This post is brought to you by: my scale – changing the way I view myself every day.
Yesterday I stood on my scale to find that for the first time in more than almost five years I am a “healthy” weight.
If that wasn’t strange enough, it’s also the first time I can think of post-puberty that I’m not really trying to lose weight.
I grew up quickly – I was 5 feet tall in the 4th grade and wearing A cup bras in the 5th grade (5’5” and C cups by 7th). As early as 2nd grade, the boys would have regular competitions with me to see if they were taller. I had very few friends that were the same size as me. I knew that I was just an “early bloomer,” but that didn’t make me any less self-conscious. I was 100lbs in 4th grade when some of my friends still weren’t 100lbs in middle school. Even when I was a size 6 in high school, I felt abnormally and unnecessarily big.
Most of my general health and weight concerns were combatted by the fact that I was fairly active growing up – I did gymnastics as a small child, soccer from 2nd to 9th grade, and basketball for a season in middle school. When my soccer career finally ended I started to go to the gym with my mom on the weekends to compensate for my new lack of activity. It wasn’t anything major, but it was something. Ever since then, I’ve always said I’m trying to get in shape or lose weight.
I weighed 135lbs when I went on a trip to Nicaragua for three weeks the summer after 11th grade, but I quickly gained 15lbs when I got back. That was the first time I can recall really caring about what the scale said. The first time I remember really trying to lose weight was end of that school year, when I went to the gym religiously after school and ate well for weeks in an attempt to look nice for prom. I didn’t lose any weight.
University only made it worse – freshman 15 is real, people. And so was my depression the summer after freshman year. I had to buy new clothes, because some of mine didn’t fit. I felt uncomfortable seeing people and taking pictures with them. I still have a hard time looking at pictures from that summer.
The next winter I got a routine down – school, work, working out, preparing healthy lunches. I was on top of it, and my weight went down. But then I went on exchange, and both my mental and physical health took a plunge.
It’s been a constant game of tug of war with myself since then: can my mental health handle caring so much about my physical health? But not caring about my physical health makes it worse which in turn makes my mental health worse. And when I do care about my physical health almost nothing happens, I always just maintain or gain, never lose, so what’s the point?
Weight is just a number, but if you put my numbers of age, height, and weight into a BMI generator, as I did so many times, you would get a definitive result of overweight every time for years, no matter how many generators you tried. And I couldn’t rationalize it the way we all say that there are obese athletes because muscle weighs more than fat: I didn’t feel healthy, I didn’t look it, and the numbers just reaffirmed it all.
The number on my scale has been about how I have too much physical weight, but it has added exponentially to my mental and emotional weight. “Overweight” could just as easily have been a label for all scales.
I’m a big advocate for accepting yourself and others exactly the way they are, but when it comes to practicing what I preach, I’m only really capable of the latter. I think people of all shapes and sizes are beautiful, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea that I am, too, no matter my size at the time. Sometimes I rationalize it in that I personally do love myself, and that makes me want to be healthy, so of course I’m unhappy when I know that I’m not healthy. However I think of it, it is one of my biggest struggles, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.
Coming to Korea, I expected this long-standing game of tug of war to continue: people are very thin and shallow here, and I knew that long before coming. Of course not everyone is thin and shallow, but there is quite a homogenous culture about looks here, and I anticipated feeling like a giant here. On top of that, I anticipated gaining weight due to not having the time or energy to focus on losing weight. Whenever I have not had the time to go to the gym or focus on eating well, I have gained weight. I expected that would happen again, yet for some reason history did not repeat itself this time.
Within 3 weeks of being in Korea I lost about 8lbs, or 3.6kg. I haven’t been working out, and I consume more bread and rice than anything else, yet I somehow lost weight. The initial rapid weight loss held out, and slowly I’ve lost a little more. I’m not walking even half of my recommended daily steps, but I am standing at work so I guess that helps? My entire activity and diet habits are different from how I would do them when I’m in a healthy phase – there’s many carbs, not many fruits and vegetables, and more red meat than I’m used to. I blame the kimchi (the Koreans blame the kimchi).
So today I am writing this as an officially “healthy” person. I have crossed the threshold that held me back in the “overweight” range for years. If you put my numbers into a BMI generator (and I have), I am “normal.” Normal. That’s crazy.
I feel as though that mental and emotional weight of mine has somehow been slightly lifted. Immediately I felt my confidence shoot up. I know that I shouldn’t be so suddenly overjoyed, that I should have accepted myself a long time ago, but I’m not going to let that mentality ruin my sheer joy at being “normal.”
I still have a long way to go – I do actually want to be healthy and fit, by focusing on getting enough nutrients in my diet and by being active. And I need to learn to come to terms with myself regardless of size, so that this feeling of complacency won’t disappear if the scale goes up. I still worry that people will judge me for my weight if I eat in front of them, and that is a mentality I need to attack.
Still, with all of the progress that needs to be made, I am officially “normal.” I have no idea how I got to be so, but I’m thrilled.