We are a nation obsessed with weight.
From The Biggest Loser to My 600 Pound Life, we can’t get enough of watching other people shrink their bodies. This voyeurism says more about us than it does about the people on the screen.
First, let me say that I’m a Registered Dietitian, or what’s commonly known as a nutritionist. If I’m honest, one of the reasons I majored in nutrition over two decades ago was that I wanted to know everything I possibly could about how to stay “healthy.” Translation: thin, with a side of superiority.
And then I had children. I gained the recommended amount of weight with both pregnancies, between 25 and 35 pounds. Both times, I lost my pregnancy weight within a few months.
And I kept getting compliments for “getting back in shape,” as if the size of my body was evidence of my value as a person.
They said, “You look great! You’ve lost all your baby weight!” but I heard, “I’m so glad you’re not going to stay fat! You looked awful, and now you’re acceptable again.”
I imagine people meant well, but it made me angry. I wanted to say, “Really? I just grew a human being inside my body. Now, I’m feeding this person with my body 24 hours a day, and all you can think about is my dress size?”
Unbeknownst to my congratulators, I was living a nightmare after the birth of my first child, trapped with an abusive spouse who threatened my existence — and that of our child — on a daily basis, when he deigned to think of me at all.
This great concern over the number on the scale felt absurdly trivial. I wanted someone to notice the bags under my eyes or the bruises on my inner arm. I desperately needed help. Instead, I got compliments on my shrinking waistline.
I realize now that my situation was unique; not every new mother lives in her own private hell. And maybe those happy new mothers are pleased to receive compliments on their shrinking bodies. I don’t know; I can only tell you of my experience.
My body is mine and mine alone, and it’s really not anyone’s business what size it is.
When you compliment me for losing weight, I hear you denigrate anyone else who gains it. I hear you inadvertently shame anyone who lives in a larger body, and I hear you tell me that the size of my body is my most important trait.
I also hear you tell me that if I ever gain weight, I’ll no longer be worthy of your praise and that my value as a person depends on the number on the scale.
So please, if you can’t find something nice to say about me other than, “You’ve lost weight!” don’t say anything at all.
My weight is not my worth.
If you’re struggling with body image and you’d like support, book an appointment with me or another expert dietitian at Nourish.