Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What's in a number

I'm struggling here. I'm a huge fan of the NBC show "The Biggest Loser", and my family and I have watched this season together religiously. Perhaps that's part of the problem, that I'm watching this show to begin with, with an impressionable 8 year old beside me. Let me take a step back here. After spending far too many years obsessed with a number on the scale, and finding Charlotte starting to look at her own number too critically, I have removed all of the scales from our home. For better or worse, I am trying to not live by numbers anymore, and instead it's all about how my clothes fit, how far/fast I run, and how strong my body feels. That's the message she hears from me consistently, and from the other adults in her life (especially her dance teacher, where she always emphasizes what your body can do instead of what your body looks like).

And then we watch TBL last night. The winner, Rachel, lost 155 pounds from her 5'4" frame, weighing in at a shocking 105 pounds. Charlotte was ELATED. You could see Rachel's bones sticking out, she was really really skinny, and it was really really unattractive. But more than that, she didn't look strong. Her skin looked sallow, gaunt. She didn't look healthy. And she certainly didn't look like a world class swimmer, which she was before she gained the weight that brought her to the show.

This morning I spoke with Charliebean briefly about the show, and how lots of people were saying that Rachel was too skinny. "There's no such thing" was her response. I told her that there are a set of numbers called the BMI, that give you a weight range that's healthy for your height, but that being strong and having endurance are as important as having a number in that range. I told her that Rachel's BMI is below what doctors consider healthy, and she's now officially classified as "underweight" by her doctors. Charlotte thought that was pretty cool, clearly desirable that this contestant went from one extreme to the other.

So now what? There's this show that's rewarding her behavior, and my 8 year old that describes that as "winning". And I'm struggling. Trying to SHOW her that healthy isn't a number, and that food is fuel for our bodies, and that fueling our bodies properly is an important part of growing and being strong. And it sucks. It sucks because it's something that I've struggled with my entire life, something that I watched all of the women in my life struggle with to some degree, or in some way link directly to their self worth... And I'm just done.

I'm done.

I am not worth less because my shirt says XL instead of M. I am not less beautiful because of the extra 20 pounds that I hope to lose someday. Maybe. I'm just done. I am done living by the numbers.

And saying it to you, screaming it from the treetops, really, I mean it.

Seeing Rachel last night, put it all into crystal clear focus for me. Seeing Charlotte's face, the flickering television reflecting her smile as the 105 number flashed on the screen is something I won't soon forget. My job, my most important job, is to give Charlotte and Henry the tools they need to be healthy and strong, mentally and physically. Confident in their skin. Confident in their abilities. Proud of what their bodies can do. Strong. I love running distance races, and know that if I lost some weight I could be faster, better, stronger. So, I'll work on getting faster, better, stronger, and remove weight from that equation.

Starting today. Right Now, we are removing the number. For our family it's about strength, endurance, speed. Fueling the body for the race. Being confident in our ability, our capability. And for me, it's not a natural fit, and in fact pretty foreign territory. In other words, I'll need all of the help I can get.  

Hug your partner/kids/pet, and make it a great day,