Weight has been in the news a lot lately. Ralph Lauren got some publicity by hiring a size twelve model, although I hesitate to give him too big of a clap because…um…she’s gorgeous and thin and anybody who wouldn’t hire her is insane. The fact that she’s routinely referred to as “plus size” is just laughable, but I guess compared to the bony size zeros who are usually hired, she is. Well, good for her.
Lady Gaga recently professed her love of pasta and admitted to a history of eating disorders. Posing in her underwear, she asked her fans to be brave with her. Personally I don’t see the extra twenty-five pounds she said she gained – she looks fabulous and fit in the pictures – but her message is clear: love and accept yourself, and find your own balance.
An admittedly overweight news anchor recently took to her morning show to share an email from a man who told her that she wasn’t a good role model for girls because of her weight. I loved what she and her husband had to say about the weight issue, and good for her for standing up for herself against a man she’s calling a bully. (I disagree that he bullied her, but that’s a minor quibble.)
And, while not nearly as high profile as those other women, I started a weekly video diary a few weeks ago about my quest to get thinner and fitter as I head into my forties.
The theme here is that we’re all trying to find something that works for us. Forget about the dangers of being overweight for just a moment, since there’s growing evidence that how fit you are is more important than how much you weigh. Let’s just talk about what it means to be bigger, and to be called obese.
I’ve always been confused by one person telling another person that she should lose weight. Everyone is different, and has her own normal, right? And yet there are so many arbitrary measurements that push us into categories – that try to define us instead of taking our individual circumstances into account.
I am still, at 173 pounds and 5’4”, just a big spaghetti dinner away from being categorized as obese. This is a ridiculous way to classify people. I am walking and jogging several times a week with my kids, and about to start a twenty-week training program to get ready for my third half marathon. And while I don’t break any speed records, I’m getting faster each year. My goal in February is to finish in under 3 hours. I can ride my bike over the Manhattan Bridge no problem. I go up my own three flights of stairs multiple times each day. My blood pressure and cholesterol have always been excellent. And yet, the numbers on a chart classify me as being, somehow, a problem. In danger because of my weight.
I know someone with a BMI very close to mine who is training for a marathon, routinely completing long runs at a pace of 10 minutes per mile or faster. And yet she’s at the high end of the “overweight” classification. Like I said, ridiculous. So for the rest of this post, let’s forget about the words “obese” and “overweight.” They don’t mean anything when compared to how a person feels and what a person can do.
My weight has never, ever stopped me from doing something I wanted to do. I went scuba diving at 183 pounds. I remember the exact weight because I had to say it in front of a big group of people at the dive center. While I probably should have been annoyed at being asked that in public (so that the dive instructor could adjust my vest), I was already in a skin-tight wet-suit – I had nothing left to hide.
I’ve never been in danger of not fitting into an airplane seat or a movie theater chair. I’ve never not gone to a beach because I didn’t want to get in a bathing suit (I’m not saying I enjoy being in a bathing suit, just that I never didn’t go because of that). But I’m also not happy with the way I look, and when I exercise I know how much easier jogging would be with less weight to haul around. So I decided a year ago to take some weight off.
And I try hard not to judge other people for how much they weigh. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives, with their health. It’s really none of my business. But then I read things like this, and feel absolutely awful for someone who doesn’t want to appear in public because of her weight. That is not a person who has found her balance.
Is it society’s fault, for shaming people it feels aren’t acceptable? Is it this woman’s fault, for not having the confidence to walk into a room? I have no idea, but I do know two things for sure. One, that when you stop doing things because of your weight, it’s time to make a change. You are letting someone else’s agenda control your actions. Whether that change means gaining enough confidence to walk into a room when you’re fat, or deciding not to be fat anymore? Again – none of my business. But If something isn’t working, you should change it.
And two, shaming people into losing weight doesn’t work. Maybe this is something that healthy, non-emotional eaters just don’t get, but for a lot of us, telling us we’re fat sends us to the fridge. Makes us feel ugly and unworthy. It takes a lot of work to lose weight, and why in the world would a person put all that effort into herself if she doesn’t like herself? If she doesn’t think she’s worth it?
Breastfeeding or not. Staying home with the kids or going back to work. Putting your child in day care or getting a nanny. Letting your kid get a cell phone or not. Losing weight. Or not.
Telling people to do what works for them, for their families, makes for boring blog posts, boring talk shows, boring magazines. But there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all solution for anything. Find your balance. Your normal. If your weight isn’t working for you, fix it. If it is working for you, hold your head up high and tell the rest of the world that you don’t give a flying… ;-)
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.