Remember last year, when I realised I’d lost all my sick days at work rather quickly, and that when I get ill, I get hardcore ill, and started fretting I was going to get fired? My hypothesis was that because I was theoretically underweight (and my BMI was low), my immune system was pretty much a giant wuss. Fast-forward to now. Sweet and I have been on a major health overhaul for the last few weeks – we’ve both been exercising more, and have switched our eating habits to eating five or six little meals and snacks throughout the day instead of three heftier ones. I’ve heard for years this is way better health-wise. Now I just have to clear the piles of greeting cards off the treadmill and start working jogging back into my routine (it was brought to my attention recently that my wedding was three months ago, and my physical activity had plummeted to basically zero since saying “I do”), and I’ll be set!
Last week, though, I noticed an unexpected side-effect of the new diet: I’d put on six pounds. Before the wedding, people were eternally telling me to eat something, asking if I was deliberately losing weight, and pretty much hinting I was borderline anorexic (NOT true in the slightest). Yet crazily, it was something I was proud of. I was proud to be skinny because though I have huge body-image issues (don’t we all?), unlike the shape of my nose this was something over which I had some control. I never snacked, I drank nothing but water, I refused to order puddings, and I’d never eat anything past seven PM. Enter the new diet, where I’m suddenly taking granola bars, fruit snacks, crackers, cheese and yoghurt along with my lunch to work, snacking every few hours and thinking I need to invest in some sort of lunch briefcase – and I wonder why I’m surprised to have put on weight. My first reaction was one of despair: all of a sudden my skinny jeans were feeling uncomfortable, the scale slapped me in the face, and my first instinct was to wail like a giant baby. Sweet immediately reassured me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of discontent – I wanted to get healthy, but I didn’t want to put on weight. Catch 22. Deep down, I know that when my BMI is 18.3 and all sources point to that being unhealthy, that gaining weight healthily is a good thing – but I can’t seem to feel comfortable doing it. Does that mean I value physical appearance over physical wellbeing? Does that mean I’m a terribly shallow human being? I hope not, but I feel incredibly uncomfortable not being comfortable that maybe I’m actually reaching my “healthy weight”, and I don’t know how to change my thought patterns.
Last year when I was thinking about this sort of thing, I felt like a giant hypocrite putting any energy at all into thinking such negative things. I wrote: I’m 104 lbs right now and I still feel like a whale after I eat a big meal. But I don’t skip meals or throw up or anything. I’m just naturally small framed and consequently the slightest bulge stands out a mile. To me – and so, in my head, to everyone else as well. I just want to be able to overcome it – all of it, not to be seen as attractive by other people, but to feel confident in myself so I’m not held back so much, so I don’t shy away from people so much, scared of what they might be thinking. I want to be able to be comfortable and confident. I want to be able to contribute to the world and this seems to be the one destination to which I can’t see a clear path. Six months later, I still feel like a hypocrite, advocating for stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself to grow, to be a better person, to make a difference in the world when I’m guilty of spending my time thinking about something so shallow.
But maybe I just needed to read this post from the wise and beautiful Hannah Katy, which landed at the top of my Reader just seconds ago as I was about to wrap this post up. The Universe does work in interesting ways. Maybe I need to take a leaf from her book, and decide that if I, too, “had two extra hours to my every day, I would surely dedicate the 120 minutes to tracking down a scholar who could point out to me just where women started missing parts and cutting themselves off at the knees. Where it began… Where he believes it might end… Where we learned verbs like “comparing,” “despising,” and “sizing.” And started using our adjectives to belittle our bodies and devalue our worth.”
Maybe I just need to listen to this incredible girl who I’ve not had the good fortune of meeting face-to-face, but who never fails to pull me back to what’s really important in life. Who never ceases to help me by sweeping my negative thoughts out onto the street and replacing them with the ones that deserve to be in the spotlight. I really do value health and wellbeing, and I really do make an effort to eat and live well. I know that to live where I do, surrounded by the people I am, to have a home and a job and a working body I am incredibly, incredibly lucky. But how do you become comfortable with being
a bit bigger healthier in a world that’s encouraged you to feel blessed to be skinny your whole life? I’ve scoured the Internet for “healthy BMI” sites, and they are full of tips on losing weight – but it’s hard to find any information at all on gaining weight in order to be healthy – and feeling okay doing it. I realise reading this back, how frightfully superficial this all sounds (and that this is probably anonymous troll-bait territory), but I’ve always told you I’ll write honestly, and I can’t pretend it’s not something I’m thinking about right now. I hope you’ll forgive me, and that soon, my thoughts can be more in line with what they should be.