Weighty Matters

I’ve been thinking about weight, lately. Sometime within the last weeks, something prompted me to write about it. Now I can’t remember what that was. Perhaps it will come to me as I write. But in any case, weight.

(Maybe it was watching the Oscars and thinking Angelina and Rose Byrne needed to eat more?)

In Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which I recommend, in the section “Remembrances of Being Very Very Skinny” she writes,

For a brief time at the turn of the century, I was very skinny.

Funny anecdotes ensue, then she finishes:

We should leave people alone about their weight. Being skinny for a while (provided you actually eat food and don’t take pills or smoke to get there) is a perfectly fine pastime. Everyone should try it once, like a super-short haircut or dating a white guy.

The next section, “Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat” starts

For a brief time at the end of that last century I was over-weight.

Funny anecdotes ensue, then she finishes:

We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for a while (provided you don’t give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican.

The Tina Fey comments reminded me of something I’m pretty sure I read in O. Which is a better magazine than you might think if you just recoiled, and for better or worse, I’m the demographic. Anyhoo, an article about weight suggested charting your weight’s peaks and valleys over your life and noting how your life was at that time, and how your life probably isn’t at the same point it was when you were your skinniest, and may never get there again. If you read the sections in Bossypants, Tina Fey says pretty much the same thing with anecdotal evidence.

(Wait, maybe is was how I went to a party a couple weeks ago and got many compliments on how good I looked, and wondered if it was because I’d lost sudden weight after just coming off the stomach flu.)

So, in my life, in the middle of the 00’s, I was skinny. For pretty much the first time in my life. I went to a doctor because I had some bumps under my skin and she said, “Those are lymph nodes. Most people can’t feel them but you can because you’re so skinny.” I didn’t feel skinny. People would tell me that I was and I wouldn’t believe them. It was only years later, as I gave away the clothes I wore during that period (goodbye, size 6 Long N Lean jeans), or saw pictures of myself from that time, that I could acknowledge, yep, I was skinny.

At the time, my husband and were DINKs: double income, no kids. I went to a power yoga class about 3 times a week. We lived half a mile from our jobs, so we walked to work. I didn’t eat gluten, because a holistic chiropracter told me I shouldn’t, so I was extremely mindful of what I did eat.

(Maybe I was thinking about weight after I walked into the boys’ room in the morning to tell them to get dressed. I had on a shirt and underwear, but no pants. 6yo Guppy pointed at me and said, with delight in his voice, “Fat legs!”)

A funny thing was, around this time, I went to visit a friend of mine who had also lost a lot of weight. She looked lovely. Yet I thought she’d looked better before, and was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in Bridget Jones’ diary, when she finally loses the weight she obsesses over, puts on the LBD, goes and out and all her friends ask if she is ill. Maybe losing weight isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

In the wake of Guppy’s birth, I became generally depressed and anxious. As my crack team of medical professionals tinkered with this and that solution, I first lost a bunch of weight then gained it back after a med switch. When we reversed the switch, I thought I’d lose the weight again, and said so to my doctor.

She laughed, not unkindly. “Welcome to 40, honey,” she said, with sympathy. And I’ve been pretty steady since then, back at the same point I was for a long time in my 30s. Rounder than I’d like, but within the bounds of health.

(The most likely answer is that I was reacting to something I read on Sally McGraw’s excellent blog, Already Pretty, because last week was body image warrior week.)

I don’t own a scale. For a long time, I didn’t have a full-length mirror. I don’t obsess about my weight, yet there are still times when it bothers me, like when I have to hop up and down to get in a pair of newly washed jeans.

My point, and I do have one, is that it’s complicated, isn’t it? I wish I were without judgment, for myself and others, and while that judgment has softened over time, it’s not gone. Perhaps I can just aspire to Fey’s words: “We should just leave people alone about their weight” and include myself with that, then recognize when I fail, pick myself up and start over again, possibly a bit wiser. That’s life in general, though, isn’t it?

5 Responses to “Weighty Matters”

  1. Jennifer Reese Says:

    I’ve tried to stop judging myself, but in the end it seems easier to lose the weight than to lose the judgment. I wish it were not so.
    I recently lost weight and I kept waiting for someone to notice. No one did and no one did and then all of a sudden everyone did. At book club last week people were all commenting loudly about it and you know what? I hated it. I still haven’t figured out why. It’s like when you come back from the bathroom and someone says loudly, You put on lipstick!

  2. Kate Says:

    There came a point in my mid-20’s when I lost a lot of weight through no actual work of my own (Tina Fey’s book resonated with me on so many levels I can’t even get into here, but that was one of them). And then I got pregnant at 27. And I couldn’t keep on weight. And I tried, and I tried, and I TRIED and I couldn’t. And many people commented on how I looked. And it turned out that D wasn’t growing, and that this was a very big problem. And I remember the day I got the news and we went for a walk, and a neighbor yelled out something about looking good and not even looking pregnant and I couldn’t not cry. I stopped making any comments, even ones that might be considered flattering, about any one’s looks then. You just never know.

    I stopped caring about weight around that point–but I won’t lie, I’m thinner now than when I got married. It’s easier not to care when I fit into my clothes, which is really the only way I measure my size. It’s easier not to care when I fit a certain societal expectation of what size I SHOULD be. In truth, I rarely have time to exercise. When people do complement my figure, I always feel like I should offer up apologies (and often do. It’s messed up).

    Anyway, I guess my point is, yes, we should just leave people alone. And cheer them along when they ask for support exercising or otherwise enjoying their body. BUT ONLY WHEN THEY ASK. And yes, this also is an apology to anyone who’s lost weight and I didn’t offer a complement. You look great! ;)

  3. MFS Says:

    Wise, wise words, well expressed.

  4. girldetective Says:

    Thanks, friend. It is so, so complicated, isn’t it?

  5. Ritalee Says:

    Thanks for writing this brave interesting piece. I was rapt. It’s such a sensitive topic, like writing about how much money you have, yet everyone can see you. When my mom had cancer and couldn’t keep weight on she would tell people who complained about excess pounds that they were lucky to have an appetite. Chubby was my grandpa’s nickname for my grandma for their entire married life. She and her best friend Stella would go to Hallmark the day after Valentine’s Day and buy half-priced boxes of chocolate. She would tell people that they had put on weight with relish. I think she would love to know about my fuller cookie basket.