We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Carolyn: Like many people, I’ve been working from home since March of 2020 and haven’t seen any of my work colleagues except over Zoom. About a year and a half before the start of the pandemic, I lost a significant amount of weight (25 pounds) and kept it off until the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve gained it all back plus some during the pandemic. I have an in-person work event coming up in the next couple of weeks that I really can’t avoid, and I’m completely dreading it. Any advice for dealing with my feelings of shame?

— Dreading Work Event

Dreading Work Event: I’m right there with you, and I suspect you and I aren’t alone. It can be difficult to re-encounter acquaintances whom we last met when we were thinner. The issue is that we (many of us, at least) erroneously synonym-ize “thinner” with things like “happier,” “healthier,” “more successful,” “more competent.” I’m not sure what your gender identity is, but I am a woman, and I feel that this issue disproportionately (though not exclusively) affects women, whose physical appearances tend to be scrutinized from every angle.

My first piece of advice is my most important, though it certainly isn’t easy to follow: train yourself to understand that the majority of those you encounter have absolutely no memory of what your body used to look like. We are intimately aware of how our bodies look, but the reality is that most of the people around us don’t tend to pay as close attention to others’ weight loss or gain.

Advice #2: Wear something that you feel is flattering. Not because you should hide any aspect of your body, but because you will come across as more confident if you do. The less attention you draw to yourself by fidgeting, adjusting, etc., the less likely it is that anyone will notice anything new.

Advice #3: Remember to be compassionate with yourself and with others. Many, many folks gained weight during the pandemic. Self-compassion takes practice, and it won’t happen overnight. However, knowing with certainty that you are not alone in dealing with this can lay helpful groundwork.

— Nobody’s Noticing

Dreading Work Event: To credential myself to answer here, I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life (starting with my mother putting me on my first diet at age 5 and my father asking if I was really going to eat that) which included eating disorders and times of being thin for my height and frame, but never in a single-digit dress size, and objectively fat, and all the in-between sizes.

I tried body positivity. I know my friends and neighbors are beautiful at every size. I truly love and appreciate them! And often my fat friends (a word they use without shame or apology) just inspire the heck out of me being their big, beautiful, confident selves in public. None of it landed for me.

Someone once said “my size is literally the least interesting thing about me” and it was like a switch was flipped. I am hilarious! And accomplished, generous, fun, and curious. I am a fantastic friend and a good family member. I am also an excellent colleague. But I was letting my size dictate my sense of self and worth, when in fact it’s literally the last thing people who actually love and appreciate me care about.

I am not “free” but it’s better when I remember that while I may want to lose x number of pounds, it’s literally the least interesting thing. I hope that helps you walk into your event as you are.

— Deirdre

Dreading Work Event: Please don’t be ashamed of your body. Even more, congratulate yourself on surviving the pandemic and still having a job. My guess is that more than a few of your co-workers are in the same weight gain boat. Would you shame them for it? No, you wouldn’t. So let yourself off the hook a little (or a lot). If you can afford it, buy yourself some clothes you feel good in, walk into that work event with your head held high, and celebrate being alive.

— K.

Dreading Work Event: Please let go of any shame. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it has been to be more compassionate. Everyone has gone through personal hardships through the pandemic: depression, anxiety, loss of loved ones, isolation, loneliness, weight gain, weight loss, etc., etc. Those that work with you will just be excited to be in your presence again. I live in a country where we have been in various lockdowns since March of 2020 — to be able to be in a friend’s presence again would be so incredibly delightful. Those that learned hard lessons during the pandemic will just be happy to see you again in the same room. Focus on that joy and leave the shame behind.


Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Response are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.