Our bodies deserve better.
I’ll never get over just how many people ask me what my secret is when I lose weight. Every time I drop some weight, I’m bombarded with comments about my body. An overwhelming theme is a covetous desire to know the secrets to my slim frame. This is incredibly disheartening to someone who likes to think we’ve evolved as a society in recent years and have moved past this obsession for a tinier waistline.
What on earth will thinness do for us as we age? When we die? Nothing—that’s what.
Don’t get me wrong, I get that some are aiming for weight loss as a fitness and health goal. They’re very innocently asking if I am doing something that they can try to attain to achieve their goals for a healthier life. That is fine. But what continues to irk me is how we still don’t seem to grasp as a society that weight is not a direct reflection of health.
Let me say that again: weight is not a direct reflection of health.
I’ve always been a big eater. I always felt that people who love life also love food. We enjoy all the good stuff about life. I always worked out, too. Lots of walking, running, swimming, the list goes on. I always had a goal in life to be my healthiest while still enjoying yummy foods, within reason.
My aunt and some of my friends would often talk to me about their diets. I would watch them eat tiny meals and work out more than me. I also watched them keep gaining weight. Why? Because of health issues, hormones, genetics, thyroid issues, and many other factors. They were not less healthy than me. They were healthier than me, yet they were bigger. Not by a little, but by a lot.
So much more goes into what size we are than what goes into our mouths.
Some people gain weight no matter what they do, so they’ve decided to still enjoy the foods they love. That’s still healthy. If we see a skinny person eating pizza and don’t judge them, we should really rethink why we’re judging the heavy person we see eating pizza. It’s called prejudice.
And I don’t think weight prejudice is talked about enough.
And the same prejudice exists for skinnier people. Whether comments on my body are positive or negative, they are still judgments based on prejudice and not on facts. Why else would I be asked for my secret? There’s an assumption that I’m doing something right, something inherently healthy to be getting what is seen as desirable results.
But my body is not something to aspire to because it’s sick.
Since falling ill to an unavoidable, genetic disease at age 29, my closet became divided into two sections: bigger clothes and smaller clothes. My weight frequently yo-yos depending on what course of treatments I am on and whether or not they are working.
Some medications and treatments make me gain a lot of weight, but help me a lot. When that happens, I am a lot bigger, but I am healthier. I can also be heavier when treatments are not working and I am in too much pain to exercise. When that happens, I’m heavier and less healthy.
Some medications and treatments help me so much that I go through periods where I can exercise regularly and eat well. I tend to lose weight when that happens and in those moments, my frame is thinner and I am in good health.
Some medications and treatments make it difficult for me to eat anything, cause severe inflammatory bowel disease, nausea and vomiting, and make me lose weight without trying. I can’t build any muscle and I can’t exercise like I would like to in order to help with the pain. When that happens, my frame is at its skinniest and I am very unhealthy.
What’s really upsetting? That last example—my sickest body—gets the most positive comments and the most requests for diet advice.
Lily Collins summarized this scary issue pretty well when interviewed by The Edit for her role as an anorexic patient in the movie To The Bone. She points out that the weight loss she endured to look anorexic attracted positive comments and compliments. She was floored that people could think she looked better when aiming to look starved.
“I was leaving my apartment one day and someone I’ve known for a long time, my mom’s age, said to me, ‘Of, wow look at you!’ the actress recalled. I tried to explain [I had lost weight for a role] and she goes, ‘No! I want to know what you’re doing, you look great!’ I got in the car with my mom and said, ‘That is why the problem exists.’”
It’s no wonder so many of us have unhealthy relationships with our bodies.
No matter what anybody else says, loving our bodies and keeping them healthy is all that matters.
And being healthy doesn’t mean not eating pizza. Health is about balance and moderation. Giving our bodies what they need will continue to help us enjoy all the wonderful things life has to offer until a very ripe old age.
Skinny is not good or bad. Fat is not good or bad. And weight is not a direct reflection of health.
Anyone who tells us otherwise is wrong—and the self-doubting voices in our heads are wrong, too. The sooner we release that vision of ourselves as someone else, the sooner we can move on to being in love with our actual bodies no matter their shape and size.
My body doesn’t cooperate with me and it hurts me daily, but I still love it because every day my body walks my soul around this earth so I can enjoy all the lovely gifts I’m blessed with that matter much more than the size of the vessel carrying me.