My Weight Doesn't Define My Health
This post is part of a series, in which we asked writers to share their experiences with body shaming.
On my 28th birthday, I was having lunch with my dad when we started talking about health. I told him that a few months earlier, I saw my doctor for an annual checkup. At the appointment, I asked her if I should be concerned with my weight. Very quickly, she responded, “Nope! You’re in great shape. You run, do yoga. I’m not worried about your weight.”
My dad said, “That’s great that she told you that, but it’s not true.” He thought I needed to lose weight in order to be healthy. I let it go and we continued to celebrate my lunch over crab cakes and craft beer.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this sentiment from one of my parents. Growing up, my mom worked at athletic clubs, in the tennis department. She’s very active and wanted me to be just as active. She also wanted me to be thin.
Around the time I turned 10, my body started to change, and I started to gain weight. Worried, my mom impressed the importance of health on my young mind, encouraging me to prevent any further weight gain through exercise and watching what I ate.
"I realized it was time to stop hating my body, to stop connecting my body’s worth with society’s expectations, sexist beauty standards, antiquated BMI charts, or anything that isn’t my natural intuition."
It’s not that my parents are evil. They are, like most people, of the mindset that your weight is directly correlated with your health. My parents wanted — and still do want — for me to have the best of health.
No matter their intention, it was body shaming. Their words built a wall between myself and my body. I believed my body wasn’t good enough, and would never be good enough unless I was a size 6. After a decade and a half, that wall had become so high that I could no longer see my body, or love her.
Old Photo, New Mindset
Not long after that lunch, I was going through old photos, and found a photo of me from three years prior. I was shocked at how thin I looked. The body I was looking at was 40 pounds thinner than the one I currently carried. I remembered my life at the time — I worked 80 hours a week at an emotionally abusive job, I never worked out, I continued to get back together with a guy who treated me terribly. Nothing about my life at that time was enjoyable, let alone healthy.
I realized it was time to stop hating my body, to stop connecting my body’s worth with society’s expectations, sexist beauty standards, antiquated BMI charts, or anything that isn’t my natural intuition.
Weight is only a very small part of one aspect of health. It’s also important to nourish my body appropriately. It’s important to let my body rest. It’s extremely important to tend to my mental health — none of which I can do if I am over-exercising or under-eating.