Friday, September 30, 2011

The Numbers Game

Growing up, I was always the chubby friend.  I wasn't outrageously overweight, but I was what one would call "pleasantly plump."  When I hit puberty, I gained weight and developed breasts pretty quickly.  This left my short, stocky frame looking quite "fluffy."  In addition, I had just discovered the pleasure of Dr. Pepper, Orville Redenbacher's cheese popcorn, bologna sandwiches and the dessert line in my middle school cafeteria.  My parents raised  me on a very healthy diet, but let me make my own food choices once I left elementary school.  Like many young teenagers, I enjoyed the freedom of eating junk food.  It wasn't unusual for me to get home from school on any given day in middle school and down two Dr. Peppers while eating an entire bag of cheese popcorn.  I ate because I loved the taste of the junk food, but more than that, I ate to avoid the emotions and angst of being an awkward, unpopular middle schooler.  The weight crept on, and I became more and more unhappy about how I looked.

When I entered high school, I became very aware of my chubbiness and became obsessed with how I looked and, more importantly, the number on the scale.  During my four years in high school, that number on the scale became the most important number to me.  I obsessed over it and convinced myself that if it was just a few digits lower, I would be happier, prettier, nicer, etc.  I decided that all of my problems were a result of the number I saw on the scale.  So, I became obsessed with keeping it down.  I was no longer the chubby girl on the outside, but inside I was still that plump pre-teen who felt bigger than everyone around her.  Luckily, my obsession with dieting and food restriction, while horrible unhealthy, never became a severe eating disorder.  Sure, I had disordered eating issues, but I was not so severe that I could be labeled anorexic or bulimic.  Instead, I followed the path that many high school girls (and some boys) follow.  I tried numerous diets, I bought and took diet pills, I restricted my food and drank diet soda to curb the growling in my stomach. 

By the time I hit college, for some reason or another, I became less focused on the number on the scale and more focused on the way my clothes fit and the kinds of food I was putting into my body.  I grew into myself and began to see who I was and what I wanted from the world.  I became comfortable with my differences and began to understand that we all come in different shapes and sizes, and the number on a scale doesn't matter much.  College is a time for opening your mind and figuring out who you are, and this was especially true for me.

As I began to age and my metabolism began to slow down, I began to gain weight once again.  Add two children into the mix and a hectic job, and it's easy to put on a few pounds without even noticing.  Throughout the past decade, I became obsessed with the number on the scale once again.  I  dieted and counted calories and exercised in an attempt to lose the weight that I put on over the years.  Now, I know that the weight needed to come off.  I was unhealthy.  However, more than losing weight, what I needed to do was get myself healthy and in shape.  Which is what I did.  After Bennett was born two years ago, I redefined my idea of what is healthy. I watched what I ate, I exercised, and then I started running.  I fully committed to a healthy, active lifestyle and my body responded by shrinking down to the shape and size it is meant to be.  I lost over 60 pounds (after gaining about 50 during pregnancy).   But, more than that, I developed an understanding that my health and well-being is not determined by a number on a scale.  It's determined by how active I am and the types of food I put into my body.  I stopped weighing myself and focused instead on being healthy and active.

Recently, I started weighing myself once again.  I gained 3 pounds over the summer, which is actually not a significant gain.  But, for some reason, I became obsessed with the number on the scale.  I fretted over the weight gain and decided that I have to lose the 3 pounds (plus a few more).  I began to think that everything would be better if I just weighed a little less.  Then, the other day, as I was reflecting on my journey toward health, I finally realized that I'm acting just like my anxious, hormone-ridden teenage self used to act.  I had to remind myself that I am healthy and active. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.  I exercise regularly.  I make sure my family is active.  So, I should be happy with my body because it is able to do everything I ask of it.  Three pounds doesn't really matter.  My body is the shape and size it is meant to be.  Three pounds doesn't define me. It doesn't determine my self worth.  The number on the scale is not the most important number.


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