My Worth is not the Number on the Scale
Sitting at my desk I can feel hunger growls in my stomach. I feel weak, and really want to cry. I am hungry! I want to eat something. I only have 25 minutes left of my 16 hour fast. I can do it. But I don’t want to do it, I want to eat. Holding back tears I ask myself, “why am I doing this to myself?” The struggle in my mind goes to “this is why you are fat, you have no willpower.” Meanwhile, my body is screaming at me that it is hungry.
I am 47 years old. By society's standards, I am attractive.
I have a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology. I am a certified substance abuse counselor and a mental health advocate. I have a Master’s degree in Mindfulness Studies and am one of the first 10 people in the United States to hold the degree.
In 1996 I was 26 years old. I quit my job, packed two bags, and moved to the South of Spain. I lived there for 2 years.
In my late 30’s I ran two marathons in one year. Currently, I work out 5 days a week. I do an hour of personal training once a week. I do at least 30 minutes of cardio/strength training 2-3 days a week. I also get one or two spin classes a week.
This past summer I had blood work done, a mammogram, and a gyno examination. Everything came back in perfect health. My primary doctor told me I was “boring” because of my perfect health.
I worked my way in my career to a position I never imagined I would be doing. My current position is giving me an opportunity to change and implement new policies and procedures in a county when it comes to mental health and law enforcement. Recently I was on a call with the top superior court judge of the county and the probate judge of the county. The Superior Court Judge said “It is not easy to get myself or Probate Judge together and on a call. But Charity has continued to push forward in this initiative and has shown such passion and continues to push forward. It has made me make sure I make time for meetings like this”. Daily I am meeting with Sheriff Office command staff and local law enforcement chiefs. I have progressed in my career beyond what I ever thought I could. Every day I love that I get to advocate and work along with law enforcement invested in aiding people with mental health.
I share all of this because on paper all I have accomplished is “successful” by society's standards. However, to look at me I have failed. My failure is because by society’s standards my failure is having gained 15lbs in the past year and a half. Leaving me at 30lbs overweight by society’s standards of thinness.
The realization of my failure came screaming at me while watching a video of myself. I was filmed doing a tour of the detention center I work at for The Council of State Governments Justice Center. The outcome from the video was a request to share the video tour I did with other grantees across the United States. What an honor. However, when I watched the tour video for the first time I held back tears of not recognizing myself. I held back tears of how embarrassed I am that I have gotten so fat! My first thought was I could never share the video with friends or family because people will see the weight gain and all the amazing work I have done will be negated. I can hear the words “wow she has gained a lot of weight.” or “she has let herself go.” The words that run through my head on repeat is an ex seeing me and staying “ I dodged a bullet on that one.” I am not imagining those words because I have heard them come out of many family and friends mouths about others, I would not be different.
It saddens me that I have all of this in my head. It saddens me that I have a value on who I am because of the weight and size of my body. Rather than on the successes I have made in my career and who I am as a human being. I have saved lives. I have given people hope where they had none. I have been an advocate. The only one who let a person know they are seen in this world. All of that is negated because I am 30lbs heavier than society tells me I should be.
We live in a culture that has put success with weight. In searching for some answers as to how to change my mindset I found blogs with the same message. A common theme in the blogs is the wording “diet culture.” According to Kristina Bruce, body acceptance and integrative life coach, and Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, “diet culture is a set of beliefs held by the popular culture that worships thinness, equates health and moral virtue to one’s body size. Elevates (or demotes) one’s social status based on appearance. Demonizes certain ways of eating, and oppresses individuals in proportion to how far away they are from the cultural body “ideal”. I would have to agree with their definitions. The definition also aids me in understanding why I feel the way I do about being a failure despite all my successes.
Our society puts praise and accomplishment on weight loss over so many other great accomplishments. I bet if I posted a success in my career, it would not get as many likes and comments as if I post a before and after photo of my weight loss.
So what am I to do? I am not looking for a new diet that is for sure. Why? For me, I have realized it is not about the weight per say. I don’t want to be on a diet for the rest of my life. I have been off and on many different diets. As much as people sell a way of eating as a lifestyle, if you gain weight not following that lifestyle, then it is a diet as far as I am concerned. I eat healthy, clearly since my lab work and health represents it. When I have lost weight and been thinner I still felt the same in that body size. I had the same career drive, I had the same friends, I was attracting men the same. At any size nothing about my life has been different. I was not more successful, or have a better life that is promoted in diet culture, I was successful.
I am looking for a way to feel comfortable in my body at any size. I want body acceptance. My body has allowed me to do amazing things and continues to be healthy. I pose the question to others, how much better was your life when you lost significant weight? Were you able to stop the diet and keep the weight off? Were you diet free and weigh less without having to work for it again? I wish society had not taught me that my worth is not the number on the scale.
Charity is a meditation practitioner and teacher. Charity’s mission is to change the stigma around meditation and bring meditation and mindfulness to everyone in the least intimidating manner. Charity holds a Master’s degree in Mindfulness Studies from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. In addition, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and a certificate in Substance Abuse Counseling both from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.