Weighing in on Weight Loss

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Weight loss. Something a LOT of women worry about. Something I have had to really struggle with. Not because I am fat, obese, overweight…heck, I’m not even on the high end of a normal BMI. I struggle with not letting myself get too skinny. I struggle with anorexia.

Anorexia, I first learned about this in middle school. In some required health class we watched a video about it. And it had the wrong side effect on me and several of my friends. Instead of scaring us away from the horrible illness, it set of a light bulb. “Hey, we could be skinny too!” And so began the unhealthy competition that lasted well into high school. I reached my adult height by the seventh grade. Due to that insane growth spurt I hit in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, I hit that five foot five stature I currently hold. The difference? Back then, my weight hadn’t caught up so I was a meager 110 lbs. This happened to be the same summer my friends and I took our a health course. So, armed with a scale, a set of friends eager to stay equally skinny (read: light), and a BMI of 18.3 I dedicated myself to staying that stupidly tiny size. Afterall, we would reason with ourselves. Staying only a tad bit under “normal” BMI can’t be that dangerous. A normal BMI beginning its range at 18.5.

In high school I became an avid cyclist. Riding between 20-60 miles a week was the height of my life. It started out because my family would not allow me to have a car or drive (despite my high driver’s ed scores), so biking was my transportation, and it became my obsession. This obsession continued into college until a really rough car accident. It turns out that the permanent SI injury took away the cycling life I’d had come to love. I can still cycle, but not like I used to and what little I can do usually results in days of hip pain afterwards. But, what is a little pain for appearance? Women every day put themselves through pain for appearance. They pluck, wax, and thread their eyebrows. They force themselves into jeans one size too small and uncomfortable, impractical shoes. They wear under-wire bras and g-strings all to make their outward appearance more acceptable. So, what is a little pain from exercise? Especially, when “staying fit” is the reason and not a perverse need to be skinny.

After my daughter’s birth, my obsession with weight finally settled down a little bit. I lost the baby weight quickly and thought I looked good. My BMI put my 145 lb self at a comfortably “normal” range and I was just grateful not to suffer from the “baby made me fat forever” complex that so many do. Until this past summer. I don’t know why, but this past summer I gained enough weight to throw me up near 165 lbs. I was that weight only once before, when I was nine months pregnant and ready to pop. I lost it and between August and December of last year managed to diet and exercise myself back into my 145 lb region. And that seemed like an accomplishment. But somewhere in that time, I stumbled onto a blog post about a girl who’s Nepali boyfriend was advising her to loose some weight and perfect dudh chiya before the upcoming meeting with his parents. She was offended that her appearance should matter so much. When I read the post to Shiva, he agreed. He said there is no better way to set a good impression on future Nepali in-laws than being very very skinny and making a perfect cup of chiya.

I told him I was going to get back to the weight I was when we’d met and he said that was fine for him, but his parents would probably think I was fat. He suggested that if I really wanted his parents to consider me, I’d need to definitely lose a LOT more weight. It is this conversation that led to the goal of 125 lbs by the time his parents arrive. Now, the opportunity to meet his parents seems unsure at best. Still, I feel a need to meet this goal, just in case. They are so opposed to our relationship that I can’t imagine giving them any other reason to object. I argue with myself that 125 lbs is still a normal BMI and I’m not finding myself back in the anorexic days of middle and high school. Still, the calorie counting and daily exercise demands are bordering on….what’s a word for more than obsessive? Zealous? I shed the first 6 lbs easily, then gained 10 lbs, then lost 10 lbs and now I’m just holding and holding and holding. This plateau just will not yield.

It takes so much focus to ensure than I do not starve myself and my fitness pal keeps informing me that I need to eat more, but the thought of eating more just makes me feel sick. And on top of it, Shiva comes around and comments on how disappointed he is to see me losing my curves. Really? Why is it that your parents would need this?

I know I know, they should accept me for who I am and if they don’t I should just tell them to buzz off. But as I keep trying to explain to various family members, that is an AMERICAN/WESTERN perspective. And one part of being in an intercultural relationship is not mandating that one perspective is better than another. In fact, I sort of side with the Nepali viewpoint on this one.

Now, its a collection of emotional grief compiled over years of sexual and emotional abuse mixed in with a dash of western sexual social norms defining beauty and a bit of poor self image that has led to this perspective, but I fear being labeled fat. My family is not small, they are almost all obese. And if there was one thing I learned from them, its that I would rather starve than suffer the consequences of obesity. Its not just the stigma of being fat, but all the health problems that come with it. Type II diabetes, self-inflicted thyroid disorders, even poorer self-image than mine, cholesterol problems, heart problems, stroke, heart attacks, death. No, I’ll take not enough calories a day over that.

Basically, what I’m saying is that I don’t mind losing weight for the parents. And I keep being told that later, you can always gain it back. In fact, once you get pregnant its time to get really big. Who I am to say that this perspective is wrong? After all, what beauty industry is a larger world influence than the US? As for not enough calories, I don’t know that I believe MFP. I’m eating enough to feel full. I just cut out meat, upped veggies over carbs, cut out most beverages other than water, and cut portions. It doesn’t feel like I’m not eating enough, it just looks that way on paper. I don’t see a thing wrong with eating this way, even if MFP says Zumba class is costing 800 calories.

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2 responses »

  1. Having an eating disorder myself, I found this intercultural perspective really interesting. Thank you for sharing this. I hope you’re able to find a balance.

  2. @Scarlett. Thank you. I know that I’m “healthy” when it comes to muscle vs. body fat, weight, and BMI. I have only 25% body fat, which is on the border between healthy and underfat, but at least I’m on the healthy end…at least that is what I keep telling myself. It doesn’t change the fact that when I look in a mirror, I don’t see a skinny size 5, I see a big butt, thick legs, wide shoulders… I see that “normal’ range and think, I could be just a little bit under at least. It takes daily conscious reminders to myself that I can’t (well, shouldn’t) go back to aiming for 110 lbs and 9% body fat…oh those high school days. Its hard to discuss weight with anyone because most say to me, “oh you are so thin, you are so lucky” and they don’t realize that its been an internal battle that I must always feel defeated in. I think gaining all that weight this past summer really scared me. My case really isn’t as severe as many, so I often think its not right for me to even label it a problem. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But I do keep searching for that balance. Your blog is so interesting and I’m really enjoying reading your articles on it. Thanks for finding me.

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