First, what I have always known is that people are sensitive about their weight. From the ’50s hourglass to the 90’s waif-thin body type, to right now, 2021 where there is an uprise of flawless face/body filters and overly photoshopped photographs that encourage body shaming and insecurities while providing expectations of how one “should look” which is unreachable to the vast majority of the population.
What I do know, is that I have always been thin, waif-thin when it was not the “in thing” and I was teased mercifully. People would tease and ask; “Why did my mother not feed me? Are you poor?” Yet, even during those years of bullying, I knew I got it less than my friends and the other side of the scale, so to speak. People that are overweight (what does that mean anyway?) or obese are among some of the most mistreated people in society. Yes, I know there are plenty of other marginalized and mistreated people, but this article is not about them – right now.
As a side rant, the term overweight seems outdated and more of an umbrella terminology adopted by those who lack the understanding of variability in how weight is calculated as well as the knowledge that all body types are different. We have to take into account bone density, muscles, how much poop is stored in our body (not joking) as well as what is the healthiest for each body, not all bodies. What is overweight for some, might be healthy for others – just as what is underweight for some, might be healthy for others.
I happen to be one of these cases and this is why I wanted to write about this. First off let’s take into account my thinness and that I suffer from a rare disease. My whole life as a “thin” woman I have had people assume that I am healthy, as well as comment on my weight saying things like “I wish I was as thin as you”.
No, you don’t. And here is why…..
Being thin is not a badge showcasing health, it is a badge of illness for me. Being thin is not a gift or a choice but my body’s default because it can barely assimilate food and provide me with the nutrition I need to be a heath weight. I have envied other humans with meat on their bones. I too wanted to have strong thick legs, arms that looked less bird-like, and just some padding in my life.
Over the last 17 years, I have been lucky to see 120 lbs and at my worst 111 lbs. I stand at 5′ 9″ with small bones which could help you visualize my lankiness. At one point I was on a feeding tube formula for 3.5 years to help barely hold onto 120 lbs. The scale was my enemy. Daily, even after knowing better, I would hop on the scale praying I did not lose even an ounce because for me losing weight meant I was getting sicker. I look back and understand that those years of obsessing did not help, but I digress – this was years ago.
A funny side story is every time I go to the doctors (no matter which one) they weigh me, and when I have maintained my weight or have gained any, I proudly challenge the nurse or medical assistant by saying “oh that so good to see!” without saying what exactly I mean. Without skipping a beat they always say “Did you lose weight? You look great.”? And I reply, “No I actually gained weight which is amazing since I was so underweight for so long. Not everyone is looking to lose weight,” and then I smile kindly. In those brief exchanges I have learned that everyone, even doctors and nurses are conditioned to think “thinner” is better.
Let’s jump into today, and talk about those extra 25 pounds I am elated to tell you about. Yes, I am elated, and here is why. Since 2017 I have been thankful to maintain a weight of 130-135 lbs and it was a huge accomplishment to see this number stabilize for months. I knew something changed and I accepted that weight was good enough. It was stable and healthy – for me.
Enter quarantine. This is nothing new for me. Being very careful where I go, moving away quickly when someone sneezes or coughs, and wearing a mask I am a pro at. This has been my normalcy for 17+ years, yet I find it so challenging to see the whole world moving in the direction of my version of normalcy – it is liking being in dystopia. And, after getting the right diagnosis and then the right treatment in 2019, I was excited to see my world opening back up after 17 long years, but the world shut down right after. I tried not to be bitter because I had not many plans, but here I am, here we all are and I have had a long road already where acceptance has been the key to survival. Plus, I am a pro at this quarantine stuff. I actually feel bad for others who lived more normal lives to begin with and to have it taken away so abruptly.
Anyhow, one day I noticed my pants would not fit and I assumed I must just be bloated and stressed from the pandemic. It took me 3 months of thinking I was bloated to realize I had gained weight?! Holy cow?! When I realized the truth of the matter, I purchased a scale online (because yay, quarantine) and when I stepped on it I was 155 lbs. Wait. What?! Was this a fluke? 6 months later I am 155 lbs so I am pretty sure this is my new normal.
The strange thing is that for me it had nothing to do with caloric intake, as many people might conclude that it must be that I am eating more. Easy assumption but not actually the case. I eat the same 10 foods in the same order daily (since 2015) so I don’t have anaphylaxis which means my calorie intake did not and does not change. What it does mean is that I am getting healthier and my body is taking in more calories and vitamins from the food I eat for the first time in almost 2 decades.
The other thing I noticed was that not going out for me was safer for my disease and not because of Covid, but because of exposure. Being allergic to the world means every time I went out into the world my body was always under some type of exposure/attack that I would need time to recover from, yet, being home has given my body a lot less to deal with and a lot more time to heal. Which if Covid did not happen, I would be out in the world pushing myself and who knows what my body could and could not have taken. I feel quarantine has given me time to heal in ways I would not have before.
Also, now that Covid is here, there are a lot more opportunities for people with rare diseases, mental and physical challenges as well as those with disabilities to be able to do more things in the community digitally. As a world close for so many, a world opened for many others. As well as it is forced people to look at themselves in the mirror to take a deep look at their careers, relationships, health and so much more. I have watched so many people in my life shift and change dramatically during this time, some for the good and others not so good. Divorces, job, and home losses, as well as those finding their passions and leaving a drab job to do something they are more passionate about, those having a spiritual, political, or environmental awakening, to those connecting more with their families, to realizing their families are unhealthy and moving on – is its own journey, the good and the bad.
Take a deep breath and jump in.
You are not alone and life is never easy.
It’s a long hard road.
It is all we have.