Q: I’ll start out by saying I love you’re blog and all of your tips have helped me drop a dress size. I am 5’2 and 27 years-old. After having a baby and over the course of 4 years I’ve gone from a size 16 to a 10 by changing my diet and exercise. It wasn’t necessarily by eating clean but more so by cutting calories and using portion control along with a treadmill 3 times a week.
My issue is that I feel like I look great, but there are people constantly reminding me that I need to lose weight still. I thought a size 10 was acceptable, especially in the Black community. I’ll admit my main goal for losing weight was to look better in my clothes and not so much to be healthy although I’m working towards eating cleaner now. My mantra was always ‘If I can find my size in H&M, Forever 21, Arden B., or Bebe then I will be satisfied’. So once this dream came true I thought I was set. Yet family, doctors, strangers, men, etc., still comment on my weight negatively. I’m not trying to be a size 4. I have big legs and big boobs and I want to keep them, but it’s so discouraging to go to an EYE DOCTOR and get lectured on my weight, or have someone say “you would be perfect if you just lost that pooch”.
I’m new to this site and I’m sure you’ve already written a post on haters and people who want to bring you down on your weight-loss journey, but I guess the question I have is when IS enough, enough as far as the weight one loses? I still don’t have the BMI the doctor says I’m supposed to have, but I know I look good and I have zero history of [insert list of obesity-related illnesses] in my family or in my own medical history. Should I aim for the correct BMI or just try to be content and deal with the comments? I know I shouldn’t try to base my weight loss goals on what others and society thinks is right, but I thought I was finally in the clear as far as being singled out for my weight.
Have you ever been in this situation? Any advice?
I think doctors have an obligation to do as they’re taught to do – run your height and weight combination through the BMI metric, show you where you fall, and then encourage you to be where the little sheet says you belong. The science on that is hyper-simplified and weight is more complex than that, but that’s what they’re taught to do. I have no idea why an eye doctor thought it important to discuss your weight or eating habits unless she was concerned about you being diabetic (Diabetes tends to extend itself to eye problems, something often seen in our elders but might be showing up in younger people now, especially since diabetes is appearing in more children at even younger ages. Just guesses.)… but I’m maybe 75% certain that she was out of line.
As far as “you would be perfect if…” kill all that noise. You should be living and acting for you, and no one else. Perhaps a spouse, if you are long-term committed to someone (and no, I don’t mean “the current new-and-cute boo-thang”) and even then, that is sometimey.
The idea of “perfection,” for me, is problematic. It implies that there’s a finite point where you need to be, and then once you arrive at that point, there should be no more self-exploration, no self-curiosity, no self-reflection. You’re perfect – why would you need to do all that? Spend that energy enjoying being perfect! You’d be perfect if… is the kind of manipulative carrot people dangle over the heads of women to make them do what they want. It’s in every commercial targeted towards women – “you’d be perfect if…” …your eyelashes were fuller, your hair was thicker and a different color from whatever it is now, your hair was straighter (or curlier or, in the world of natural hair, the right kind of curl), your ass wasn’t small or covered in dimples, your thighs didn’t touch… we make “perfect” something that we couldn’t possibly be now, as we are. We allow perfect to be defined for us by someone else. That’s not okay to me. All claims of “you’d be perfect if…” are almost always rendered null and void to me. I just tune it out, often like I do a child, and respond with an “Uh huh…” and move on. Simple.
I feel like I’ve written this before, but I don’t advise people to strive for “perfection” for this very reason. I do ask them to define “excellence,” and then work towards that. Aside from the fact that I like the way it sounds, I think that “excellence” lends itself to understanding growth, and accepting that there’s a world out there you don’t know yet, and learning that world will allow your standards to shift. “Excellence” feels more open-ended than “perfection,” and I think that “open-ended” and “open minded” are how we should approach self-development. It leaves you more encouraged to practice regular and frequent self-discovery.
I know that this feels like a game of semantics, but language always has and always will matter. The idea of perfection could’ve possibly been defined the way I define “excellence,” but I think it’s been tainted and polluted in ways I can’t fix, so I’ve abandoned the term and generally support others in making the same choice.
When it comes to your primary care physician and your body mass index, here’s what I think you should do. Talk to her about having your body fat percentage tested. Discuss your blood pressure. Ask her questions. Why do these numbers matter so much to her? These questions aren’t your opportunity to challenge her, so to speak, they’re your opportunity to have your doctor enlighten you on what she might see that, just maybe, you don’t. Decide whether or not it’s important to you to be more fit, whether or not being more active and eating cleaner are of more importance to you, and whether or not they’re a part of your definition of striving for excellence. If so, then go for it! Do the research, decide what’s best for you, decide your path, commit, and get moving.
And, lastly… your family, strangers, and men.
It is clear to me that you don’t appreciate these unsolicited critiques. It is also clear to me that you are happy where you are, and you want to be left alone to be happy. At this point, you simply have to teach people how to treat you… and that means you’ve got to hit ’em with the one-two combo. Yes. A two-piece.
The one thing I’m the most thankful for, along my journey, is that I learned the value of being clear and concise with my needs. How else would they be met? If a family member, one whom I see regularly and actually value, makes a comment on my weight, I am clear with what I want. It is simple:
If the family member protests or tries to carry on the conversation further, I shake my head, make an “I’m confused” face, and shake my head again… followed by a “Moving on…”
If it goes on further, beyond that… I pick up my toys, and leave the room.
I’m not playing, either. You can call me sensitive, you can mock me, you can laugh, call me any name in the book. You can challenge my boundaries, question my decisions, and choose to disrespect my request to not discuss my size or my “imperfection.” I certainly don’t have to sit there and take it while you do it. I don’t support the idea of “tough love” in that form; the unsolicited, caught-off-guard-esque commentary about my body and how flawed it is. And any person who continues to violate a boundary that I’m clearly setting is a person who doesn’t deserve the pleasure of my company. It’s that simple.
Men on the street who make rude comments… this is easy. You don’t owe them anything, not even acknowledgement. If a man, newly-introduced to you, makes that kind of statement about “your pooch,” surely you don’t think a man that tacky who offends you in that way (seeing as how size sensitivity is obviously important to you) should be given more of your time and more opportunity to offend, no?
That being said, I think the path ahead is simple, though not easy. You said people keep “reminding” you that you still need to lose, but you’re “happy.” What are they reminding you of, exactly, if you’re comfy where you are? Are you certain that you’re really happy where you are? Spend some time talking about being more fit with your doctor, and what that’d mean for you. Create boundaries for yourself. Decide which components of healthier living you want to attack as you work towards excellence, and accept those standards. Love them. And defend them – and your boundaries – at all costs, even if it means cutting conversations short. I might’ve offended a few people, in the beginning, when I had to lay out my boundaries, but they came around in the end. And, when they didn’t, they fell to the wayside, as many “fair-weather friends” do, and that has little to do with you.
Love, protect, and defend yourself. As I always say, your body will thank you for it!