My BMI is 39. According to most in the allopathic medical community, I am unhealthy. I am short, overweight, and measured by a scale that doesn’t consider muscle mass and other health factors; I am borderline morbidly obese.
In the back of my head, I know that the BMI scale was created by a man who did not intend for it to be a measurement of health. I know this. I know that I am a fully functional adult who can run and lift my kiddo using my non-dominant arm. I know I can calm fears and make boo-boos better with just a kiss.
So why is my entire self-worth tied to an arbitrary number?
If we were to follow the BMI scale and say what a healthy weight would be for me, I would weigh no more than 130 pounds before I would be considered overweight.
I have been that low before. I starved myself to get there. At my lowest, I weighed 120 pounds.
When you have an undiagnosed eating disorder, you tend to fly under the radar. I could eat the bare minimum in front of people, just enough to take the edge off, all while not eating in private. I knew that my body functioned better when it was caffeinated. So for a while, my diet was primarily coffee, carrots or some other vegetable, wheat thins, and the occasional meal out. Add that eating pattern into a toxic and abusive relationship? It is the perfect storm.
From the time I was 20 until I started dating my now-husband at nearly 22 years old, I was in a relationship that only fed my disordered eating. I was mentally, emotionally, and verbally abused by someone who was larger than me and weighed more than I did by a lot. It was as if he could overpower me with just the touch of his hand. I was constantly told that I wasn’t small enough, that I was too heavy. All these things filled my head until it reached the point that food created anxiety for me, and the thought of not having things perfectly portioned would send me in a downward spiral.
You don’t see what is happening to you when you’re in the thick of things. You don’t see yourself killing yourself slowly, in a progression that goes unnoticed. When I got out of the abusive relationship, I weighed 120 pounds. I had little muscle mass because I hadn’t been feeding my body the way it needed. I had such a disorganized relationship with food and, honestly, with myself. I prided myself on being able to buy from the children’s section. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
When I started dating my now-husband, I didn’t notice the weight coming back because I was happy. He is the love of my life, and we love going on food adventures. For a while, my demons were at bay-I could enjoy the food in front of me. I got to experience the most amazing seafood; there wasn’t a dessert downtown I hadn’t tried. I was happy. I was happy at 170 pounds; to heck with the scale.
Pregnancy was hard for me. I absolutely loved being pregnant. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t watch the scale like a hawk. I started my pregnancy at my heaviest, 198 pounds. I knew the risks of gaining too much weight, and yet I had everyone telling me that I should be eating for two, that I could eat whatever I was craving. I remember the first time I saw the scale tip 200 pounds, and I tried to attribute it to the fries I had for lunch, but it nagged at me. I felt as though I had failed.
Crazy, right? To think failure is gaining weight during pregnancy but when you’ve battled demons only to have them, then just lurk in the shadows? All you see is the number on the scale. All I saw when I looked in the mirror was my belly. It wasn’t the cute Instagram-worthy round belly. I had the “B” belly -a belly on top of a belly, appearing as a B from the side. Here I was, growing this miracle, and I wasn’t happy with the shape of my belly. I doubled down on the weight gain; I wore only clothes that made my belly look better, more rounded.
And here we are, nearly three years postpartum. I weigh 210 pounds. I haven’t lost any baby weight, and I would be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me. I feel myself slipping into the grasp of my eating disorder. All I see on social media are “hot girl summer” and “beach bods.” I want to lose weight. I want to not talk about it with my doctor at every single visit, even if it isn’t related. I want to be able to find cute clothes. We also want another child. If I’m honest, I don’t want to lose the weight, fighting my demons head first, just to gain weight during pregnancy. I don’t think I can do it.
So I keep telling myself that the scale is a number, the BMI isn’t an accurate picture of health. I keep telling myself that I’ll be able to truly love the body I’m in one day.
One day, my eating disorder will be over, and I will be happy.
No matter my weight.