that was the feeling I had."
"I never feared death afterward and am relieved when I hear of people dying after suffering from an illness."
FreeThe Light Minnie GIF by (G)I-DLEGiphy
"I had a heart surgery with near-death experience, for me at least (well the possibility that those effects are caused by morphine is also there) I just saw black and nothing else but it was warm and I had such inner peace, its weird as I sometimes still think about it and wish this feeling of being so light and free again."
This is why I hate surgery.
You just never know.
"More of a near-death experience. I was electrocuted. I felt like I was in a deep hole looking straight up in the sky. My life flashed before me. Felt sad for my family, but I had a deep sense of peace."
"Nursing in the ICU, we’ve had people try to die on us many times during the years, some successfully. One guy stood out to me. His heart stopped. We called a code, are working on him, and suddenly he comes to. We hadn’t vented him yet, so he was able to talk, and he started screaming, 'Don’t let them take me, don’t let them take me, they are coming,' he was scared and yelling."
"Then he yelled a little more, as we tried to calm him down, he screamed, 'No, No,' and gestured towards the end of the bed, and died again. We didn’t get him back. It was seriously creepy. We called his son to tell him the news, and the son said basically, 'Good, he was an SOB.'”
"My sister died and said it was extremely peaceful. She said it was very loud like a train station and lots of talking and she was stuck in this area that was like a curtain with lots of beautiful colors (colors that you don’t see in real life according to her) a man told her 'He was sorry, but she had to go back as it wasn’t her time.'"
"I had a really similar experience except I was in an endless garden with flowers that were colors I had never seen before. It was quiet and peaceful and a woman in a dress looked at me, shook her head, and just said 'Not yet.' As I was coming back, it was extremely loud, like everyone in the world was trying to talk all at once. It was all very disorienting but it changed my perspective on life!"
"I was in a gray fog with a girl who looked a lot like a young version of my grandmother (who was still alive) but dressed like a pioneer in the 1800s she didn't say anything but kept pulling me towards an opening in the wall. I kept refusing to go because I was so tired."
"I finally got tired of her nagging and went and that's when I came to. I had bled out during a c-section and my heart could not beat without blood. They had to deliver the baby and sew up the bleeders. refill me with blood before they could restart my heart so, like, at least 12 minutes gone."
Through the Walls
"My spouse was dead for a couple of minutes one miserable night. She maintains that she saw nothing, but only heard people talking about her like through a wall. The only thing she remembers for absolute certain was begging an ER nurse that she didn't want to die."
"She's quite alive and well today."
Well let's all be happy to be alive.
It seems to be all we have.
We all have our favorite foods, food preferences, and even foods that we don't like.
But there are some popular foods out there that just don't make sense. Nonetheless, we keep seeing them advertised, included in movies and TV shows, and of course, our loved ones ordering them while we look on in confusion.
Curious about others' food preferences, Redditor YarnSpectre asked:
"What's one food everyone seems to go crazy for, but you just don't understand the hype?"
So Much Sugar
"Nutella. It’s just okay."
"Way too sweet for me, I’d probably love it with one-fifth of the sugar."
"Unfortunately that's true of a lot of desserts, though. Most would benefit from a cut of at least 25 percent of the sugar."
"Red velvet cake. I've had ones that were supposed to be excellent but it's just red cake."
"Most red velvet cakes are just s**tty vanilla cake with red food coloring. Get one (or make one) the correct way with non-Dutch-processed cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar. It's an incredibly smooth, very different type of chocolate cake."
Mastery Makes a Difference
"Those multicolored cookie things that everyone was making into cakes or something for a while? Macaroons? Macarons? I don't think I've ever had one that tasted good. They're pretty, but that's it."
"Macarons. I never cared for them either."
"I had one yesterday at a potluck, homemade ones. They were seriously something else, with some sort of butter cream and jelly inside. Never had anything quite like it. Now I wish I had grabbed a few to take home."
"I still won't eat store-bought ones, though."
