When I studied abroad in Copenhagen in fall 2015, my group of friends’ most-frequented activity was a visit to the Donut Shop, a tiny nook just a block from our school with a simple donut case, overstuffed couches and window seats with cats sleeping in them.
Their donuts had inventive toppings like crushed Oreos, Nutella with heath bar and Cap’n Crunch cereal (if you want to live vicariously through my memories, here are all the flavors – yum). We would stop in mid-afternoon when classes were over, carefully weighing our donut options for the day and sinking into those couches and armchairs.
One afternoon, one of our friends came across a quote that I think of often – pretty sure the actual text is lost in our GroupMe forever, but the gist of it was “don’t worry about the last 5 lbs. you want to lose. Those pounds are from staying up late drinking wine, and the last time you had a good meal with a great friend – they’re good memory pounds.” I remember connecting the message of that quote with all our trips to the Donut Shop, and understanding that I could choose to value people and memories over an arbitrary image of what my body should look like.
What I’ve started telling myself when I feel myself starting to worry about all the ways my body is different than the norm: Find more important things to worry about than the extra 3 lbs. lining your waist.
This isn’t meant to be shameful, just a gentle chastisement: what will you allow yourself to spend more time thinking about today if you remember that your worth and your body’s size are not inextricably linked?
The whole world is made up of important people and events and ideas to learn about and engage with. I can do those things whether I have cellulite on my thighs or a six-pack of abs, and even if I have both at the same time.
you can tell me what you see
i will choose what i believe
Since I work in the fitness industry, I hear people talk about burning off their food all the time. I’ve heard instructors say “earn your weekend” or “just X more reps and you can eat anything you want this weekend” and it makes the tiny Kendall inside of me feel so much shame.
The world of fitness is amazing because it has changed so many lives, but I think we’re quick to over-index on lives changed for the better and brush aside the lives changed for the worse.
Recently I realized I hadn’t worked out in a few weeks, and my brain immediately went into shame mode. “You need to work out soon, you’re going to start gaining weight.” “Why can’t you keep up a normal routine and stay healthier?” After all those thoughts – I knew it wasn’t okay for me to go work out. I exercise because it makes me feel strong and happy, and when those thoughts cross my mind I know I am only exercising because I think it will make my body smaller, and those thoughts aren’t ones I want to validate.
When I calculate my BMI using a calculator online, my weight is at the higher end of “normal weight” category, with the upper bound of my set point (or those “extra” meal-memory-donut pounds) tipping the scale into the “overweight” category every so often.
You know what I would call my overall weight, unofficially? Healthy, even when I’m in the 10-ish lb. range where I should be considered “overweight.” You know what I would call it when I don’t take breaks at work to eat lunch? Unhealthy, even when my weight would be considered “normal.”
Medical Daily has an interesting and somewhat alarming article about how BMI isn’t the most accurate representation of health, excerpted here:
Nearly half of those whose BMIs labeled them as overweight were actually healthy, according to data on their other health measures… fifteen percent of those who were classified as obese were also considered healthy.
And when the researchers looked at participants classified as healthy, they found 30 percent were actually unhealthy when their health measures were taken into consideration.
If the findings were extrapolated to the entire American population, the researchers said as many as 54 million people are incorrectly told they’re unhealthy.
I’m going to live in my normal-but-sometimes-overweight body for (I hope) many more years, and I’m not trying to hate it for the entire time I’m alive.
I’m not a doctor or dietician, but here are some quick resources from ones I love:
- Why you shouldn’t worry if you gain weight on vacation
- Giving compliments that aren’t appearance-based
- This is why I don’t praise weight loss
- BMI is no longer a good indication of healthy weight