How can one word that is regularly described by a series of numbers cause so many people so much stress and pain? How can one six letter word and the numbers associated with it turn in to an obsession for so many of us?
We are affected by weight at least somewhat from the time we are born, sometimes even before birth. During my pregnancy with my second daughter, I changed doctors because according to my first one I wasn’t measuring properly and she was concerned that my daughter was not growing properly. After a few weeks of repeated tests that just led to more tests my stress levels were getting so high that I was starting to be at risk of things like high blood pressure and preeclampsia. I should say that I ate healthily every time I was pregnant, that for me pregnancy is a time to give my baby whatever they need to come out healthy. My daughter did end up being smaller than her older sister, but she was still a healthy weight. I believe the reason I didn’t measure properly is because even before she was born she had more muscle than fat, therefore not taking up as much space as a baby that was mostly fat. She has continued to be a small yet muscular child, but there is no doubt that she is healthy and strong.
Then there is my older child who has always been a skinny child, expect at her birth when she was above average weight for a newborn. When she was two years old, we took her to see a new pediatrician who threatened to call social services if we didn’t force her to eat more so that she would gain weight. We obviously decided not to keep taking her to that particular doctor as I believe that force feeding her would not only be abusive, but could also set her up for an eating disorder later in life. No other doctor that we have ever taken her to has told us that we had to make her gain weight. She has been called anorexic by peers who don’t know her, only see what she looks like, and she has been told by some of those same people that if she wants to gain weight she just needs to eat more. As she has become a teenager, there have been many times that I have compared her eating habits to those of a teenage boy. Her size has never been connected to how much she eats, it has always been connected to a combination of high metabolism and lower estrogen levels.
Both of those examples help illustrate how sometimes we use weight as a barometer of health, but also that sometimes even the medical community focuses on the numbers too much. Yes, when we are either underweight or overweight, we might be setting ourselves for serious medical problems, but I believe it’s more important to look at how we got to those numbers. You can be naturally underweight or you can weigh more because you have more muscle than other people in the same weight and height range. Both of those realities are often interpreted improperly by snap judgements made either based on appearance or the numbers on a scale.
We also sometimes use weight as a barometer of attractiveness, which can create lots of issues, especially for females. There are many reasons why the numbers on a scale can be upsetting to females. For many females, their weight might be what makes them believe they are attractive. Then there are the women who are trying to change their weight whether they are trying to lose it or trying to gain it. For those women, if the scale doesn’t change enough in a certain time frame, they often feel like they are failures, even when the number on the scale might not even have anything to do with the effort they are putting in. Most females experience weight fluctuations connected to their hormones that have nothing to do with their health, but when the numbers on the scale are the focus, those fluctuations can destroy them. Obviously, I am not a stranger to this reality, and even though my issues go much deeper than the numbers on the scale, I know that truly being able to let go of those numbers will be the biggest sign that I am well.
As I said to a friend recently, we are all so much more than our weight and bodies. Let’s try to celebrate what makes us the unique individuals we are, and focus on how healthy we feel instead of a number or how we look.
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