Yes, You DO Measure Up!

"I don't measure myself by others' expectations

or let others define my worth."

(Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor)

Numbers Numbers Numbers The temperature numbers are going up and clothes are getting thinner. This time of year puts a whole lot of people face to face with how we feel about our bodies. Unfortunately, far too often, other numbers become the catalyst for shame, disappointment, and unhelpful self-negativity.

It isn’t really the numbers that do this to us. It’s the meaning we give them. Friends, they very often do not mean what we think they mean.

Annual Shamefest I have a brother who is 18 months older than I am. Looking at his healthiest adult body and my healthiest adult body, it’s pretty clear that we have pretty much the same body but in masculine and feminine form. We are taller than most. We have dense muscles that respond quickly to exercise. We have long, strong legs. Neither one of us fits into expected Euro-body norms.

I didn’t know until I was in my 50s that we come from wildly multiethnic families who passed for “only white” on both sides. Our bodies make very different sense now. Things were very different when we were kids.

I remember our annual physicals. Every year they would measure our height and weight. Every year we got the exact same response:

(Reaction to Dan’s numbers) >Enthusiastic voice< Well young man, you are off the charts in both height and weight. I’m starting to think we need to make a whole new chart, just for you! >Slap on the back. <

(Reaction to my numbers) >Head low, no eye contact, grumbly mumble < You’re still off the chart for height and weight. >accusatory tone< Don’t you do any kind of exercise? >Shakes head and walks away. <

Too I’ve been “too” my whole life: I’m too tall I’m too loud I’m too

assertive I’m too opinionated I’m too

sensitive I’m too fat I’m too too too toootwotwo 2222222… Is it any wonder I hate numbers?

But really, who set these standards?

I’ll Tell You Who“Starting in the 1970s, the most commonly used growth charts in the United States were based on 10,000 infants and children living in Ohio between 1929 and 1975. These kids were mostly white, middle class and formula-fed, and they created a less-than-ideal point of reference for an increasingly multicultural and breastfed population.”

Well, we weren’t from the Midwest, but we were told we were white and at least nearly middle class. I was “supposed” to be much shorter and much thinner. But why?

The BMI, (or “Basic Myopic Insanity”) For a thorough and authoritative explanation of why the BMI needs to be tossed out on its narrow backsides, read here. To summarize, the BMI literally

compares your

body to the weight and height of the least disease prone Belgian males alive in the 1830s. I’m not kidding.

(From the article) “This estimate, however, doesn’t regard your race, age, gender, genetics, amount of body fat versus muscle mass, your lifestyle, or other more relevant measurements of health such as your cholesterol or blood sugar.”

In other words, it doesn’t say anything about our actual health.

It’s Not Even About Health I’ve been fat shamed by doctors since about age 3, even in the adult years when I was at a weight that was ideal for me, with excellent blood stats, an average resting heart rate of 60 and average blood pressure of about 110/70. (Lawd, I miss those days!) I didn't look the way my doctors thought a white woman should look. That bias is clearly not just about me.

A 2021 survey revealed that between 63-74% of doctors demonstrated “implicit weight bias.”

It’s literally killing us.

It’s not just larger, heavier people either. Thin people are assumed to be healthier than they are. I know too many thin people whose cancer diagnoses were missed

because the doctor blew off their concerns and did not do tests, assuming that they must be healthy because they had thin bodies. Doctors are human and full of the same kinds of biases just like the rest of us.

Clothing Sizes Did you know that the Department of Agriculture (them again!) created standardized US women’s clothing sizes using an irrelevant and deeply flawed mathematical formula? Those numbers have since been routinely manipulated to appeal to consumer vanity. They’ve changed dramatically over each era, and even now mean something totally different, including within the same clothing lines! Even when we use the size charts the retailer supplies, the size number given can result in clothing that varies by as much as three actual sizes.

Friends? Those numbers do not mean a d@m^ thing. Find clothes you like and feel good in. Yank out the tags if it helps you keep perspective.

Follow the Money One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my health journey is to consider the agenda of the source, especially in these areas:

  • Weight loss
  • “Healthy” foods
  • Medications
  • Fitness plans
  • Clothing retailers

Shameless Changes The exploiters in these areas are masters at shaming us. They want us to feel inadequate, ashamed, “less than” (or “too much”) if we don’t perceive our bodies as looking like this or that very narrow band of supposed attraction or assumed relative health. (In whose taste?) Shame works to move our behavior

in the moment.

That’s why people make money from it. It does not move us to adequately assess and address changes we might want to make.

Shame fosters temporary changes that defeat us psychologically again and again. We deserve better.

Once we peel away the lie that this or that number means something about our quality, worth or worthiness, we are free to simply consider data. How do I feel in this body? Is it holding me back in some way? If so, what long term lifestyle changes do I choose to make because the payoff seems worth the investment?

Real Change If you decide that you want to make a change, I strongly urge you to consider how we humans create sustained change. It’s now how we think we do. If it were as simple as making our minds up we would all be living our best lives, all the time. I did a blog series on this a while back. I do plan to put the info into more accessible reels, but it’s going to take me a minute. If you want to make some changes, read more here. If you’d like help putting a well-constructed change plan together,contact me here.

Whatever you choose to do and not do, let it be because it’s something that suits you better and not because someone outside of your own being tries to tell you that you have to in order to be “acceptable.”