Those two little words stung when I saw them. I had logged into the hospital system's online patient portal, where I can keep track of my doctors' appointments, billing, test results, and even see an overall health summary. That's where I saw that ugly phrase listed under "Current Health Issues." And let me tell you, it stopped me in my tracks.
I've long identified as overweight, plus size, and even fat. (Yes, I think the f-word is a perfectly fine descriptor to use...until you use it with malicious intent.) Obese, while accurate, has always struck me as too clinical sounding. But morbidly obese? No. It not only feels cold and clinical, but I feel like morbidly carries an implication of sickness. If you described someone to me as morbidly obese, I'd picture a person who is ill with probably a number of health issues. Someone who struggles to get around and isn't very active. Someone whose overall health and quality life are affected significantly by their weight. Perhaps I'm a little biased, but I certainly don't think that is an accurate description of me.
I scanned the page again. What was I missing? The only other diagnosis listed was my prolactinoma, a pituitary tumor I've had since high school that is small and harmless and for which I take half a pill a week to keep my body from thinking it's pregnant. It's certainly not a huge health risk, but that's all I've got. Actually, in the interest of full disclosure---and a little humor---I also apparently have been diagnosed with diarrhea. That seems to be more of a symptom than a diagnosis anyway, but it is certainly NOT an ongoing concern. I'm tempted to call the doctor's office and tell them I've been healed so that they'll remove it from my chart, but I think I've made enough people uncomfortable for one day. (You're welcome.)
I dug back through my past test results to see if there was something there. Cholesterol? Normal. Blood pressure? Normal. Glucose, A1C, thyroid? All normal. In fact, as I had lots of tests run and sat through several consultations in preparation for gallbladder surgery last fall, I was told time and time again that I am "the picture of health," so I think it's fair to consider myself an overall healthy person. I may not the "picture of fitness" (if there is such a thing), but I work out regularly, I challenge my body, and I don't really face significant limitations in doing so (besides the ones I put there when I say, "I can't"...but that's a topic for another day). I don't have joint issues or other chronic pain. In fact, I feel pretty dang good!
So why had I been assigned this diagnosis that didn't seem to fit what I was seeing on paper and experiencing in my everyday life? Here's why---because of the number on the scale. As Bubb Rubb and Lil Sis would say, "That's it and that's all, man." When I realized this, I half expected to find myself having a moment. The kind of moment when I declare, "This is it. Once and for all, I'm going to get this weight off. I'm locking it down, and I WILL lose the weight." I've had lots of those moments over the years. This is when the notebooks and planners come out, and I start outlining two-a-day workouts and meal plans that will finally get the weight off.
But something surprising happened. I didn't get motivated; I got mad. I was angry that my weight ALONE had been the reason for this diagnosis---the stigma, even---of being considered morbidly obese. The more I stewed about it, the more I realized just how inconsequential weight---as a singular, isolated factor---really is.
I used to date a guy who would always tell me in the midst of arguments, "You're worrying about the wrong thing. That's not important." Ex, if you're reading this, for the record, I am not saying you were right in any of those scenarios (you've met me, right?). However, I kept hearing that phrase in my head as I thought about weight and what that number really means. I realized that all these years I---along with a lot of other people---have been worrying about the wrong thing.
Think about it. How many times in our daily lives does the actual number on the scale come into play or dictate any part of our lives? Well, since I'm not a boxer, UFC fighter, wrestler, or weightlifter and don't have any interest in doing any of those falling-from-the-sky type activities that might have specific weight limits...for me, it doesn't. I honestly can't think of any reason why the number on the scale is meaningful on its own. So I decided to stop worrying about it.
Before the collective eye roll occurs, let me provide some caveats. While I don't think that there is such a thing as an "ideal body weight" across the board for all people, I also don't believe in any way that my current weight is my body's ideal weight. And while I don't have health concerns now, I am aware that I am still relatively young and future weight-related health issues are a possibility. However, I do know that weight doesn't tell the whole story. And I'm tired of it being my story.
For me, weight loss has always been a means to an end. Once I lose the weight, I can become a beast in the gym. Once I lose the weight, I can eat what I want. Once I lose the weight, I can wear the cute clothes that I currently only admire on others. Once I lose the weight, I'll be more confident in who I am and therefore less anxious in social situations. I could go on and on, but it's all dumb. So dumb. Weight isn't the issue. It has never been the issue.
The issue is that I've been going around my elbow to get to my ass. Or is it the other way around? I can never remember. Either way, instead of focusing on my real goals, I've put them off by telling myself I need to lose weight to get there. Every path to achieve a goal seems to go through a pit stop at weight loss first, when it doesn't need to.
Think about it like this. What if I were to get in the best shape of my life by giving 100% in the gym doing activities I enjoy and working toward performance-based goals? What if, instead of alternating between obsessing over what I eat and going off the rails because I had a good/bad/sad/exhausting/exciting day, I were to take obligation and emotion out of the equation? What if new clothes weren't just a reward for hitting that next weight loss goal, and I were to buy and wear things that make me feel beautiful and confident regardless of the size on the tag? What if I were to own who I am and what I have to offer others rather than being afraid of what people might think about me based on my weight?
That sounds like a pretty good life to me. But here's the kicker. What if I accomplished all that and didn't lose a single pound? Maybe it's not realistic, but it's possible. Would that life be any less fulfilling? I don't think so. I am fairly certain that I can live my best life without concerning myself with how many pounds my body holds. And to prove it, I got rid of my scale. Well, to be honest, in my house, getting rid of something means putting it in the guest bedroom closet for a period of time until I've convinced myself that I can live without it. But hopefully---as with many things---out of sight, out of mind.
While this all seems like a great plan, I still have a lot of work to do. I want to begin chasing my goals directly rather than chasing a number on the scale, but I need to shift my focus to do that. For 20+ years I've been thinking about losing weight, so retraining my mind is going to be hard. I'm in the process of reading some books and evaluating my priorities in order to help me put together a game plan and set some goals, but it may take me a while to get there. Hopefully, I'll have more to share along the way. I want to note that I certainly didn't set out for this blog to be a body-acceptance/health-and-fitness/fix-my-screwed-up-mindset kind of blog, and I know a lot of people won't relate. But I hope you'll hang with me while I write my way through some of these things, and I promise I'll write about some less heavy topics too. (See what I did there?)
In the meantime, when I call my doctor's office to ask them to fix the whole diarrhea misunderstanding, maybe I'll ask them to change "morbidly obese" to "fat and thriving." I feel like that is more accurate, and it sure sounds a hell of a lot more fun.