Sunday, January 11, 2009

Body Image vs. Healthy Body

I am 5' 11" tall.

On a normal, non pregnant day, I weigh anywhere between 197 and 207 lbs.

This may sound like a lot and, believe me, I would LOVE to be in the 175 - 185 range. But the truth is, I am ok with my body.

I have had issues with it in the past. I used to spend a lot of energy berating myself and my weight just to have friends say that they would never ever even think of me as being overweight. Because I don't LOOK overweight.

I am a tall girl. A big tall girl.

And now instead of being angry at myself all the time for not looking like a model, I try my best every day to recognize that I am a beautiful woman in a beautiful body.

Isn't that the body image we are all supposed to be cultivating?

Except there is a HUGE discrepancy here. Because according to every physician I have seen, (including the life insurance people who had no issues what-so-ever calling me "a risk because of my unhealthy weight") I am fat.

Not just fat...obese.

In fact, even at my lightest weight in the past four years, 195 on my wedding day, that was still considered obese.

Above is a photo of my husband and I on our wedding day in September of 2007 and below is a picture of me one year later on our anniversary.

Do I look like your definition of obese?

Go ahead, be honest. I really can take it.

The question is where, and how, do I find the happy medium? How do I love myself and honor and respect my body and at the same time feel enough shame for being obese that I am motivated to lose weight?

Fortunately, I don't have to worry about this for a while as I am currently trying everything I can to gain weight since I have actually lost 11 pounds since finding out I was pregnant. But I know the weight will come, and I know it won't be easy to lose it...I am not a celebrity with catered meals, a nanny, a personal trainer and gym at my disposal 24/7.

But I will need to be acting on this shortly after giving birth. Why? Because the other day we were both evaluated for life insurance. And we got a call a couple of days later saying that I was risk because of my weight and my premium would be going up. Oh I threw out the 'but-I'm-pregnant' card but who are we kidding here...I've LOST 11 lbs so far. The man on the other end of the phone said that they would come out and reevaluate me after I had the baby and if I had lost the weight then I wouldn't be a risk anymore.

I won't lie. This news sent me right upstairs to my room where I cried my eyes out.

I love me. I love my body. I love who I am. And it has taken a long time to get to this place and now it isn't good enough. And not only is it not good enough, but it is going to get much worse before I am charged with the task of making it a whole lot better.

I wish I wasn't so frustrated by this, but it really gets under my skin. And I understand what they are is important to be as healthy as possible. But if getting there means reminding myself every day that I am too fat to eat something than the trade-off is my mental health and isn't that just as important?

What do you think? Is it better to have a healthy body image or to actually be physically healthy no matter how miserable you make yourself getting there? What's the happy medium?


  1. I hear you on the frustration as far as the BMI goes. I'm still "overweight", and only a few lbs away from "obesity" all the time. But in my experience, losing weight wasn't a torturous experience. I was the same as you, I was happy with where I was at, I had come to accept it. But then I decided to make a change, I started watching what I was putting in my body, and every once in awhile I thought about how I should exercise.

    After counting my calories, attempting to focus on getting lots of fiber and protein and avoiding things like sat fat and cholesterol, I relized how much better I felt. I was taking naps less, I was moving around better, I didn't get out of breath quite so fast. And then I realized that my body doesn't necessarily want to weigh less, it wants to be taken care of.

    And the more I took care of my body, the more I focused on my nutrition, the better my mind felt. When I was overweight, I saw doctors for depression and took prozac, and I didn't necessarily think it was because of my weight (because I was okay with who I was). So now I believe that when we take care of our bodies, our bodies will take care of us.

    You don't have to starve yourself, eliminate all of your favorite things, and work out 22 hours a day to lose weight. Moderation is key, but I believe your body will love you back for the time you put into taking care of loving it.

  2. Oh the problem that plagues us all. Sad isn't it? In our world you can buy junk food and burgers for $1 but fruit and salads are $5. And then we wonder why Amercia is so fat. Hmph.

    You my friend look perfect. Who wouldn't love to loose 10 pounds? Or even 20? I would. But try not to make yourself crazy about it right now. I gained 50 pounds with both my kids and managed to drop it both times.

    Don't let your body image get you down, you're pregnant! That's a miracle and enjoy every single moment. Even when you're sick as a dog.

