Personal Hurdles: Weight Fluctuations
I admire people who don’t own scales. I admire people who don’t know what they weigh.
I am not one of those people. I own a scale and I know exactly what I weigh. In fact, after so many years of obsessing over the number on the scale, I can now look in the mirror and accurately estimate my weight (within 1 lb). Even if I got rid of my scale tomorrow, I’d still know exactly how much I weigh.
Weight has been an important measurement for me since middle school. Like many (if not most) people in our society, I saw weight as being the most significant indicator of health. Thin people were healthy; fat people were not. Obesity was the cause of health issues (heart disease, diabetes, joint pain, etc.).
I have since realized that my assumptions here were false. Sure, obesity is often correlated with health issues, but it is false to assume that those who have a low BMI are automatically healthier. Being a “healthy” weight does not guarantee health; thin people are also plagued by IBS, infertility, cancers, autoimmune conditions, and all manner of other issues (including type 2 diabetes which many people I encounter seem to think is related to weight alone). Obesity may be correlated with ill health, but it is very unlikely to be the root cause.
I saw this first hand. From when I was 19 to when I was 20, I lost more than 60 lbs (from a BMI of 34 to one of 23). I had gone from obese to “normal” in a year, but my health hadn’t really improved. My asthma was better, yes, but not gone, and during the course of the year I’d developed a circulation condition called Raynaud’s Disease. On top of that, my knees had started to hurt (just a little) when I exercised — at the ripe old age of 20. These are relatively minor health issues, so I brushed them off as irrelevant and pushed on to reach my weight loss goals. Looking back, however, I realize that this should have clued me into the fact that 60 lbs were not the only thing standing between me and health.
As I write this today I am approximately 140 lbs. It’s about 10 lbs heavier than my lightest weight and about 5 lbs heavier than the weight at which I feel most healthy. I’m still not able to say I don’t care about these numbers. There’s a voice in my head telling me that if I just lost those 10 (or maybe 15) lbs, that my thighs/calves/stomach/arms will look better. That voice still pushes me to lose that weight in any way possible. I can’t tell you that voice doesn’t exist, but I can tell you that I no longer listen to it. What I am able to say today is that I no longer think of weight as the sole marker of my health, and my goal is not to lose weight but to become optimally healthy.
Maybe in the future I’ll put on muscle and look smaller, even at the same weight, or maybe I’ll put on both weight and muscle, or maybe I’ll stay exactly the same size and weight I am right now. I don’t know how my body will change in the future, but I do know that I will continue to ignore that voice in my head and one day (maybe soon) I’ll throw out that scale entirely.