Not only am I a woman, mother, and wife, but I am also a parent of a child with a severe feeding disorder. I have seen the spectrum of weight fluctuations from this disorder, and I have learned a ton about food sensitivities, oral aversion, and sensory processing disorder. This experience has made me realize something kind of funny about our society that I have been thinking about a lot lately. We focus so much time and energy on weight loss, and less time on who we are as people. It’s everywhere. It is on the next fad diet of no carbs, no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, no salt and no fun. I see products all over my Facebook feed being sold for weight loss from shakes, to supplements, to greens, and to exercise products. Every single day we are bombarded in our society to feel we need to lose more, eat less, be better, be more perfect and look a particular size and shape.
I admit I’ve gotten sucked into some of the products. I’ve wrapped myself to reduce belly fat – it didn’t work. I have tried supplements that are supposed to block carbs and sugar, and those didn’t work either. I have tried exercise products, and all the latest fads in exercise from personal training, boot camps, cross fit and yoga. I have realized something about myself in all of this that no matter what I try, and no matter what I do with my diet I am still the same person on the inside. Whether I’m skinny or overweight, I am still the same person who has a feisty attitude, loves to be active and enjoys a good debate.
After watching my son go through struggles with severe oral aversion and oral dysphagia, I have also realized that being thin isn’t always an indication of overall health. He was starving his brain of nutrients and was unable to manage fundamental things from speaking to gross and fine motor skills. His nutrition was very poor and he was severely delayed in almost all development categories. The only way we could help him was by placing a feeding tube. As soon as we put a feeding tube in, he gained weight, and he caught up in most areas. Now his BMI is on the high end of normal, and he is far more healthy than when he had a normal or low BMI.
When I look at my own life, I can distinctly think of a time in my mid-twenties. My weight plummeted due to severe anxiety. I had gone through a horrible break-up, and my job was incredibly stressful. The stress of managing the break up along with the demands of my work put my anxiety into overdrive, and I completely lost my appetite. I didn’t even think of food because I was consumed with my grief and pain. My weight went down to levels that I hadn’t seen since I was a child of 15 years old. When I was out and about, the compliments I got for my weight loss was unbelievable. You would have thought I had just won a Nobel prize for all the accolades I was receiving from people on how I looked. Inside I was screaming, “I might look great, but I don’t feel great!”
This period was when my whole idea of what looked good took shape, and I was fearful of gaining the weight back. I did gain the weight back and then some, and I have gained more through the years. I have bounced all over the place between twenty pounds, and it all depends on what is going on in my life. Being thin does not always equate being healthy in my life, and being thin for my son did not equate being healthy for my child. Conversely, I know plenty of people that are deemed “overweight” by BMI standards that have a healthier diet than I do and work out daily.
Most recently I ended up with a “High BMI” according to my doctor. The “High BMI” happened after suffering a knee injury and being unable to long distance run. I gained about ten pounds, and I didn’t even feel horrible. I was eating right, I was practicing yoga 5-6 days a week, and I was chasing around a 4.5-year-old. My husband complimented me on my curves, and for the first time I didn’t care about having a “High BMI.” It wasn’t until I went to the doctor for help with medications for anxiety, and for help with the injury to my knee that I realized that I needed to lose a little bit of weight. My orthopedic doctor diagnosed me with early onset arthritis in my knee. For my knee to have the best possible outcome for the rest of my life – he said it pretty clearly “Don’t gain any weight. Losing some weight will help.”
I started a new diet plan and started resting and caring for my knee. My activity has plummeted over the past five weeks since the diagnosis. However, with careful monitoring of my diet, I have been able to shed a bit of the weight I need to be in a more healthy range for my height. My end goal has never been to be thinner or look better; it has always been about helping the long-term health of my knee. I would love to be able to get back into activity, but I know rehab will take time.
Which gets me to this point, the weight I’ve lost has been for health-related reasons, so please don’t compliment me on how I look. I am still the same person on the inside. I am as great today as I was five weeks ago when I was 10 pounds heavier. My heart and soul have not changed one inch since losing the weight. I promise if you don’t compliment me on my weight loss, I will not compliment you on yours. How you look has very little to do with who they are within. So if you are reading this and you are on a weight loss journey, for whatever reason, I applaud you for taking steps to do so – but don’t get false self-esteem from accolades of losing weight – it doesn’t change you as a person – and this hasn’t changed me. I will applaud you for taking steps to improve your health and wellness because we only have one body to carry us through this life. Please don’t compliment me on my physical appearance, and I won’t compliment you – Deal? Deal!