I’ve been thinking a lot about health lately. In part because of some things I’ve been reading about a new media campaign designed to shame people into making better food choices.

Since I was a little kid I was overweight.

In high school I got fat.

In college I alternated between being fat and being only overweight again.

After college I joined Overeaters Anonymous and I became a relatively normal weight for a couple of years.

By the time I got married I was fat again.

After my first child was born I was obese.

Then, I got fed up and lost the weight with the help of weight loss surgery.

I was a blissfully normal weight for close to two years before I got pregnant with my second child.

Then, after he was born I was fat again.

I lost some of the weight but have spent the past four years overweight and always threatening to break on through back to fat.

Now, after four months of seriously changing my diet I am 12 pounds away from a normal weight again.

Here’s the kicker. At no point in my life could I have been considered “unhealthy” except for my weight was too high.

I’ve never had high cholesterol.

I’ve never had blood sugar problems.

I’ve never had any joint problems.

I’ve always exercised: aerobics, walking, running, biking, swimming, weight training, and yoga.

I’ve always eaten healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables (as an adult), beans, and healthy fats like olive oil.

So what’s the deal with healthy vs. unhealthy?

Again, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It’s hard to explain, even to myself. My kids are both normal weights for their heights and ages. They both eat pretty well even though I allow them some junk food that I can’t eat just because I want them to feel like normal kids and not carry the burden of my food issues when they don’t appear to have any of their own.

We talk with them about how to be healthy and what healthy foods are: move your body everyday; eat little bits of everything but not too much of any one thing; whole foods are best; healthy food brings your body nutrition.

It’s a lot about balance.

But how do I explain to myself how I could have been so medically “healthy” and yet so fat?

I think part of it was that I was still relatively young when I was fat and so the long term toll on my body hadn’t had an opportunity to show itself yet. But I think it’s also a lot about things that don’t show up on medical tests or blood work.

I was depressed for much of that time. Now we could debate until the cows come home the direction of the cause and effect relationships among eating, being fat, and emotional health but I believe, from my own experience  that what I was eating was making me depressed. The chemical composition of those foods, the refined carbs (pasta, bagels, bread, cookies, etc.), the sugar, flour, and wheat were having a chemical effect on my brain and my stomach to make me crave it and to make me depressed.

Can I prove that? No, of course not. But I believe it.

That’s not healthy.

That “not healthy” can happen to anyone regardless of how thin or fat they are.

After my daughter was born I couldn’t comfortably sit down on the floor or get up from the floor without assistance from a person or a piece of furniture. Having that limitation on my life, my ability to interact with my child, was unhealthy. That wasn’t going to show up on a blood test either, but it was still unhealthy.

I used to work with a woman who was obese and so were her two sisters. She claimed that she didn’t have any health problems (and by that I’m sure she meant medical problems that she knew of) but she wasn’t comfortable climbing the stairs at work and had to take the elevator one floor four times a day. She gave a talk at a training about how being fat is the last stigma that needs to be broken through and that people need to accept that being fat isn’t in and of itself unhealthy. Within one year her one sister died of complications from her weight and the other sister was diagnosed with heart disease and insulin dependent diabetes.

Part of me wants to jump on that bandwagon and defend all the fat people in the world and say, yes, being fat ins’t in and of itself unhealthy. Leave people who are fat alone and let them make their own choices. No one should be shamed.

And I will say that last part: No one should be shamed.

But I can’t say that being fat isn’t unhealthy. It is, I’ve been there, I’ve lived it, and more importantly I’ve lived the other side. There is no comparison. Being able to buckle my seat belt on an airplane, or climb into the back seat of a two door car, or chase my son down the beach, or take a walk with my husband after dinner, or run back up the stairs in my house to quickly grab a pair of socks for my kid as we’re late getting out the door in the morning are possible in my life because I am not fat anymore.

No one likes being fat. There is nothing to like about it. It is defensible because when you’ve known nothing else there is nothing else to know and life doesn’t feel limited. But it is.

I supposed everyone’s life is limited in some respect. Age, sex, race, education, employment, nationality… all these things bring us either privilege or force us to face limitation. But fat? That just seems like more of a choice than the others. Even though it may not feel like a choice because it all becomes so difficult to change.

I couldn’t have lost the weight after my daughter was born, or now, without help. I’m not suggesting that my success makes me better than anyone or in some way a better person. I needed an adjustable gastric band 7 years ago. When the weight came back I needed the right combinations of foods on the right food plan. I needed an unswerving supportive husband. I needed to get my emotional instability balanced. I needed lots of things that I was lucky enough to get. But most importantly I needed to face the truth about my weight and face the reality of what I had to do to change it. Then, I had to have the willingness to do it.

I can’t deny the implications of my own journey. Health isn’t just about blood work. It’s about the whole package: mind, body, and spirit all balanced together in peace and in a place where all three can be comfortable.

This end of the scale provides those things.

At least it does for me.

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