Woman #1, to me: Girl, you look good! Got rid of all that baby weight! But don’t you lose anymore ’cause you’re right on the edge of scary skinny, know what I mean?
Woman #2, also to me: Oh you are over that edge, eat a sandwich already!
Woman #3: Shut up! Charlotte, you look fine but definitely don’t gain any weight!!
I’m not sure if every woman is the subject of such weight scrutiny or if this is further evidence of my magnetic ability to draw weird comments
(probably both) but this conversation sent me on the crazy roller coaster from elation to worry to chagrin in the 15 seconds it took to say it. First I’m perfect, then I’m too thin and then I’m borderline too big? This is exactly what drove Goldilocks to start hiding her porridge under her napkin and taking excessively long hikes in the woods. Fairytale gone bad, my friends.
In an effort to settle the debate – because of course I can’t trust my own opinion, I’m nuts remember? – I asked a fourth friend what she thought. Not even glancing at my figure, she gave me a sheepish smile and said, “You know me, no such thing as ‘too thin’…” Which is when I realized that my weight is a Rorshach test for how other women feel about their bodies and how each person interprets our societal standards about beauty. I can’t trust other people’s opinions any more than I can trust my own and yet, just like Goldilocks can’t stop sleeping in stranger’s beds, I can’t stop asking for other people’s thoughts.
This question is on my mind because, as those of you who follow me on Twitter already know, my baby Jelly Bean turned one on Friday! (Incidentally the exact same day Heather Eats Almond Butter and her husband welcomed their sweet baby into the world
– how cool is that?!) And lurking in the background of the joyous present-opening (why play with the toy when you can shred the wrapping paper?) and the naked cake rolling (her, not me, although I was
tempted) that marked this huge milestone (Joy = no more SIDs risk!!) was the Weight Question.
There’s a rule that is drilled into the mind of every expectant mother that she has until the baby’s first birthday to peel off those baby pounds. After that you get no more free pass and people will resume judging you. Although with all the celebrity baby explosions lately, that free year has been whittled down to a free month. And to be honest, I did pretty well with it. By 9 months post-partum I had just two stubborn pounds hanging around. Then as if by magic (or by barfing my way through a ten-mile race
), on her first birthday there I was at exactly my pre-pregnancy weight. Yay?
Here’s the slippery slope: My pre-baby weight – three pounds = my “ideal” weight (picked arbitrarily in my head from looking at pictures). But I can guarantee you that once I hit my “ideal” weight then I’ll want to lose just a few more pounds to have a safe buffer around that number. And usually by that point I’ll want just a few more gone because even though I’ll have visible ribs, a chest that makes xylophones weep in envy and collarbones that could take your eye out, my thighs will still have their fatty bits at the top and my hips will still have a little extra padding. (Dear Charlotte, your thighs are Siamese twins. They have never ever not touched. Separating them would be traumatizing. Stop trying – you are not meant to have legs that are widest at the knee.) And so it goes with never feeling good in my skin, with no weight ever being low enough.
I refuse to let that happen again. REFUSE.
I have been down that path to self-hatred more times than I can count. And I have learned that thin does not guarantee happiness. In fact, at my thinnest I was supremely unhappy because I was a) really hungry b) really worried about how to maintain that weight and c) still sure I was fat! But that leaves me with the question of where exactly then is my best, healthiest weight? Do I go by BMI? By what my husband says? My friends (see above, ahem)? My doctor? A website that calculates via a survey what weight other people find you most attractive at? (Yes those websites exist and no I’m not linking one because they are crazy making in the extreme.)
When I was complaining about my “last three pounds” (I know, first-world country problem) to Gym Buddy Allison she pointed out, “How cool is it that you lost all your baby weight without dieting??” And the Intuitive Eating lightbulb clicked on. She’s right. For the first time, eating whatever my body needs (not necessarily whatever it wants), I’ve lost my pregnancy weight without craziness. That’s a freaking coup. (For reference, after the last two babies were born I ended up in eating disorder treatment.) And that’s also my answer: if I trust my body enough to tell me when it’s hungry and when it’s full then I also have to trust it enough to tell me when it is at a healthy sustainable weight – whether or not that is the magic number in my head. That is a very scary thought for me. How will I know it when I hit it? What range should I expect for normal fluctuations? How do I quiet the crazy thoughts that tell me it’s just not enough? And yet I’m 100% committed to making this work because these past few months I’ve come to enjoy an ease and, dare I say it?, JOY around food. I’m not giving that up. Even if it means hanging on to a few “extra” pounds.
Please help me out – tell me how you know when you are at your “best” weight! How have you learned to trust yourself? Anyone else get caught in that slippery slope of “just a couple more pounds and then I’ll be perfect”?? What do you say when people comment about your weight?