Body Love: W is for Weight
Body weight is such an infected topic. Most people are focused on the numbers and calculate their BMIs to make sure they are what is supposed to be a healthy weight. This has led to the misconception that overweight is unhealthy, while being slim equals good physical health. I can understand that many people want to simplify things and don’t want to do the research. There are so many different factors that lead to bad or good physical health, and overweight is only one of those factors.
Normal Weight and BMI = Healthy?
I think there is a difference between being overweight and being fat. Someone who is a little bit chubby is deemed overweight but does not necessarily get recognized as fat. Fatphobia often includes the assumption that overweight leads to bad physical health though. Other things that assumed are laziness, unattractiveness, overeating and a lack of self-control.
Let me start with that when I had normal BMI, I was skinny. I wasn’t slim. No, I was skinny. My bones were sticking out everywhere, my husband at the time told me that my face looked like the face of a skeleton. I did not look healthy. And I didn’t feel healthy at that point either anymore.
A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with bulimia. I didn’t have the bulimia where you throw up after every meal. But I ate under 1000 calories a day and then exercised excessively. My BMI was normal, but my mental health was not at all. My bloodwork also showed that I didn’t have enough nutrition. So for me, to have a normal BMI, and a normal weight (I was 57 kg at 163 cm, in case anyone wonders) could only be reached through extreme measures. The internalized fatphobia, stemming from all the bullying about my body shape that I had received all my life, led me to treating myself badly. A normal weight does not equal healthy.
When you are overweight, you are automatically deemed unhealthy. And I don’t even mean the internet trolls jumping on every overweight person they see, and telling them that they are unhealthy. No, doctors do that too. I can’t tell you the amount of times when I have met doctors who would brush off any concerns that I had by just telling me that it was because I was overweight.
There’s one instance I remember very clearly. I had gained a lot of weight the last few months and was concerned about that as I hadn’t changed anything in my diet, neither had I scaled down on my exercise at that time. I first thought it was because of medication I was on, but even when stopping that medication, my weight continued to increase. And I went from what was deemed a healthy weight, to an unhealthy weight in a short period of time. And I had all these additional symptoms: I was constantly tired, I felt dizzy.
So this doctor looks at me, listens to me and says: “Ah, you are obese. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a fatty liver, diabetes, and heart disease. Let me get the scale out.” I just started crying. I was trying so hard to live healthily and when I tried to explain to her that I was eating well, that I was exercising, that my only vice was smoking, she didn’t believe me. I was so hurt. Gosh, I felt so misunderstood. Blood tests later showed that I had developed Hashimoto’s which is an autoimmune illness of the thyroid. The main symptoms include weight gain and an inability to lose weight.
The assumption that overweight equals unhealthy is very hurtful. There are people like me who have disorders that just generally make it more likely for you to be overweight. I both have Hashimoto’s and PCOS. Both well-known to cause weight gain and difficulties to maintain a healthy weight. For me to even get to a weight that number-wise would be deemed healthy, is nearly impossible at this point. And I don’t want to go down the eating disorder road again.
I am not an advocate of saying being overweight healthy, by the way. And I want to take weight as one of the most important signs of good health out of the equation instead. I think lifestyle is a way more important aspect to consider instead. Lifestyle meaning that you eat well, stay away from smoking, drugs and alcohol, that you sleep well, that you exercise, avoid stressors and try to get all the nutrition that you need. I also think that genetics play a bigger role in good health, than weight does.
I have diabetes type 2. It is the type that is often linked to overweight. I don’t think it is necessarily the most important factor for me developing this illness. I have insulin resistance. And I have been eating too erratically for a long time, with times of eating too much, and then in depression not eating at all. Not to mention the eating disorder period. And diabetes runs in my family, strongly. Both my mother and my father have diabetes. Both my grandfathers and one grandmother had diabetes. Four out of five uncles and aunts have it. And guess what, only one person out of all those people has ever been overweight. I was just unlucky. It is never as simple as you think.
The Numbers that Matter to Me
For myself, for my own perception of my body and my health, I don’t care about my weight anymore. I used to weight myself every day, which really triggered me a lot during my eating disorder times. Nowadays, when I feel like I have gained or lost some weight, I might check the scale to see if my feeling was right. But that is it. Weight is not as important a factor as people want it to be.
Instead of checking my weight, I make sure I eat well. These days it is about 1200 calories a day. No sugar, low carbs, vegan. Yes, me, the overweight person, eats well. I don’t snack bad food. If I eat a burger, I eat a vegan burger on a whole wheat bun, with no fatty cheese. If I eat fries, I eat sweet potato fries. I always make the good choice.
I know many slim people who were just lucky with genetics and eat whatever they want. Their metabolism is fast, they are lucky. That is it. But we are all judged by numbers: weight and BMI. No one looks at what is behind that number, ever. I also exercise, almost every day. And I try very hard to do that. I hate it. But I know it is good for me. Not to lose weight, no. But for my health.
I still struggle a lot with my internalized fatphobia. A lot of my body hatred comes from disliking the shape of my body. But I don’t obsess over my weight anymore. In my eyes, weight is just one tiny factor that affects your health. Slim people get cancer too. They get diabetes too. Heart attacks, strokes, even Covid. It is about a combination of things, not just one factor. The only numbers I care about are nutrition and blood glucose. My diabetes is under control (all thanks to eating well and exercise, I don’t take medication for it) and the last time I checked, all my other numbers were perfect.
If you worry about your weight because of how it affects your health, then there are a lot of others factors you need to look into too. And maybe question if what you are struggling with is not only a fear of overweight, but also internalized fatphobia.
I am doing the A to Z challenge during the month of April (and apparently the month of May too). My theme is Body Love. So you will get 26 posts from me, following the alphabet, related to the topic body love. You can check out more about the to A to Z challenge by clicking on the banner. You can find a list of sexbloggers participating in the challenge on Mrs Fever’s site.