I can’t remember a time in my life when I would’ve been considered small or skinny. I’ve always been a bigger girl, although my mother is always quick to remind me in her adorably supportive way that I was pretty much pure muscle as a child. “She’s solid”, my gymnastics teacher and the other moms used to say about me, while my mom looked on proudly.
Around eleven years old, thanks to puberty and hormones and all the other good stuff that comes with having a vagina, fat began to gradually sit on top of the muscular bulk I’d already developed. I wasn’t particularly thrilled at the time by what hips and boobs and some extra fat here and there did to my appearance, but overall I looked fine. More importantly, I felt healthy and happy.
The struggle with my weight began when I was fifteen. I was a sophomore in high school and in good shape from playing year-round volleyball, but all athletes had to get a sports physical to be cleared for the upcoming season. I walked into my doctor’s office feeling great, completely unaware that he was going to casually ruin my life. The nurse took my vitals then sent my usual doctor in, who, after a brief look at my height/weight charts and without any attempt at discussion, proceeded to inform me that I was very overweight and needed to go on a strict diet.
Immediately, I started crying. This was news to me.
When he delivered that piece of news – with all of the tactfulness of a rogue rhino, might I add – I felt like he had turned on me. This isn’t fair, I thought. Isn’t weight just one indicator of physical health, a small piece of a puzzle far more complex than any three-digit number? My blood work numbers were all perfect – didn’t that count for anything? Did he not see how muscular I was – that I was wearing normal sized jeans and running miles despite being “very overweight”? Did he not care that I ate healthy, home-cooked meals and worked out for two hours every day in the form of volleyball practice? Why did he think that one number gave him enough information to form an overall opinion about my health?
In that moment, I silently disagreed with him while imagining him with devil horns on his head. But like most women, it was too late: I had subconsciously internalized his words, and from that day forward the scale was a standard part of my morning routine and my biggest enemy.
I’ve spent the seven years since that appointment riding the worst type of rollercoaster. When sensible changes didn’t evoke the sensational results that I wanted (and the doctor had convinced me I needed), I turned to unhealthy, temporary solutions. If I wasn’t overweight back when he told me I was, I eventually would become so – I was up thirty pounds in six months, down thirty-five in four weeks, up twenty, down ten, etc. The scale became my sole focus and had evolved from an indicator of my health into an appraiser of my value. Day in, day out, it was there, humming along in the background of my mind.
I tried everything, from not eating at all, to eliminating important food groups, to obsessively counting every calorie that passed my lips. On multiple occasions I spent hours locked in my bathroom so I could try to make myself puke in private; thankfully, I was never able to make it happen. Diet pills, synthetic hormones, fancy websites with outrageous claims…if it’s a fad diet, I’ve done it. It’s not something I’m especially proud of, but I know I was far from alone in that struggle, which is partly why I’m writing this.
The few people who knew what I was doing to my body – who understood just how warped my perception had become – tried to intervene, but nothing came out of it because they didn’t have anything to say to me that I didn’t already know. I’m not stupid…I knew that those diets weren’t good for me if I did drop some pounds. I’m not and never have been – even on paper, no matter what my doctor said – overweight enough that the benefits of losing weight at any cost outweighed the potential long-term health risks of such aggressive and short-sighted methods. But my doctor had implied something to me that day that has been continually reinforced by society since: the scale is king.
(Side note: I get frustrated now when I think about how easily I was convinced of this fact, despite years of knowing deep down it wasn’t true, strictly because someone I respected said it to me. If that isn’t a reminder to watch what you say to people, especially those who are impressionable or hold you in high esteem, then I don’t know what is.)
Well, I’m 22 now and in a much better place – a place where I can think for myself. I’m not saying that because I graduated from college with a bachelors degree I can suddenly override what doctors say, but I am confident that I know more about me – the whole me, not just the height/weight chart version of me – than they do. There are so many aspects of me that I want to improve upon, but I love my body the way it is today just the same, and that’s one hell of an accomplishment.
I’m standing up for my physical, mental, and emotional health, by calling bullshit on the man in the white lab coat. I’m done with the scale, and I’m done with beating myself up over who I am because I let one number eclipse the big-picture. Weight has never been a valid assessor of health for me and obsessing over it has pretty much been the antidote to motivational. Over the past year I’ve probably weighed myself twenty times in total, and just by relaxing and focusing on something other than my weight, I’ve gone down two pant sizes. I want to become healthier and fitter for me; not for any doctor, not for any man, not for any chart or calculator or formula that is completely and utterly useless…but I digress.
Let me wrap up by saying it clearly: THE SCALE IS NOT KING.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for health and self-love, and it would do everyone well to focus on the whole pie, not just a slice.
Speaking of pie, this happy girl is hungry… Snack time!