Things I Like Include: Truth Behind Numbers

In honor of the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) walk on my campus this weekend, I thought I would do a post about body positivity. Being an American woman, I believe that I’m in forever the middle of what feels like a lifelong (and slow) process towards loving myself and my body. I’m going to do something that may sound terrifying to the average 21 year old college woman- I’m going to confess how much I weigh:

 

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This is how much I weigh, and this is my Body Mass Index.

According to this (and every) Body Mass Index chart or calculation, I am obese.

 

I won’t lie and say that I am not dreadfully uncomfortable about doing this. My weight is a number that’s only shared between me, my doctor, and my bathroom scale (and honestly, sometimes I’m even hesitant to look at the scale in the morning). That three-digit number is absolutely haunting. It determines how much breakfast I think I’m allowed to eat, how many miles I’ll have to run that night, and whether that day I’ll feel comfortable in my jeans and my skin. That number often determines whether I look down at my thighs and see curves or fat, ugly or beautiful. Today, on the 8th of November, I am choosing to see beautiful.  

 

I, for one, believe that this is qualification: this obesity standard, is ludicrous. I fit into relatively normal sized jeans, I can run upwards of seven miles at a time. I am training for a half marathon, and I love my body.

Sure, I’d love to lose some weight, but I can’t help but wonder if I actually want to lose weight or if I feel like I’m supposed to want to lose weight. Like most 21 year olds, I probably eat too much pizza and drink too much beer, but I am constantly worried of being judged unfairly in comparison to my thinner counterparts- the woman at the bar who eats as many cheese fries as I do, but who is a size 4. Do people make snap judgements about her laziness, her values, and her intelligence because of her size? I’m sure there are some implications that exist. However, I don’t believe that they are equal. I feel healthy until I am told otherwise- until I am confronted with a number that tells me I am not healthy, that I am “other.”

In a conversation with my best friend Alyssa (who is in school to be a dietician) this summer, I came to a sad conclusion that I only truly understood once I said it out loud:

“There is no worse feeling in the world than being the biggest girl in the room.” 

There are no feelings that compare to feeling like the ugliest of your friends; to have to sit at a dinner table with a group of people while you are starving because you feel too embarrassed to eat in front of them for fear of being judged.

 

This number, my BMI, this arbitrary measure of health has the potential to determine my health insurance coverage, doctor to patient bias, and essentially, my self worth.

 

I am sick of feeling defined by numbers. Between weight, grades, and applying to graduate school, I feel as if I am constantly inundated with my ability (or inability) to measure up to the norm. I move that, instead, we begin to define our bodies and our minds by what they can do. My legs can take me down DoG street at a 10 minute/mile pace, my mind can create thoughts that they couldn’t conceptualize 5 years ago. 

I have one hundred and fifty nine reasons to love myself and all the things that my body is capable of.

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