*Well-deserved strong language ahead!
Stepping on the scale for the third time this month, I hold my breath as the notch lands just under 170.
Releasing my breath it doesn’t move. I guess air weighs nothing, but I figure my fall wardrobe and suede, fur-fringed slippers probably weigh about a pound. So it’s settled, I have consistently weighed six pounds more than I have for the last three years for over a month.
Some of you are probably saying, “Six pounds, big deal!” And you are right—and you are also not right about me. Weight and body image are as personal a subject as we can land on.
The numbers on a scale can not measure who we are as a person or what we value. They do not take into account our personal history, who our ancestors are, or what our past or current health conditions may be. They do not show how we treat others or carry life’s joys and burdens.
Those damn numbers on that bloody scale have no business determining our worth in any gawd-blessed way whatsoever, yet for many of us they do.
How many people anxiously watch where that little pointer is going to land to determine what they should or should not eat that day, that week, that month. How many people go to bed each night counting the calories they have consumed and obsessing over what they are going to eat the next day? Too-fucking-many.
I have never owned a scale. I track my body based on how my clothes fit, my energy levels, and how I feel in my skin.
The scale I have been stepping on lately is at my 96-year-old client’s house in her master bathroom, the one she only uses to shower. Once in a while I sneak back amidst my chores, and step on the scale just to see what my current relationship with gravity is.
For years I have been holding steady at 163 pounds. I felt a sense of pride in this as it is five pounds less than what I was once told is my “ideal weight” for my body mass index and height. I am 5’ 9” and have been nearly this tall since sixth grade. I have, for the most part, carried a proportionate weight for my height for most of my life—but that did not keep me from feeling fat.
I have a curvaceous figure. I can’t wear knee-length shorts the way most are designed because I have too much curve in my thighs. I have a little cellulite, I always have, but a bit more as I have crossed into my forties. I’m okay with this.
In the last few years, I have been doing a lot of somatic work, which means body-based. This is an interoceptive therapeutic process that focuses on how the body feels. As I immersed myself in this work, years of anxiety, hyper-arousal, and hyper-sensitivity have surfaced and come unraveled. Some of this is just how I am “wired,” but some of this is a result of years of trauma and addiction followed by dissociation.
It’s fucking hard “coming into” our body. If we are going to truly be here—in reality, in this flesh suit, present and attentive to ourselves, our goals, and our relationships—there is a lot to feel, a lot to own, and a lot to release.
Our body has been with us through everything that we have ever experienced, and it remembers.
When we attempt to lose weight, it is not just pounds that we are trying to shed. We are trying to coax our intelligent system to process life in a different way—to not “hold onto” things as it has learned to do for its comfort and even safety. It is quite common for people, women in particular, to carry extra weight when they have been objectified and hurt. It is not uncommon for the subconscious to determine that a little extra “layer” might help a body to disappear, blend in, not stand out, and therefore not be a target for abuse.
Is that part of my own history with my body? Yes. But I remember being self-conscious of my size and weight as a small child. I remember my great-grandmother looking fearfully at my developing body. It was her fear, and I now know where it came from. She viewed me coming into maturity as a threat. She saw my budding breasts, widening hips, and curving limbs—indicators of impending womanhood—as harbingers of terrible things.This is how our family history gets internalized in our body. We read the impressions of those around us, we “take in” what they think and how they feel, and we carry that with us, sometimes for years.
My weight and my eating habits have vacillated over the years depending on my mental, emotional, and relational health.
I was at my heaviest a few months after I quit doing meth. My body was doing its best to protect me from the toxins I had absorbed over the previous seven years. In its efforts to insulate and titrate those out of my system, I ballooned up. It was at that time that I received the BMI (body mass index) reading, and because I was probably pushing the high 180s or more, 168 seemed practically unattainable. Then I hit it, and lower.
Even at my thinnest, around 155, I bore the weight of unrequested opinions about my body.
“You look great. You could lose a little more, tone a little more. Ya, know if you give up this, or add this into your diet your body will…”
Will what? Finally be acceptable for someone else’s standards. Well fuck that.
Now at 43 and edging perimenopause, I’m relaxing while allowing my body to settle into this little extra weight, whereas previously I would be applying tactics that I know will, within weeks, remove it. I’d stop eating bread, enforce harder hiking habits, and increase sauna-workouts.
I don’t wanna.
My favorite fall/winter, corduroy skinny jeans may or may not fit this season.
I don’t care.
I need bread; it’s one of the things that feels balanced for my body right now. Bread with good-quality butter, sandwiches, tofu, nuts, cottage cheese, melons, red wine, dark beer, and a wealth of foods my body is clearly telling me it needs. I don’t want to hike any more rigorously than I am, and I’m currently enjoying my lackadaisical soaks and saunas.
My body wants slow, gentle, and nourishing now.
Dropping calories or even trying to increase my metabolism feels like it increases anxiety, and I just can’t anymore. If it takes a bit more physical substance on my body to anchor me into this world then so be it.
So what: my breasts are a bit more full, there’s a bit more curve to my belly, hips, and thighs—a little more jiggle in my wiggle.
I think I’ll keep it.