I’m getting personal today and talking about something I haven’t quite elaborated on before. And a topic that I still personally and professionally struggle with — weight. What does your weight define? Should you weigh yourself? What matters more than what you weigh?
The infamous “they” ((who are “they?”)) say everyone has a happy weight. I used to be like everyone. I had a weight at which I felt my best. The weight that my favorite pair of pants hit my in all the right places, the weight that my stomach was flat enough and the weight that I felt my prettiest.
And then what seemed like overnight, I woke up 15 pounds lighter. And it wasn’t a good thing.
For four years I was at my all-time lowest adult weight without trying. I thought my body was just “regulating” after college, but I soon learned it was working so damn hard to fight several rare lung infections, and that led to my thinner than ever before appearance.
I experienced a textbook hypermetabolic state due to illness. I was living what I was learning in grad school. My body was stressed, working overtime, and the weight just fell off. I felt like crap 24/7. I was constantly fatigued, my usual curly hair barely had a wave and was half as thick as usual. And I didn’t get my period for three years.
But I still loved being “naturally” thin for the first time in my life.
Even though I knew better.
Even though I was poisoning my body with cocktails of antibiotics for years… and through a semi-permanent IV line for six months (you can spot it above).
At my all time lowest weight, I loved to weigh myself. I could eat whatever I wanted. And I ate all the time… I had a perfectly good appetite. I nourished my body with good food, but I didn’t have to “watch” what I ate for the first time in my life. Before I got sick I would say that I could gain five pounds by just looking at an apple! At first I thought I looked great. I was very thin, but not bones and sick looking. It’s now clear to me how much of a dysmorphic view of my body I really had…I put too much emphasis [in my daily thoughts] on fitting into a double zero.
After fighting several rare lung infections for four years, and deciding to leave medical school, doctors finally hit the nail on the head and figured out how to really get me better.
I was breathing better, I was (and am) able to keep my lungs healthy with a new favorite dance cardio class, and my energy level was slowly rebounding. But to be perfectly honest, I was disappointed when the scale started creeping up.
And as I got healthier, my weight [naturally] crept up. And crept up.
And crept up some more.
And then I started to be more cautious about what I was eating. I’ve always been a pretty healthy eater, but I watched my indulgences… no more nightly dessert or keeping up with my now fiance on pizza night. Studying nutrition, I knew why I was gaining weight — I wasn’t eating more or moving less. I was getting healthy.
But despite being slightly stricter with my indulgences, my weight continued to increase for six months.
I didn’t need to or want to weigh myself anymore…my hips had more of a shape, my pants were tighter. My boobs were pouring out of my bras. My leggings (yes, elastic pants!) were freakin tight!
By the time I transitioned from IV antibiotics to oral antibiotics, I was up at least 10 pounds. And I was never eating healthier. Then by the time my oral antibiotics could be discontinued, I was up another 10. I only know the numbers because I was weighed at the doctor. I decided it was no longer helping me to weigh myself.
Even though I intellectually knew that this was such a great sign I was frustrated as hell. None of my clothes fit. Everything felt tight … And despite trying to be “stricter” with what I was eating, I didn’t lose an ounce. So I decided to buy new clothes.
Three months after my antibiotics were discontinued, I got my period for the first time in three years. I actually started laughing. I saw it as my body’s way of telling me “Hey, I’m back…we did it!” My hormones came back swinging… hellooo hot flashes, mood swings and breakouts… I still sometimes feel like I’m going through puberty again!
Truth be told, all of this happened in the last year. I am a body positive dietitian, a love yourself no matter what kind of person. The you are more than what you weigh kind of person.
So why did I have such a hard time accepting my body for all it went through, all it could do??
Why did I put such an emphasis on my weight?
I honestly don’t have an answer. So I stopped weighing myself. I told them not to tell me the number at the doctor. I started focusing more on how I felt — was I breathing well? Did I have the energy I need to get through my 60 minute dance cardio classes? And what I can do — I became a dietitian and finished my internship and masters all why going through this crazy time. I’ve built a business that I’m continuing to grow. I met my fiance who has loved me at every size and supported me through everything.
How you feel matters more than what you weigh. Your weight is a number influenced by so many things — muscle vs. fat mass, water weight, hormones, a salty meal, and more. Your weight alone is not a picture of health. Your weight does not define your worth. Your weight is not strictly determined by calories in versus calories out.
I don’t know what happened one day, but working as a dietitian and helping my clients realize their worth more than their weight, I started to believe again that I was more than a number. I stopped weighing myself.
I started focusing on how food makes me feel versus how it makes me look. I got back to eating intuitively instead of strictly. I started experimenting with food to help clear up my skin because I’m a hormonal teenager right now… not to lose five pounds. I’m figuring out what foods I can eat without feeling bloated AF because my microbiome is messed up from so many antibiotics. I started practicing what I teach when it comes to weight. ((because dietitians aren’t perfect and we all have our own hang ups too!))
Sure, there are days when I go to try on a super cute pair of shorts from a few years ago and they don’t fit and I get frustrated. Sure, after I go to the doctor and he tells me “You’ve definitely put on a few lbs since the last time you were here…” I get a little more self-conscious. And sure, there are times when I get hung up on all of the changes that my body has experienced over the past few years. But I’m able to shake it off better than ever before. I’ve stepped away from the scale and I’ve never been happier.
But should you weigh yourself?
This is a personal question and each time I meet a new client I individually help them answer this question. Sometimes I weigh a client blind (backwards so they do not see the number). Sometimes not at all. And sometimes my clients keep track of their own weight.
But if you’ve ever struggled with accepting your body and body image, know that you are not alone and you are more than what you weigh. Your weight does not determine your worth. And if you ever need to hear that, reach out… I’d love to hear from you.
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