Bigger Than My Body
I had never met the woman before, but she was wearing the white coat that gave her permission to tell me what to do.
“There’s a significant change in the numbers here. Has there been a big change in your life?”
My mind started running. There had been so many changes in the last year.
I received my MA
I got my anxiety under control
I now feel joy more often than I feel panic
I don’t feel horribly isolated all the time
My dreams started coming to fruition
A relationship ended
Eating no longer makes me feel sick
Perfection is no longer my driving desire
She couldn’t see that. All she could see was the number growing and a percentage turning red.
Our meeting lasted less than 15 minutes, but in that time she told me that my body wasn’t acceptable for my age group.
“This is higher than I’d like it to be. I suggest seeing a nutritionist so this doesn’t continue.”
Believe me, I haven’t been able to shake those words easily. Suddenly, my love and acceptance of my body shifted to thinking my body needed to be changed. My lifestyle needed to change so the “negative” habits I’d formed wouldn’t continue to create a bigger problem.
“Preventative care is cheaper” she said, “so let’s start talking now to make a change.”
The food looked good. It smelled great. I love pizza. I lifted it to my mouth to take a bite. It made me nauseous. “I just want to eat”, I thought. “I’m so hungry”.
Another night of trying to finish an apple in my dorm room.
That was my reality for the first year of my life in college. Hungry, but unable to eat. The stress was intense, my dreams huge, and my expectations of myself were even greater. This was how I lost weight when I was 19 years old. Starving. Desperately trying to eat only to find my body rejecting the fuel.
“Seriously, how are you losing weight in college?” people would ask.
“You really don’t want to know the truth” I’d say to myself.
This was the memory running through my head as I walked out of the clinic, furious and heartbroken. I have no intention of returning to the pain that forced my weight loss and I don’t need anyone telling me that my anxiety and mental illness was more optimal for “my age group”. I get enough of that from a billion dollar diet industry that is hell-bent on convincing me and “my age group” that I’ll be healthy when I start consuming food filled with chemicals and pills that will only make me sick.
I get enough of that from a patriarchal society that raised me to believe the value of my body is determined by the eyes of men and how small I can make my body. “Don’t take up too much space. That’s not attractive. Don’t be too strong. That’s not attractive.”
Just before the doctor walked in that day, I had a wonderful conversation with a sweet and kind nurse. She took my heart rate and shared “you have a nice strong heart. Very healthy”. What an incredible contrast. Are those the words I’m holding onto days later? No. I’m stuck on the fact that my doctor told me to lose weight to prevent further weight gain. Fortunately for me, I’ve done years of work to know that my health, happiness, and value are not dependent upon the number on a scale.
Not all women (or all humans for that matter) have invested time in the same education.
For many women in their 20’s, their relationship with their body turned to judgement and dislike as early as six years old. Without intervention and positive role models, this dislike can progress into hatred and destructive, even fatal, habits.
I’m no doctor, but I do know that health and well-being is so much more than a number on a scale. That’s one element of it, but that number can and does fluctuate throughout life. What hasn’t changed is the connotative value of the weight of a woman’s body.
She may have been telling me to lose weight, but there’s a good chance all I heard, as a patient, was that my body was not acceptable and needed to be changed. If you’ve had a doctor tell you that a number isn’t good enough when there’s no real cause for concern, please allow me to tell you that you’re already enough.
You are more than your body.
Your value is not measured by weight, achievements, or productivity.
You do not have to become anything or do anything.
You are enough. Simply be.