The Wrong Kind of Spice
"Hot Cheetos or Takis. Anything with the artificially colored spicy powder."
"Takis texture is my issue. They’re like semi-stale rolled-up Doritos."
The Sugar Cookies of the Midwest
"Those dry-a** Walmart sugar cookies."
"They taste like play-dough cookies came to life."
"I mean, people go crazy in both directions, but cilantro. There’s the whole 'does it taste like soap or not' thing, but it’s usually presented as 'people either think it tastes like soap or they find it amazing.'"
"I am neither. It doesn’t taste like soap to me, but I also don’t love it. Meh."
"I don't think it tastes like soap, but I do think it tastes weirdly metallic. I don't go out of my way to avoid it in pre-prepared food, but I usually leave it out of things I'm preparing myself."
Fancy Decor Only
"People like how fondant LOOKS. I refuse to believe a single soul wants to EAT it."
"It's like eating a candied raincoat."
Back for a Limited Time
"Every time it comes back, I’m SUPER excited for the McRib at McDonald's. I bite into one and then… the spongey texture hits me and makes me remember why I don’t need to buy it ever again."
"Then, somehow, McRib season rolls around again two years later, and there I am in line…"
"I'm convinced this is why they only bring it out every once in a while. Nobody actually likes it, but they wait just long enough for you to forget that it's no good and then hit you with a combo of nostalgia and 'limited time only' FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)."
A Seasonal Tradition
"Pumpkin spice. It’s fine, but absolutely not anything to make a fuss about."
"There is a car parts place in a small town I drive through to visit family, and last year on their reader board, they had: 'THEYRE BACK! PUMPKIN SPICE BRAKE PADS.'"
"And now I can never see anything pumpkin spice and not think about it, might have been my favorite reader board sign ever."
Pure Caffeine Addiction
"Energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster."
"I'm an avid Monster drinker, but I totally get it. I'm always trying new and interesting energy drinks I see, but so much of it is just garbage."
"The white Monster tastes like 90s Fresca to me and is the only energy drink I love."
"Can it be a beverage? Because I kind of hate IPAs but everyone else seems to love them. And I like beer, just not IPAs."
"I have nothing against people who want complex beers. It's just not for me. I want an easy as f**k to drink fizzy yellow beer for when it's hot out. And a nice smooth stout for all other times. When I want more complex flavors, I'll go for wine or scotch."
Just Too Expensive
"What about lobster? I can dig it with drawn butter and I ain’t mad at it. But f**k me if I’m gonna pay $29.99 for a lobster. I’d rather eat shrimp."
"Truffles. I paid $60 this weekend at an Italian restaurant for eight slivers on my pasta shaved in front of me. I barely tasted anything. I don't get the hype."
Improved Gut Health?
"Ah, yes, dirty pond water."
"Everyone goes crazy for caviar? Most people seem to dislike it."
"Though admittedly, people who do like it tend to like it a lot."
"That all being said, I really don't like it, either."
When it comes to food, to each their own, but it was interesting to see some undeniable fan favorites like pumpkin spice hit this list.
It just serves as a great reminder for a larger picture idea: Don't be unkind about the things that might bring someone else joy.
Trying to lose weight is a struggle understood by many people regardless of size.
The goal of reaching a healthy weight may seem unattainable, but with diet and exercise, it can pay off through persistence and discipline.
Seeing the pounds gradually drop off can also be a great motivator and incentivize people to stay the course.
Those who've achieved their respective weight goals shared their experiences when Redditor apprenti8455 asked:
"People who lost a lot of weight, what surprises you the most now?"
Redditors didn't see these coming.
Shiver Me Timbers
"I’m always cold now!"
"I had a coworker lose over 130 pounds five or six years ago. I’ve never seen him without a jacket on since."
"140 lbs lost here starting just before COVID, I feel like that little old lady that's always cold, damn this top comment was on point lmao."
