Let’s chat about the BMI index, shall we? I have struggled with my weight my entire life. When I was 6 I got sick. Very sick. I mentioned that in my autoimmune disease post. I went from a normal kid, to being fatigued all the time, having issues with my leg, double vision, feeling like garbage, and just being pretty miserable. I gained weight. Part of it was surely due to a lack of the physical activity that I had previously been doing, but part of it was probably due to the illness itself, and, yes, genetics, too.
After that, weight was a constant issue for me. In second grade I remember feeling fat, and being told by peers that I was fat. I remember being the last to be picked for kickball and made fun of for my appearance. I see photos now, and see a really normal kid. Not thin by any stretch, but not grossly overweight. But I hated myself. In second grade. Even having dealt with hospital visits and countless doctor visits, I hated myself for not being one of the skinny girls. I was 8.
Over the next several years I gained quite a bit of weight. By the time I had my daughter, weeks after my 25th birthday, I was very overweight, by anyone’s standard. I thought I’d lose the pregnancy weight, but it didn’t come off. I went into the pregnancy overweight, but post-pregnancy had me at a size I was very uncomfortable with. I remember seeing a photo of myself with my brother, just goofing around, and I was devastated by what I saw. I started a journey to get healthy and in shape.
Sickness and Health
I felt great. And then I didn’t. My body spiraled out of control. I started gaining weight rapidly, so I started to restrict my food intake drastically, hoping that would stop it. But it didn’t. I became incredibly fatigued. Exhausted. Started losing my hair. There were tons of symptoms that popped up. Rapid weight gain was but one of them.
After years of doctor visits, which were always disappointing and dismissive, and incredible amounts of research, I finally started to get things under control. I got my hormones in the right place, my thyroid seemed to be doing alright, finally, and my adrenal glands/HPA axis seemed to finally be working. I was doing gentle workouts every other day, drinking my pea protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, and not worrying so hard about what I ate for dinner. I was still eating healthy food, I just wasn’t concerned with calories and allowed myself to have ice cream when I wanted it, etc.
After regaining my health, I got back down to the weight I was at my prime (the time I was doing crossfit and eating VLC Paleo). But I felt great! It was fantastic! And then I had a surprise pregnancy. I had a feeling that it would throw things out of whack again, but did my best to not think about it and just focus on the pregnancy and my sweet little fetus. Who is now a sweet little 14 month old.
Enter some incredibly stressful situations, and my body was so stressed that instead of gaining weight like I normally do when dealing with stress, I lost weight. Not a ton, but more than I’d like to give stress credit for. I’m about 4 pounds away from where I was when I got pregnant. But because of the stress I’ve been dealing with, and knowing how my body reacts to all stress, including exercise, I haven’t been working out, lately. Because I know that the added stress to my body could be detrimental to my health. I ache to workout, but I’m giving myself some more time to heal and cope with outside stressors, before I opt to add purposeful stress to my body.
BMI is Garbage
All of that said to say: the BMI is an epic and disgusting farce. Right now I am considered “overweight.” Let me say that while I am not thin, I am definitely not overweight. There is not a person who looks at me and thinks “She’s overweight.” The BMI takes so little into account. Body type matters. Period. I’ve never been anything but just barely in the “normal” range, and when that has occurred, I was at my thinnest, and honestly quite thin for my body. I am short and I have broad shoulders and wide hips, and while, yes, I will always have large thighs and a special belly (thanks to an emergency csection), it’s ridiculous to associate where I am when I’m at my thinnest but still healthy and strong, with “overweight.”
My 9 year old is likely not favored by the BMI chart, but is PERFECT. She is a tiny package of solid muscle and strength, and I will LOSE MY MIND if anyone ever makes her feel like she’s anything but perfect because of the BMI which doesn’t take her immense strength and muscle into account. I will LOSE MY MIND if she ever feels they way I did about my body. Because I look back and while, yes, I definitely had some considerably overweight times, when I was a child and a teenager, I was perfect. And I felt like a piece of trash thanks to the BMI, the doctors who put so much stock in it, and a society which tells us that we must fit a mold of thinness in order to be worthy.
I hope to lose the last four pounds, I’ll be honest. But I’m guessing I’ll put some weight on first, once the stressfulness subsides, and once I’m working out again and gaining muscle. And that is absolutely okay. Trust that I’d rather have a few extra pounds and feel good and have my body working as optimally as possible, than be the weight I’d most like and feel exhausted and weak and miserable.
My husband has never had to contend with weight issues, aside from when he was in high school and some coach mocked him for being too skinny. He started consuming insane amounts of calories and lifting heavy weights, and put on enough weight to be a muscly football player. He’s now a thin guy. Not skinny, but he’ll never ever be anything close to overweight. I put his metrics into the BMI chart and guess what…he’s 2 pounds shy of being “overweight.” It’s so laughable when put into that context. Because he is a thin guy. No question about it. And there is no one in the world who would look at him and think “man, he’s pretty close to being overweight…” Most people would think “he could stand to eat a few cheeseburgers.”
But here we are. Killing ourselves over a stupid freaking body mass index chart that is entirely outdated, and frankly, meaningless. It’s antiquated to say the least. As a friend pointed out, the chart was created in the 1830s. As another friend pointed out, human bodies have undergone quite a bit of change since then. We’re larger people in general. Not just “fatter,” but larger frames. But the chart doesn’t take body type or muscle mass into consideration. It doesn’t care about your actual health and lifestyle, just about your height to weight ratio. It’s so absurd. And frustrating. But still such a hard care to break.
I can preach body acceptance all day. And I can talk about the ridiculous body standards our society clings to. I can go on and on about self-love, throwing the scale away, about size being unimportant. And I believe all of it. At the same time, I practice low-key self-loathing over my size and weight. Not all the time. But practicing it at all is not something I’m proud of. I wish that I wasn’t so concerned about fitting into the last pair of prepregnancy jeans. That I didn’t look into the mirror and have days where I internally freak out over what I see. I wish that I could look at myself with the love and enamor that my husband looks at me with.
I have days that I feel really good about myself. And sadly, many days where I pick myself apart, and frankly, probably am viewing myself through a funhouse mirror lense. I’m aware that I likely have some body dysmorphia going on. And I know that health is so much more important than size. I know that the BMI is a complete and utter farce.
Learning to make the two opposing world views I adhere to around weight and size come together is more of a struggle than I’d ever imagined. But I am definitely trying. In the meantime, I will continue to remind myself that my body is what it is. That it’s exactly what it needs to be right now. That I don’t need to criticize it. That I can love my body while accepting that it doesn’t look exactly as I’d like it to. And that I need to stop being so mean to it.
I will continue to keep embracing my imperfections, including my inability to sometimes embrace said imperfections.
***I am not a medical doctor and nothing in this blog is medical advice or to be used in lieu of medical treatment or advice from a doctor.