28 Jan Body Positivity: When numbers don’t matter
For years I have obsessed over the scale. When I was 3 or 4, I was very underweight and the doctors warned that if I didn’t gain weight soon, they’d have to treat me for malnutrition. Back then, mealtimes were stressful and traumatic. My dad was worried about me not gaining enough weight and being so picky about my food, that he would threaten me which just made me more opposed to eating. I would get nauseaous and start throwing up the very little food that I managed to get down, my eyes would swell with tears and mealtimes just seemed like a horrible thing, filled with anxiety and depressing feelings. I was constantly being weighed, checking to see that I was still within the bracket, drinking milkshakes and small meals throughout the day to keep my weight steady.
Fast forward 2 years or so and I was at a healthy weight but still constantly monitoring those numbers, it had become a habit and something that I watched my mom, aunts and cousins do. By the age of 9 or 10, I had gained “too much” weight and was on the border of overweight. I had never noticed it until we weighed ourselves at school, during a lesson of measurements, and the girl behind me called me fat for weighing 2 or 3 KGs more than her. Kids are mean, they have no idea how those words sting and I remember being so upset that my mom spoke to the girl and explained how unkind her actions were. If you’re wondering the impression it left on me, I can still tell you the girl’s name, and each of our weights, at the time. I was devastated.
In grade 4, I rejoiced when I had fallen ill with a virus that caused raw blisters along my tongue and down my throat. I wasn’t able to eat and lived on smoothies for 3 or so weeks. I was happy that I had managed to lose more than 7 KGs in such a short time and even convinced my mom to replace my wardrobe with new trendy clothes, that I couldn’t wait to wear to my next civvies day. I started becoming increasingly obsessed with the numbers that appeared on the scale. One such time was back in grade 6, I hadn’t weighed myself in a while and when I did, I was so upset and anxious by the numbers that it haunted my sleep and that night, I kept waking up with the number repeating loudly in my head. I couldn’t understand my sudden weight gain or how I had lost all sorts of control.
My weight continued to go up and I discovered sugar, chocolates, fastfood and fizzy coldrinks. The bullying at school didn’t help my emotional eating: I was a year older than the kids in my class and academically inclined = the nerd. I strived for the recognition of my teachers, who favoured me for it. That, added to having chubby thighs, a tummy, not being nearly as tall as the other girls and already having a low self-esteem, and I was basically a walking target for mean girls. High school was hell until grade 10 when I was able to attend a college, wear makeup and feel a little prettier. But still, I became the DUFF* (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). I had pretty, popular friends and when I realized that people were only friends with me to be friends with the pretty girls, or to get their hands on my homework, I withdrew from socialising at break and focused on matriculating.
Throughout my adulthood, I obsessed over the numbers, setting unrealistic goals, going on hunger strikes and then would binge eat when I couldn’t meet my goal of a 10 KG loss, in a month. I had been on and off diet tablets since I was 9- NINE!? Being pro at handling the shakes, nausea and distraction that came along with each new concoction. The hate towards my body got especially worse when having to shop for underwear or clothes for a special occasion, always feeling like the numbers defined the person who stood in front of the mirror and not seeing what an outfit actually looked like, on me. The changing room became my place to hide while I wiped the inevitable tears and pretty soon, I just stopped shopping altogether.
Although at my heaviest of over 128kgs during my pregnancy, it never ever bothered me. I cannot remember a time where I felt more radiant, more beautiful or more in control. I loved being pregnant, it gave me the confidence to wear maxi dresses, something I had always thought I was too short to pull off. It also prompted me wearing skirts and sandals (I have issues with my stubby toes). Pregnancy was good for me but the day after giving birth, the numbers started to matter again.
Today, I was on the phone with my mom. I had actually started the call with, “Hey mom, I am feeling sad and could do with some cheering up!” We chatted for our usual 20 or so minutes and during the call, I had seen that the bathroom scale was moved to the bedroom for some unknown reason. When I weighed myself, I was 10 KGs less than the night before, when I had weighed myself in the bathroom. Wait, what!? 10KGs is huge! In fact, 10 KGs is my current goal for the next 2 months. But I didn’t feel any different, I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I felt like the world was lying to me and I wasn’t quite sure which weight I was meant to go by. 10 KGs seemed to be such a big deal a few minutes before I stepped on the scale, a victory that I had sought after for the last year, I held such high hopes that it would mean feeling better about myself, that I would emerge as this new being, confident and beautiful. But the reality sunk in and the more I thought about it, the more I just knew inside that the numbers no longer mattered.
It isn’t about how much I weigh or what size I wear. If I am honest, I only ever wanted to be skinny because that is how the media defined beauty. But with a little weightloss, I noticed how my face deflates, leaving me with protruding cheek bones and that I didn’t even like. It just wasn’t for me. Sure, I am overweight and yes, I could definitely do with a lot less kilos. But does that make me any less beautiful? I don’t think so. I’d like to think not, anyway. My goal
should be is that I want to be healthy in all aspects of my life from mind, body and soul. I need to make peace with my demons and worse, the bullies who still haunt my dreams. I need to value me and everything that I stand for. I am no longer defined by the number on my jeans because I am more than that. I am worthy.
“Loving your body only when it’s in perfect shape is like only love your kids when they’re well behaved”