"I lost 100 pounds over a year and a half but since I’m old(70’s) it seems few people comment on it because (I think) they think I’m wasting away from some terminal illness."
"Congrats on the weight loss! It’s honestly a real accomplishment 🙂"
"Working in oncology, I can never comment on someone’s weight loss unless I specifically know it was on purpose, regardless of their age. I think it kind of ruffles feathers at times, but like I don’t want to congratulate someone for having cancer or something. It’s a weird place to be in."
"I remember when I lost the first big chunk of weight (around 50 lbs) it was like it gave some people license to talk sh*t about the 'old' me. Old coworkers, friends, made a lot of not just negative, but harsh comments about what I used to look like. One person I met after the big loss saw a picture of me prior and said, 'Wow, we wouldn’t even be friends!'”
"It wasn’t extremely common, but I was a little alarmed by some of the attention. My weight has been up and down since then, but every time I gain a little it gets me a little down thinking about those things people said."
Not Everything Goes After Losing Weight
"The loose skin is a bit unexpected."
"I haven’t experienced it myself, but surgery to remove skin takes a long time to recover. Longer than bariatric surgery and usually isn’t covered by insurance unless you have both."
"It definitely does take a long time to recover. My Dad dropped a little over 200 pounds a few years back and decided to go through with skin removal surgery to deal with the excess. His procedure was extensive, as in he had skin taken from just about every part of his body excluding his head, and he went through hell for weeks in recovery, and he was bedridden for a lot of it."
These Redditors shared their pleasantly surprising experiences.
"I can buy clothes in any store I want."
"When I lost weight I was dying to go find cute, smaller clothes and I really struggled. As someone who had always been restricted to one or two stores that catered to plus-sized clothing, a full mall of shops with items in my size was daunting. Too many options and not enough knowledge of brands that were good vs cheap. I usually went home pretty frustrated."
No More Symptoms
"Lost about 80 pounds in the past year and a half, biggest thing that I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen mentioned on here yet is my acid reflux and heartburn are basically gone. I used to be popping tums every couple hours and now they just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust."
"I'm all for not judging people by their appearance and I recognise that there are unhealthy, unachievable beauty standards, but one thing that is undeniable is that I can just do stuff now. Just stamina and flexibility alone are worth it, appearance is tertiary at best."
People Change Their Tune
"How much nicer people are to you."
"My feet weren't 'wide' they were 'fat.'"
"Have to agree. Lost 220 lbs, people make eye contact and hold open doors and stuff"
"And on the foot thing, I also lost a full shoe size numerically and also wear regular width now 😅"
It's gonna take some getting used to.
"Having bones. Collarbones, wrist bones, knee bones, hip bones, ribs. I have so many bones sticking out everywhere and it’s weird as hell."
"I noticed the shadow of my ribs the other day and it threw me, there’s a whole skeleton in here."
"Right?! And they’re so … pointy! Now I get why people sleep with pillows between their legs - the knee bones laying on top of each other (side sleeper here) is weird and jarring."
"I lost only 40 pounds within the last year or so. I’m struggling to relate to most of these comments as I feel like I just 'slimmed down' rather than dropped a ton. But wow, the pillow between the knees at night. YES! I can relate to this. I think a lot of my weight was in my thighs. I never needed to do this up until recently."
"I’ve lost 100 lbs since 2020. It’s a collection of little things that surprise me. For at least 10 years I couldn’t put on socks, or tie my shoes. I couldn’t bend over and pick something up. I couldn’t climb a ladder to fix something. Simple things like that I can do now that fascinate me."
"Edit: Some additional little things are sitting in a chair with arms, sitting in a booth in a restaurant, being able to shop in a normal store AND not needing to buy the biggest size there, being able to easily wipe my butt, and looking down and being able to see my penis."
People making significant changes, whether for mental or physical health, can surely find a newfound perspective on life.
But they can also discover different issues they never saw coming.
That being said, overcoming any challenge in life is laudable, especially if it leads to gaining confidence and ditching insecurities.