Earlier this year, my husband and I decided to hire a financial planner. We were taking stock of our finances and realized that if we ever wanted to actually retire, we should probably do a little more than bury jars of cash in the backyard.
And you thought those raspberry bushes were my attempt at gardening.
As part of our “actually stop working and enjoy life at some point” plan, we decided to take out a life insurance policy. Which means, we had to see a medical professional and get the basics done (height, weight, BP, urine, and blood samples).
I had a pretty good idea what my weight number was going in; while I hadn’t weighed myself in months, I also knew that I hadn’t really lost or gained much in either direction.
The number was higher than she expected, and she made noises about how many layers I was wearing because of the cold (not that many, lady). She looked for any excuse she could give me to help me “accept” the higher-than-“normal” weight number.
What she couldn’t possibly know is, I really don’t give a fuck anymore.
I have been on diets for most of my adult life. One worked very well; I lost forty pounds. Unfortunately, because it was part of the Industrial Diet Complex, I also received the subtle message: “Great job on making goal! But you can’t possibly maintain it without our constant help. Also, wouldn’t you feel even better if you lost another couple? We can help! Go you!”
The answer was no, I couldn’t lose another couple; but the subliminal messaging stuck. I was at a healthy weight, but I was always dieting. I was frustrated that I was “failing” at not losing two more pounds. Moreover, when I gained five pounds (mostly muscle as I switched from a desk job to massage), I freaked out. I had failed big time.
What was never pointed out to me, however, was the fact that I was still wearing the same size clothing without noticing any tightness or stretching. I had toned up and put on muscle mass. Heck, with the amount I was eating, I should have seen more than a five-pound increase, but I didn’t.
I had been told since birth that you don’t want the scales numbers to go up. That if they do, you are doing something wrong. You are failing. You are less, even as we judge you for being too much.
It’s what every woman in our culture is told repeatedly. Every time our weight is taken, we receive the judging silence. It doesn’t really matter what the number is; you feel the weight of “not meeting societal norms” rest on your shoulders. And very rarely are we ever told that the number is too low.*
What this particular health professional didn’t know was this: I stopped weighing myself—stopped dieting—because I felt my habits were spiraling. I was obsessing, I was beating myself up, I was labelling myself as a “fat failure who could do nothing right.” How the hell am I supposed to succeed with that going through my brain 24/7?
I was sick of being told I was a failure, even as I was doing everything right. So I just fucking opted out of the game.
And you know what? I am still fitting in the same clothes at this weight. My muscles are more toned now than ever, and I am so much stronger than I have ever been in my life. I friggin’ have abs, people. I am way more active than I’ve ever been, and while maybe I eat a little too much, I also eat very healthily.**
The scale lies. That number is not a true indicator of the life you live and the choices you make. Especially for women, it can vary wildly from day to day, depending where you are in your cycle and even many years you have left with it (I’m in the final countdown).
So that kind health professional can give herself all of the excuses she needs to be okay with my scale number. I’m perfectly fine with it. And I bet my straight-punches, thai kicks, and osotogaris are way better than hers.
*Please do not think I am belittling the challenges of being naturally thin, underweight or struggling with eating disorders that cause a person to lose a lot of weight. As a chubby girl, my experience is from the other end of the spectrum, and it is from there that I write this piece. Your struggles and challenges are every bit as real and valid.