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Why We Should Stop Worrying About Weight

“The only way to solve the weight problem is to stop making weight a problem—to stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Weight is not an effective measure of attractiveness, moral character, or health. The real enemy is weight stigma, for it is the stigmatization and fear of fat that causes the damage and deflects attention from true threats to our health and well-being.”
– Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size

I remember the first time I weighed myself on my Wii Fit balance board. I was 11 years old, and I weighed 92 pounds. That was a healthy weight, according to the video game, because I had a BMI (Body Mass Index) that fell within the “normal” range. I didn’t really care much about this new information, because, well, I was a kid. I wasn’t supposed to care about my weight.

It had been a few months since I had last played the game, so when I turned it on, I received a message telling me I was due to weigh myself again. So I, now at 12 years old, stepped onto the balance board to weigh in. I watched in horror as the scale read…102 pounds, tipping my BMI from “normal” into the “overweight” range. This video game had just told me, a healthy, growing girl, that I was fat. And I believed it.

This set me off on a weight loss obsession. Unbeknownst to my family and friends, I kept a “weight loss journal” where I’d track my calorie intakes, create weekly meal plans, and write down my body measurements. I kept a folder of workouts from magazine clippings in hopes that I could use them to slim down my “thunder thighs”. I searched for how to control ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and I also looked for obscure weight loss diets, like the Japanese Banana Diet (yes, this is a real thing), where you’re guaranteed to lose weight if you eat a banana for breakfast every single day. I was consumed by weight loss when I didn’t have any weight to lose in the first place.

These behaviors continued throughout high school, and into college. I was terrified of the dreaded “Freshman 15”, so I would track every last calorie on MyFitnessPal, down to the teaspoon of sugar I put in my coffee. I obsessed over my FitBit statistics, refusing to ever take the elevator if I could take the stairs instead. I would feel ashamed every time I had cookies or ice cream or fast food, because these weren’t “healthy” foods. This wasn’t just some childhood phase that I would eventually grow out of. This was my life, and I couldn’t eat or sleep or exercise without wondering how it would affect the number on a scale.

The worst thing is, these obsessive behaviors are so widely accepted, and most are even considered “healthy” things to do, because they are done in the pursuit of weight loss. If you constantly worry about the number on a scale, or the circumference of your waist, and these worries are inhibiting you from living a happy life, is that really beneficial for your health? If all of this dieting and calorie restriction is causing you to be stressed and fatigued and miserable…is that still healthy?

I don’t think so.

It’s okay to eat that piece of bread, or the cookie, or the slice of pizza, or whatever. Eat whatever food makes you happiest. It’s also okay to have a garden salad for lunch and a cheeseburger for dinner (because I totally did that this week). Instead of focusing on the number of calories you’re consuming, focus on the nutrients your food provides and how it makes you feel, while still being mindful that you’re eating enough food to energize your body. And remember, it is never okay to judge somebody based on their body weight. Weight is not a direct indicator of health, and in order to achieve total physical, mental and emotional health, we must get over weight stigma and fatphobia. And no matter your shape or your size, you are beautiful.

 

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9 Comments

  1. This is so true Allie! I think people should focus on health instead of how we look. I have dealt with weight numbers my whole life, now I try to focus on my diabetes numbers instead so I can stay healthy and be around to enjoy life. You are so smart and talented. Keep up the good work. ❤️ Lori Rouleau

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janice Loughlin says

    I remember picking you up after school the day one of your middle school girl friends had told you that you had thunder thighs. I remember how devastated you were, and the long conversation we had about how I saw you as a strong powerful athlete and beautiful girl, inside and out. I remember telling you that muscles are healthy and important, and not to stress about the scale because muscle weighs more than fat. I also remember, sadly, the countless times I complained about my fat stomach and big boobs in front of you and Alana, and how I never wanted to wear shorts or a bathing suit and still don’t. I remember (with a degree of shame now) telling you that your girl friend was just jealous because she was so skinny, her legs looked like she had rickets. Those unintended messages we send to our kids are much more powerful than the positive things we tell them. I love that you have started this blog. I love you!
    Grammy 👍🏼❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tonya Pettaway says

    I remember the “WiFit incident well! I wanted to throw the damned thing out the window!! Weight on the scale is not a measurement of health & fitness. According to weight watchers fornmy height i should weigh between 95-110 (or some such thing). At my lowest I weighed 117, was a size 2 (verging on a zero) and was still “overweight”. Glad i stopped killing myself trying to chase a number on a scale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alexandra Pettaway says

      Thanks, Laurie! Honestly, it took me a while to get out of the diet mentality. My confidence really started to boost once I found a positive community that fights fatphobia but still promotes healthy living. A few girls from my school started a podcast (Nut Butter Radio) that introduced me to this mindset, and it really changed my perspective on dieting and weight loss. I encourage you to check it out!

      Like

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