    Blessings to your family!
    Email me anytime you want to talk preggo!

  3. The weight issue is such a touchy issue nowadays. Sometimes I think people don't take into consideration bone density. I am a "big boned" girl. When I was 140 lbs at my skinniest, I wore a size 4 in dresses. I remember my friends saying that I didn't look too good but rather sickly. People need to stop looking at the number on the scale but rather evaluate the person.

    I'm pregnant with my first as well, and when I went in for the 1st prenatal appt, I was immediately put on a diabetes type and told to only gain 15 lbs max during the pregnancy.

    If you are happy with your body image, congratulations to you. I think that is more of an accomplishment than losing weight and still being unhappy with how you look.

    Be well and take care of yourself and your belly!

  4. A couple of things, I believe that the definition of obese is only 40 lbs over weight which just seems a bit ridiculous. Insurance companies and doctors are crazy. I have a friend whose husband is OBVIOUSLY overweight and yet he went to a doctor and supposedly told he is in perfectly fine condition. Excuse me? So who are you supposed to believe. If you are healthy and not having major issues with the "insides" then my theory is you are fine. It sucks that your silly as insurance is going to go up. I guess there isn't much we can do about that. Cheer up.

  5. You are totally not obese! That guy is crazy. I'm a tall girl too and I think people kind of give us a hard time because they don't seem to understand what weight means on frames like ours. They just hear a number and are like "Oh well that's big for a girl!" which could not be dumber.
    Body image/how you feel about yourself should really be the thing to focus on. I admit, I still struggle with this after a year of being on a medication that messed up my metabolism pretty severely and I lost a tonne of weight (seriously, you could see and feel my hipbones under my skin - ew). I know logically that I'm perfectly fine now, but after weighing less when I was on the meds it's like, "Oh that's bigger than I used to be."
    So right now, I'm just trying to be reasonable with myself and I hope you do too! You were a gorgeous lady on your wedding day and have been every day after so don't let some random dude make you feel bad! :)
    (My apologies if this shows up more than once, my computer is screwy.)

  6. If you were happy with your weight, you would not be posing this question---and to strangers,yet. That should be the answer...

  7. Thanks, anonymous. Very helpful, indeed. You are actually the only stranger here, so why don't you out yourself and get to know us better?


    Moving on...I think cjcrash hit the nail on the head. The definition of obese is 40lbs overweight. Regardless of what your bone structure is or how tall you are.

    40 lbs on someone who is 5'3" LOOKS like a lot of weight.

    40 lbs on me isn't as noticeable.

    Whenever you see a piece in the news on obesity in America, they always show sensationalized photos of very. VERY. large people with jiggling bellies and fat protruding out of their clothes. Rarely are we shown a picture of just-barely obese. Which is what I am.

    So if the image in my mind of obese is what I see defined on television or in magazines, of course I am going to rush to the conclusion that I must look like those people too...which in turn, really affects my body image.

    Perhaps instead of having a healthy body image, we should be aiming to have a healthy health image and just forget what we actually look like.

    Just some more food for thought on the subject...egregious pun not intended.

  8. Two words, my dear, to your insurance company, from me:


    You saw me at the reunion; I've put on weight since college. I've got the build of a strong Irish woman, which means broad back and big bones on this 5'7" frame.

    But even at my skinniest in high school, when I was playing three sports (plus two more year round), the lowest I ever went was 161 pounds/size 12. It's PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for my body to go any tinier than that! My doctor told me that while I was clinically obese, she said she'd be worried about me if I ever went below 160 due to my body.

    Go figure. Insurance companies (and I've worked for one!) are so very sadly behind. They're numbers for "ideal" are from the late 60s/early 70s and woefully need to be updated.

    You go "girl" :-)

  9. Life insurance companies are in the business to MAKE MONEY. So they will use any little excuse to raise rates. They are not concerned about your health; they are concerned about making a profit. DON'T LISTEN TO THEM.

    You look beautiful in those photos.

  10. Thanks for sharing- I guess we're in the same pregnant-and-overweight boat :P I used to hate my flabby midsection, but since this last week when my stomach is very noticeably rounder and firmer (and you know for sure there's a person inside), I couldn't stop rubbing my belly like I'm lucky buddha :D I'd say as long as you feel good and healthy, try not to worry about what the label says (although it does suck to have to pay a higher insurance premium...)