The medical assistant, who I never particularly liked, weighed me in, checked my blood pressure, and pulse. She asked about my symptoms.
Then, as she was leaving the room, she said, “We are implementing some new things,” she reached into a folder for a pamphlet. “Here is some information on Body Mass Index. It’s for patients who are uh, slightly above on their BMI. It will teach you about portion sizes.”
I was sick and exhausted from coughing, so I didn’t even bother to conceal my angry bitch face. “Yeah,” I grumbled. “I’m not taking that.”
“Oh no?” she said and slipped the informative leaflet back into the folder from whence it came.
My doc came in, examined me and prescribed some antibiotics, which is what I was there for in the first place.
I’d not gone there for a lecture on my weight.
This little exchange has stayed with me over the past week. I’ve wrested with it.
I know that doctors have a responsibility to address obesity. I know that it is a problem in our country.
I also know I am about 30 pounds overweight. Possibly 40, depending on which fucking chart you look at.
Additionally, I know that I struggled for the better part of three decades with eating disorders, poor body image, and self loathing as a dancer who was very underweight for most of my life, though I thought I was an orca.
So I know just about all there is to fucking know about fucking “portion sizes,” thank you very much. (And yeah, those were sarcastic air quotes.)
Of course the number on the scale did not tell the whole tale to the medical assistant that day. Nor did it tell her that I generally try to eat a healthy diet of whole foods. It also did not tell her that I try to get at least 30 minutes of activity into each day, and that I set goals for myself every week on my Apple Watch to burn calories and keep moving.
The number on a scale tells so very little of the whole story.
Why, then, do we give it so much credence?
Health is so much more than a number. Had I been struggling with other issues related to my weight, I might have been more appreciative of this lady’s gesture. Anyway, last I read, doctors weren’t even favoring the BMI any longer.
Regardless, the situation kind of threw me into a tail spin of anxiety and concern.
I kept coming back to the number on the scale and bending it into weird equations of how much I weighed in college at the height of my dance career and anorexia + how much I weighed when I met my husband and finally stopped vomitting after every meal + my wedding weight + the weight I’d gained on my honeymoon + my pregnancy pounds – weight lost breastfeeding + weight gained breastfeeding + sedentary job weight = fatty fatty fat fat.
It’s amazing how casually mean we can be to ourselves, isn’t it?
Why the fuck is that, anyway? Why can’t we just shut up and be nice?
I always find myself circling back to the Pema Chodron quote about how “some of the most difficult times we have are the times we give ourselves.”
I can go for weeks on end thinking that I look pretty smoking hot, or at least halfway decent, or not really giving a tiny rat’s pooper about how I look. But that whisper of self recrimination is always at my ear. It’s a strenuous effort to tune it out.
My first reaction to that med ass (yes, I’ve taken to calling her the med ass. . .) was, Who the hell does she think she is? I am glorious and fantastic and she can suck it! But as my defenses started to dissolve, I caught myself slipping back into those old cycles of wondering if I will ever be good enough.
It’s an insane, inverse equation in which the higher the number on the scale goes, the lower my self esteem and pride drop.
The whisper grew louder one morning when I was in the shower soaping up my flabby stomach– the stomach under which I grew two perfect humans, BTW.
My first impulse was to be defensive, like I had felt toward the med ass. I wanted to tell the whisper to go screw.
But I tried to talk back to that negative side of myself with respect and patience. I tried to let it know it was okay. Somedays we don’t feel so great about ourselves. Somedays we weigh a little more, or forget a lot more things, or lose our patience and lash out at someone we love. No one is perfect. That’s just how it is.
I tried to talk to the voice with as much compassion as I would talk to a dear friend, or a client, or one of my own children.
Self acceptance isn’t a state you get to and then are all set. It is a constant process of reflection and mindfulness and good humor. It is kind of like a marriage in that you are frequently needing to remind yourself what you actually enjoy about yourself and recommit to YOU even when you are feeling crappy and plump.
It also means accepting the parts of ourselves that put us down and make us feel less than.
We need to love, respect, and appreciate ourselves – our WHOLE selves – regardless of numerals.
For me, this looks like stretching, walking, eating lots of leafy greens and drinking about 80 ounces of water a day. I don’t count calories. I don’t have the energy to diet fastidiously anymore. I eat pizza once a week, and I occasionally enjoy cookies, Twizzlers, or chips. If everyone at the office is eating cake, but I don’t really want it, I check in with my body and make a mindful choice about eating or not eating it.
At the end of the day, I guess I have to say thank you to the medical assistant for giving this opportunity to recommit to self acceptance. Although I might still take a moment to write a letter to the head of the practice to suggest a bit of sensitivity training regarding how they go about offering their helpful information.
What are your favorite ways to accept and appreciate yourself? Have you struggled with body image issues? Please share! I love to hear from you in the comments below! xoxo.