November 25, 2013

I’m Not Fat, So Why Am I So Worried About My Weight?

I am 43 years old, six feet tall, and weigh between 153 and 163 pounds, depending on the season.

For some reason, I seem to attract tiny friends, whose average height and weight is about 5 ft and 110 lbs. I could fit these friends in the palm of my hand and carry them up the exterior of the Empire State building.

I have always wanted to be smaller. I have wanted it with varying intensity since the dawn of my consciousness. Tall, I grew into, but big? Not so much.

According to the weight chart at the doctor, I should weigh anywhere from 136 to 184. This means I am smack in the middle of where I should be, but it also means I berate myself for not weighing 136. What is wrong with me? Why do I have to weigh those extra 17 to 27 pounds? Lord, just writing “17 to 27 lbs” made me flinch.

Despite my endless vows not to read “health” magazines, I still peek at them in the drugstore or the airport—just the success story pages. I try to determine if I’m in the “before” category, or the “after” category. I stare at the women’s height, age and image and compare it to my own, trying to see if I am fat, if I look fat, if I’m normal.

I wonder what weight and size I would be if I weren’t six feet tall. If I were five feet tall and the exact same relative proportions, would I weigh the same as my teensy friends?

According to statistics, 65 percent of Americans are overweight, and 35.7 percent of us are obese. When I plugged my weight and height into the government web site concerning public health to discover my body mass index, which is the most commonly used method to determine obesity, I found out it is 22, again, smack in the middle of normal, which is 18.5 to 24.9, or more accurately, optimal, since clearly being a healthy weight is no longer normal. Just for fun, I plugged in the height and weight of my wee sisters and discovered their BMI is 22.8, also “normal.”

Huh. What could this mean?

Could all these years of weighing food, measuring portions, examining my profile, squeezing into that one pair of telltale jeans, dissecting pictures which have been taken of me, trying new food plans, joining Weight Watcher’s, ordering everything dry and “on the side,” and all the other million tactics I use every single day to fight off what I perceive as a life ending number of extra pounds all have been wasted?

Of course they have been wasted. I can’t think of one single other area of my life where I have invested so much time and gotten so little reward.

What am I doing to myself, and why do I keep doing it?

What is what I’m doing even called? An eating disorder? Body dysmorphia? Low self esteem? I wish I knew—though I suspect knowing how to label it wouldn’t change a damn thing.

I am so tired of feeling this way. I long for self acceptance like an astronaut stranded on the moon longs for earth.

Things have gotten better for me over the years. There was a time when starving, puking, smoking cigarettes, drinking diet coke, and snorting cocaine were all valid weight control options. Now I fill my belly with fresh fruit and vegetables and move my body in ways that fill my heart with joy.

But the pain is still there. It waxes, it wanes, but it never disappears, not even for a second. My prayer is that I don’t die with this wound bleeding out like it is now, that I can find peace somehow, some way.

In the meantime, I’m headed downstairs to put together a vegan meatloaf. I’ll eat that tonight as my six foot six inch, 235 lb husband scarfs down a deep dish sausage pizza, and I’ll try to remember I’m not not eating that ‘za because it’s fattening, but because animals suffered in the making of it. I’ll try not to berate myself for the extra big slice of meatloaf I helped myself to, and I’ll also try not to worry about tomorrow, when I have to teach yoga, in tight pants, after a fat weekend.

Someday, I hope I can find the love for my normal flesh, this amazing vehicle that allows me to experience life. Until I do, I’ll keep trying to learn the lessons I can, and do better whenever the chance arises.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons.}

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