“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.