Monday, July 16, 2012

Measuring Life

image retrieved from here

I weigh a lot.

It's true.  Don't tsk tsk me and try to convince me otherwise.  If you start arguing with me you'll just convince me either you don't deal well with reality or you think weighing a lot is such a bad thing that it's your duty to cushion the blow when I admit such a thing.

It's ok, really.  I have plenty of cushion and there is no blow.  Making the simple statement "I weigh a lot" is stating a fact, not forming an opinion.  Put me on a scale and you'll see for yourself.

If I were to use my quill, say, sometime between the 6th and 19th centuries, to jot down in my diary the same statement, "I weigh a lot" it would hold a different connotation.  Scare food.  Harder work.  Fat signified affluence.  And when my peasant ancestors looked upon a fat woman it was most likely not with disgust but envy or lust.  Come to think of it, I doubt if I would have been literate since I come from peasant stock so I wouldn't have kept a diary anyway.

image retrieved from here

But now I sit at my laptop sharing thoughts with anyone with an internet connection.  When I write, "I weigh a lot" my assumption is you'll assume I mean, "My body is hideous."  And you would have been right two years ago.  Who am I kidding?  You would have been right two seconds ago - the intrusive thoughts are hard to starve.

So let me clarify.  I weigh a lot and I'm OK with that.  Saying I weigh a lot is like saying I'm short, I'm a brunette, or I'm geeky.  It's an observation, not a judgment.  Words are so tricky and easily misunderstood.

So is medical information.  Partially because the medical establishment is constantly changing what they tell us  leads to good health.  When I was in third grade I was sent to Weight Watchers.  I hated it.  I eventually developed anorexia nervosa and continued for decades with various degrees of disordered eating running the full spectrum from anorexia to binge eating.  I spent decades with a scale next to my bed and a tape measure on my night stand.  In third grade I was told drinking Tab would make me less fat and therefore more healthy.  Back then, in the late Seventies, we were told that carbs were the enemy.  I had dreams of zombie potatoes pulling themselves from the earth to chase my fat ass.

As the decades passed I'd catch headlines assuring me if I ate a low-fat diet of rice cakes and low-fat cookies I'd lose weight and therefore be healthier.  More decades passed and The Atkins Diet and The South Beach Diet became popular.  I have an aversion to weight-loss programs in general from my traumatic experiences as a kid at Weight Watchers, but I still listened to the theories: carbs make you fat, fat makes you fat, no THESE kinds of carbs make you fat, no THESE kinds of fats make you fat.

Then, a couple of years ago, I read Health at Every Size® by Dr. Linda Bacon.  Bacon never tasted so good.  Guess what?  The diet industry has been funding many of these studies that claim being fat makes a person unhealthy.  As it turns out, health can be achieved at any size--short, tall, fat, thin, and everything in between. Dr. Bacon suggests this: eat a variety of foods, primarily plants, and move your body in pleasurable ways.  It's that simple.

I've been following Dr. Ironically Named's advice since I finished the book and, cliches be damned, it changed my life.  I've never felt healthier, mentally or physically.

Which brings me to my last checkup.  As soon as I left the doctor's office I was excited to run home and blog about my numbers.  Look how low my cholesterol is: 165.  Look how high my good cholesterol is: 50.  Look how low my nonfasting glucose is: 108.  Look how low my blood pressure is: 106/64.  Nevermind the number on the scale that was putting my wide ass into the morbidly obese category on the BMI chart.  Remember, a number on a scale is not indicative to a person's health.  Dr. Bacon told me so.

By the time I'd made the drive home, I lost interest in blogging about the topic.  Who cares about these numbers?  I'm the only one obsessed with them.  When Will went for a checkup a few months after Katie was born--the only time he's been to the doctor his entire adult life and only then because Katie's doctor insisted we both get flu shots since Katie was too young--his doctor was impressed with his overall health.  The doctor himself double-checked Will's blood pressure to make sure the nurse had not written down the wrong numbers, they were so low.  The only thing he said Will had to watch was that his triglycerides were high.  He recommended tweaking his diet (less refined sugar) and taking a daily fish oil pill.

That was nearly six years ago.  I've been nagging Will to go back and have his triglycerides rechecked, but he refuses.  "I'm fine.  I feel better than ever.  Quit worrying!  We're all going to die some day and there's not a lot more I'm going to change about my habits to improve my health so why spend your life worrying?"

Will actually never said that last line.  He's a man of few words so I often fill in the blanks with what I think he thinks after he's done talking.

I wish I were more like Will at times like these.  I wish I didn't get so caught up measuring life.  If the measurement on the scale, the one I ignore, is an inaccurate reflection of my overall health, then maybe my other numbers, the ones I like to brag about, are pretty meaningless in the whole scheme of things too.