shins and scales

One of my goals this year was to stop weighing myself. There might be some part of you that reflexes to shock, with some variation of but what about her health? when you hear something like that—don’t worry, it used to make me uncomfortable too. But then I got tired. I learned that diets don’t work (or read this one, or this one), and realized that being a smaller size is not always synonymous with health.

Even though I weigh more than a did a few years ago, I never tossed that health out the window. I eat fruit, drink water, exercise, and sleep. I have regular periods. Normal labs. Good blood pressure. Which, all in, are important markers of health—just as important, if not more so, than the number on my scale. Unfortunately, though, I’ve never had a doctor ask me how much water I drink in a day, how much I’m sleeping at night, or how often I exercise before they bring up my weight. That feels ridiculous, right?

Beyond that, as someone who’s obsessively weighed myself every day since high school, there is this reality: the scale has fucked with my head. The numbers were never just numbers, but always a measure of worthiness. How well I deserved to be loved, if I deserved to feel confident, how much enjoyment I should allow myself in a day. How ashamed I should feel after a rejection, how valid my points were in an argument, how put-together I felt as an adult.

That is ridiculous.

So, the scale went into the garbage.

And now I live my life. I discovered Madewell, where I was able to buy a pair of jeans in a physical store for the first time in years. No weird gapping, no extra sagging bits of fabric—they fit like a glove. They make me feel good.

And I’ve been moving in ways that I like. In high school I used to do the elliptical just long enough to have calories free for dinner. In college just long enough to check off the box on my planner. After college, anything to feel controlled and safe and small. Now, I try to do what makes me feel happy and healthy and strong. As of this summer, that’s been Orange Theory and, as you might already know, my adult dance class.

This is where the troubles start. Dance class paired with an Orange Theory string of workouts called “Hell Week” gave me shin splints. As far as I know, people of all sizes get shin splints. Also, while I know that weight puts pressure on joints, my low arches and tendency to pronate and the weird extra bone I have in my right foot could have aggravated my shins just as much as any weight could have. On top of that, they could be from bad form, overuse, or going too hard too soon.

Whatever the cause, I’ve been going to physical therapy to try to get better. I’ve been stretching, doing ankle and hip and calf strengthening, and easing my way back into jumping (properly!). It’s been incredibly helpful. So helpful, that when I went to follow up with my orthopedic doctor the other week, I planned to ask for more PT sessions. Before I could ask for anything, though, the doctor asked if my pain was better—it was—then said that I could start increasing my activity as I started losing weight.

Excuse me? What about what we’d talked about at the last visit—not just getting rid of pain, but getting back into workouts? When he said we’ll get you back to performing well is this just what he meant? I let my guard down so he could offer me some blanket statement about losing weight before I walked out the door from my final appointment? I get that doctors don’t have much time nowadays but…that’s just lazy medicine. He doesn’t know my history with food, that the last time my doctor gave me a diet it flourished into an eating disorder, that I spent many, many years—maybe most of my years—alternating between half starving and eating till I’m sick. He doesn’t know that I hate diets, they don’t work, they’re mentally draining and absolutely not what I came to a foot doctor for. I glazed over, asked for the extra PT, and got ready to leave. He told me I wasn’t fifteen anymore and should be aware of my age when choosing my activities. He suggested the elliptical.

I wanted to move in the body I had. I want to move in the body I have. I want to feel athletic and strong and not absolutely loathe what I see reflected in the mirror. But just like that, I felt crazy for even trying.

This is where we come to an intersection. At the same time as I’m attempting to exist in a gym in a plus-sized body, I’m attempting to go out on dates. Specifically, this year I set a goal of five. Low, but better than nothing.

I’m on a few apps, mostly Hinge and Bumble, and occasionally Catholic Match (which has its own brand of bizarrity). I’ve made it to four dates and do a daily round of swiping to try to make it out on more. I don’t get a ton of matches. I assume it’s because of my looks, because there’s not usually much else to go off of on an app—and why would you want a tall plus-size brunette when you could have a petite sweet looking blonde on your next swipe? I’m told, though, that petite blondes are having just as much trouble dating, so who really knows what the problem is.

Anyway, on one of my evening swipe sessions I found a decent looking guy who looked like people must like him—he was in a tux in one picture, so someone thought he was cool enough to be in their wedding. He was holding a baby in another, so someone trusted him enough to hold their child. He captioned the picture of the baby, his nephew, with the newborn’s weight—a solid 10 lbs., 6 oz—and that he was going to grow up to be a linebacker. I commented “good size baby you’ve got there,” which, I’ll admit, was not the flirtiest message I could have sent, but it was something he’d started the conversation on, and something I’d had experience with as a nurse who’d helped lots of moms deliver lots of babies. I’d mention it if we matched.

No matches though, until I got up in the middle of the night to let my dog out. Bleary-eyed and half-asleep, I saw that he’d matched me, so I scrolled through my notifications to see what he’d commented back. I was assuming something along the lines of “Ya, lol” or “He’s pretty cute, right?” No. He’d gone out of his way in the middle of the night to respond with “You’re one to talk.”

I was shocked. I opened the app to try to see more. He’d unmatched me. He went out of his way to match me, insult me, then left.

I cried every day for the next week. I had trouble sleeping, trouble moving, no interest in doing anything at all. Waffled, again, between eating too much and not eating enough. I wished I could disappear. The insults compounded: how dare I show up to the gym in the body I have. How dare I try to talk to men boys in the body I have. How dare I assume that because I finally had nice jeans that anyone would ever want to see me in them.

I’m climbing out of the hole, now, and hoping to learn how to let comments about my body slide off me. I wouldn’t let someone comment on my house like that—can you imagine if someone walked by my little condo and said, “Wow, that place is a piece of shit” and kept on walking? I’d just write them off and not let them in because this is my home, where I exist and connect and where I deserve to feel safe.

If you’ll follow me through the metaphor, my little inner-self is housed in this outer-self body, and they both deserve protection. So why do I find myself only standing up for my inner-self half? If someone had a problem with, say, how loudly I laughed at The Office or my opinions about healthcare or how committed I am my God, I might be stung, but I’d shrug it off. I know who I am and what I’m about and if it’s not for you then that’s fine. But when it comes to the shape of my legs or my waist or my ass—comment, and I crumble.

How to build up love for this body? How to mount a defense that withstands the pokes and prods of well-intentioned doctors and mal-intentioned dates?

I don’t really have the answers. It probably starts somewhere along the line of controlling my thoughts—saying no to my inner insults (often worse than anything any boy could craft). Maybe more movement. More dance. Maybe more Madewell. More underwear that fits, coats that fit, bras that fit. Maybe a new lipstick. A new haircut. Something superficial and soft that can soak in from my skin to the heart of me, repeating this home is good, over and over, until that whisper is a voice louder than anything else.