Today I am letting something from the past go, by amplifying the message contained within it, not the emotion I felt during it.
There’s a huge difference between what’s personal & what’s important. Yes, they can overlap – there are personal things that are important, and important things that are personal. However, the sooner we realize that the things we hold closely sometimes are personal and NOT important. They achieved importance through us ruminating on them. I do this pretty often, and is the reason I’m amping up my meditation practices starting this month. Meditation is just like any other form of exercise – you can only coast on your previous good deeds for so long. 😉
But this post is about how a pivotal event in my teens went on to become a catalyst for much of how I view healthcare transactions, even if they’re as simple as a conversation with someone. And since I’m now letting this event go, by using it as an opportunity to talk about the lens of weight, I’m releasing any bad feelings I’ve held about it.
When I was 16, and was pretty ill much of the time with undiagnosed autoimmune issues, the family doctor told my mother that I needed to lose 5 pounds, and I’d be fine. I am 5’5″. At the time I weighed 132 pounds. As far as he was concerned, my problems were because I didn’t weigh…127. This anecdote perfectly summarizes the problem of viewing people through the lens of weight as a primary health marker. And as you can imagine, when I lost the 5 pounds, absolutely nothing improved. This doctor was just…saying something, because he had nothing else to offer. And his assertion was that, for some reason, a 5-pound weight loss could solve something. I don’t know about you, but the only thing a 5-lb weight loss ever solved for me was the ability to zip a particular pair of jeans.
Jump to 2021 – I let my weight hover in the low-mid 140s now, because I feel a LOT better than when I weigh less than that, and I don’t currently find that a higher weight feels good for me. So, I am mindful of my weight, but in a much more passive way than I was ever before. And I’m far more in control of binge/diet impulses than I ever have been before.* Control over poor diet impulses doesn’t come easily, and it’s a very difficult issue to manage in our utterly screwed-up, pseudo-scientific information landscape. You’re also potentially likely to NOT get correct support from medical professionals, as well, if you don’t conform to societal models of “correct weight”, whatever the hell that is. If you start to get convinced that there’s a number on the scale that equals health/happiness/sexiness, or being worthy of respect/love/attention, you’re not to blame – this is what we’re all being told all the time. But it’s not a particularly healthy way to think about your body.
Here’s the way I run my training business: if you come to me for weight-related concerns, I will help you get away from concepts that are outdated, inaccurate, or not supported by the newest & most consensus-based scientific reasoning. I will explain exactly what this all means. As well, we’ll be incorporating behavioral modification as it pertains to fitness coaching – if you’re a client, this means learning and practicing KINDNESS. I will work tirelessly to put your mind and body on the same team: team YOU. I’ll help explain why common pitfalls (like feeling guilty or binge-eating) happen, why they’re not the end of the world, and how to stop seeing yourself as a failure.
Think of how much bullshit information is out there – this isn’t easy for ANYBODY. You’re here, which means you’re already learning & reading & researching for yourself – that’s your mind showing your body that you DO care. That’s behavior that can be built on. That’s self-love, baby. What I won’t do is judge you or tell you what you should weigh.
I use that episode when I was 16 to illustrate how weight, a number that merely captures our total MASS on a scale fails to demonstrate anything meaningful about what that mass is made up of, and whether it’s tied directly to health. It’s an unfortunate truth that biases about bodyweight essentially lead to the societal impulse to punish or reward people for which body type they have. See, now doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Yet, it’s right at the center of our health and fitness industries, as well as the beauty and apparel industries. The BMI formula (a 200-year old formula, by the way) has been the dominant way to express a person’s mass/height ratio – and this isn’t much better than just looking at mass. Here’s a link to a fascinating column on the NPR website that discusses how we ended up using BMI in the first place. It’s what our insurance providers and our healthcare providers use, although the problems with it are well-known by now. You don’t have to throw away the scale, but you don’t have to live your life around a number, either.
I like you no matter what you weigh. I want to work with you because you have a body that wants interesting things to do, not because you need “fixing”. And my final thought: a “beach body” simply is a body, hanging out at the beach.
(* I am brutally honest about my own failings because I think it’s important for people to see that it’s possible to get back on track, that it’s possible to accept the occasional binge as non-catastrophic, and that being kind to ourselves as fallible humans is more important than strict diet adherence – where there is no medical reason for the diet. So, if you’re surprised that a trainer could eat 3 gluten-free donuts and then go right back to more healthful eating – well, hello, this is me.)