The “healthy weight” mind f*ck

My Christmas list sounds something like this:

Dear Santa,

Help me lose weight. Lots of it.


Before the crucifixion starts, let me be the first to admit how uncool that headspace is. But, it’s how I feel today and honesty is super important in this self-love and body acceptance journey.

The idea of an ideal “healthy weight” is pretty controversial. Good Nutrition and regular exercise are no-brainers, but what a “healthy weight” looks like on paper is highly debatable. For example, based on the AMA/CDC BMI calculator someone 4’11” tall (aka me) needs to weigh 92 – 123lbs for the “normal” weight class. My current weight labels me “obese.” The last time I checked, a 92lb adult female is basically a skeleton, so I don’t give much credence to numbers and charts. It is completely possible to be numerically “overweight” and in great physical health. And, the assumed correlations between disease and what you weigh, as well as what you weigh and what you are physically capable of doing are not so cut-and-dry either. (Check out Dances with Fat, especially this post )

How does this relate to my life today? It’s official – I am the heaviest I have ever been. I’ve gained a record amount of weight since last year. How much exactly? I’m not sure, because I generally avoid scales and haven’t ever owned one. If I had to guess, I’d say 15lbs – 20lbs? Not sure. What I do know is that I gauge my health and happiness by 1) how my clothes fit and 2) the ability to engage in activities I enjoy, and both of these things are really sucking right now.

It started with wedding dress shopping, which was a disaster, so I stopped looking at traditional salons and decided to find a cute, flirty, more casual ivory party dress. Still, my brief affair with the wedding fashion world apparently caused some deep trauma because I started having dreams about the seams of my dress busting open as I walked down the aisle. I reminded myself that I was getting married and even if I wore a burlap sack JD would call me beautiful, because, duh, he thinks I’m beautiful now. NoBigDealRight?

Then about a month ago I had an OMG. freakout. Intellectually I know it must have happened gradually, but it felt like one day I just couldn’t button/zipper any of my clothes. Everything was tight and unflattering. Like some evil oompa loompa invaded my body, and banished me to the land of stretchy waistbands where I could do no more than look longingly on all the cute but now off-limits outfits in my closet. So. very. sad.

Secondly, I realized I haven’t been as active as I used to be. So I made a decision to change that. But the things I used to love spin/yoga/hiking were tortuous. My now giant out of shape body rebelled. My back in constant pain from the strain of my ginormous boobs, winded and fatigued really easily, and my knees hurt every time I try to run/cycle/do any cardio. Whether I sit on the couch or run a 5k I want it to be my choice. I want to have the option, and right now it would take a lot of work to get there. I want to be in shape. I want to climb mountains. Literally. (JD and I are taking a glacial climbing course in January and I’m really scared it’s just going to be too strenuous for me).

I believe in the healthy at every size movement. So desperately wanting to lose weight makes me hella uneasy. Like I’m pissing on something inherently feminist and being epically hypocritical. Having been on both sides of various eating conditions in my personal life and also personal relationships, body acceptance is something I work really, really hard on. And most of the time I love myself. But I am at a point where the weight, and nothing but the weight, is really hindering my ability to do things.

Is it so wrong to want to lose weight when health is the motivator? And is it even possible for the motivation to be that pure, or is it always even just a little bit laced with the thin=perfection mentality women are constantly bombarded with? I feel so guilty for wanting to change something about myself, but I also feel guilty for letting my body slip away, and then I feel guilty for linking the two, even though I’m pretty positive they are one in the same, for me, right now at least.

This is truly dangerous territory. Should I focus more on self-acceptance? Or, is it time to put together a game plan? I don’t like the idea of dieting or calorie tracking, since they mainly set you up for disappointment and failure, but maybe setting some reasonable goals is what I need?


6 responses to “The “healthy weight” mind f*ck

  1. This might be taboo, but I don’t think you can be “healthy” at every size. But, I think you can strive to eat healthy and add more activity regardless of your size. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change yourself, especially if you want to lose weight to become more healthy. I know what it feels like not to be able to do the things you used to do. I think it’s great that you can be honest with yourself, acknowlege the things you want to change, and take the steps toward getting back to your personal healthy weight.

  2. Pingback: New Year, Same Me | M.Brenn·

  3. OK, lotta thoughts…

    1) Absolutely do NOT beat yourself up for having these thoughts. It’s perfectly normal. Society is constantly beating you over the head with the thin beauty ideal every day PLUS you’re getting married, which means society basically got the memo to step that shit up to amber alert levels. Forget body love. I’m pretty sure you’d have to be some kind of unfeeling robot to escape soaking in the insecurity right now!

    2) I think you should recognize that you have two separate battles going. Battle A is that you’re feeling the pressure to look waif-like in a wedding dress (and every other day, but especially That Day). Battle B is that you’re feeling out of shape and like you can’t do the awesome fun physical activities you want to do. These are absolutely TWO SEPARATE WARS. It is only the Beauty Myth that combines them and insists that ONLY when you achieve waif status will you be able to climb Mt. Rainier.

    3) So, you have to decide how you want to tackle each battle. This is totally up to you. You are the general of this army. (I am stuck on this war metaphor, sorry, just go with it.) For the first battle: You will NOT be a bad feminist if you decide, “you know what? Planning a wedding is hella stressful. If I can lose X lbs and take one aspect of that stress off my life, that is worth doing.” On the flip side, you will still be insanely beautiful on your wedding day if you decide right now, “Planning a wedding is hella stressful, so I’m going to reject any unnecessary stress, i.e. stupid society telling me stupid things about what my arms should look like in a strapless wedding dress.” Both of these answers are correct, depending on whether they work for YOU.

    For the second battle, I’d suggest going back to the core of Health At Every Size values and focus on healthy choices, not weight loss. Your goal is to be able to take that ice climbing course and kick some ass, right? So what are some steps you can take to get you there? Forget how your clothes fit — whether you are or are not wearing an elastic waistband really won’t impact your ability to hike up a mountain. So that barometer isn’t helpful here. Focus on finding ways to move more because it feels good, makes you happier and is improving your overall fitness, which will make that ice climbing course more fun. You might have to start small (walking vs. running or modifying yoga poses that you used to be able to do no problemo) but that is completely okay! You’ll build it back up.

    The key is to remember, as you say yourself, that you don’t need to lose twenty pounds (or whatever) to be physically fit. That is within your reach now. As you make healthy choices, incorporate more movement and such into your daily life, you may lose weight as a side effect, but if so, it’s just something that is also happening alongside you choosing health. It is not the proof of your health.

    4) I love you and I think you look great.

    • VA, as always, thanks for bringing me back to earth. Everything you said is obvs true, and aside from this vulnerable display of blogging my little frustrated heart out, I’m really learning to embrace the HAES premise. As much as I think it’s a separate issue, I get most off track when stressing about the wedding. So many expectations to look “amazing” and I of course forget that I kinda look amazing right now and don’t need to change a thing.

      I’ve made a commitment to myself, for health – not weight, to be more active. I started a Couch to 5K and it’s going well so far.
      And I’ve also decided not to weigh myself before the wedding. At all. best decision ever.

  4. Hmmm, I dont think there is a girl out there who hasnt felt like you at some stage. Perception, Reality and somewhere inbetween self acceptance. I think you need to asses if you are at a healthy fat % if your fat % is too high its time to work on losing fat and maintaining your muscle mass with a good balanced gym programme. or perhaps yoga, pilates or some other form of exersice that doesnt strain your joint. you are not alone checkout tracey-ann on my blog, she gives me so much inspiration. you will get there. good luck

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