Yesterday I happened upon a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. This is a beautiful woman with innate grace; she moves like an athlete. Predisposed as we all are by evolution to favor attractive people, you’d like her immediately. (You’d be right to do it, too – she’s very nice.)
She was pleasingly complimentary about my progress in achieving a healthier body; that was nice. Then I asked her how she was doing with not running.
(This is how different she and I are; she loves to run. It makes her feel right. She’d run in the blazing steam bath that is Virginia in summer; you’d HAVE to love it to do that.)
She found out about a year ago that her hip was wearing out; her doctor forbade any more running. It was a shock for her, and even though I would have greeted such a pronouncement with barely suppressed glee, I can see that it would be a terrible state of affairs for her.
“Awful,” she said, “I can’t bear it. Do you know? I weigh almost 170 pounds.”
She swallowed the words, as if they tasted particularly nasty in her mouth. I heard the self-contempt, and THAT I recognized.
“I weigh two-thirty,” I replied. Success – she was fully distracted.
“Now?” she asked incredulously. “You weigh two-thirty NOW?”
“Yep,” I replied. I didn’t add that I’m feeling pretty good about that weight, too, since all I have to do is look in the mirror to see that below the layer of fluffy, I’m developing a pretty ripped musculature – and muscle is heavier than fat.
So we went our separate ways, one beautiful athlete feeling bad about herself and one overweight book-reader feeling pretty good about herself. And what sense does that make?
To weigh 170 pounds isn’t a sin; in fact, it’s the golden dream of many people. She STILL looks stunning; she still moves like an athlete; she’s still a woman you’d naturally gravitate towards… but she’s decided that weighing 170 is a failure.
I respect her right to regret her weight; everyone does. But I know that our society does a pretty good job of making everyone feel crappy if they don’t look like a 17-year-old waif. Even 17-year-old waifs feel bad about themselves.
So I thought: I’m in a really safe and easy place to “come out” about my weight, and about what a body looks like when it weighs 228 pounds. It’s not at all as courageous to do so as it was for gay men to come out of the closet before this age of enlightenment (well, some gay men still risk a lot) – but it is a ghostly shadow of the same fear.
We hide our weight. We sigh over it. We roll our eyes and put ourselves down more firmly than the cattiest clutch of mean girls could ever do. And we think that 170 is failure.
So here I am, in my underwear, weighing 228 pounds. I would have committed violence at the thought of doing this when I weighed 260 (when it was ALL fat, no muscle) – but now I think I’m ready to say:
Good, decent, honorable, funny, sexy women weigh 228 pounds and even more. Your weight doesn’t have to define you. It won’t if you don’t let it. Your goal is health, not a dress size. I hope you won’t put yourself down so much any more – and I salute your good efforts.
I still don’t like to run, though.
What kind of idiot posts a picture of themselves in their underwear on the internet? Jeez, I hope this doesn’t backfire! I’m thinking less of creepy rape vans circling the block and more of someone saying “Well, we were GOING to hire you for the job, but then we saw…”