Weighty issues

“Why don’t you put on some weight?”

For the first time in my entire life, i was told to put on anything between 4kg to 9kg. My jaw dropped with disbelief, and my eyes widened. As if to ask:

“Are you kidding me???”

I had my follow-up with my gynaecologist today. She found out about the dip in my weight, and told me the above. Whatever that transpired in the consultation room left me deep in thought. Thoughts mostly regarding something which is the bane of my existence, and which i am sure is similar to most if not all, girls and women.

I have never been overweight- being defined as a body mass index(BMI) of above 22.5 for asians- in my entire life. I have not been underweight too- below BMI 18.5- since reaching my height of 1.6m. I have always been in the normal range- sometimes hovering nearer to BMI 18.5, sometimes hovering nearer to 22.5, and most of the time right in the middle. That’s good, by definitions of my health and wellbeing.

However, being of normal weight, i got it real bad in the body image department. I can understand criticisms made if i am unhealthily thin or overweight. I can understand comments made in ballet classes. But I can never understand why i am criticised for being of normal weight and in good health. Of course it can be said that i can choose to ignore these comments, and i’d like to be able to do so as well. But when these comments are thrown right into my face when i am already very low in self-esteem, these criticisms become etched into my mind to remind me everyday that the numbers on the scale should go down down down.

Because i am excessive, both in numbers and in looks.

At my lowest weight with a height of 1.6m, i was not as thin as ballet’s ideal of a ballerina. But i was no ballerina, and even though i thoroughly disliked my reflection in the mirror wearing unforgiving leotard and tights, i kept on dancing. Because at such height and being at my lowest weight, i was bound to gain the kilos through adolescence and upon entering adulthood. Moreover, i had to take a year of prednisolone, which is notorious for weight gain/fluid retention. I did gain weight, and comments were made about me looking like i have gained weight. And that happened too, when my weight remained unchanged.

I was hurt by such comments, but i could still take it sorely in my stride, albeit very relucatantly, because i am getting further from ballet’s ideals. It was a fact that i knew too well, and as i continued dancing over the years in front of mirrors, the resentment i had for my body grew into hatred. It didn’t improve things when i entered nursing school. In fact it fuelled the fire, and there was nothing else that could put it out.

I had comments made to me by insensitive teachers in nursing school, about me looking like i have gained weight with or without actual changes in my weight. The comments were not few and far between. They were quite common. While i took offense with every comment, i found it very peculiar too. What was the relation between weight/size and nursing? I couldn’t see the connection there. And all this time, i had people from two places which i spend most of my time in, telling me that i looked like i was gaining weight, that perhaps i needed to do something about it because i was getting too excessive.

I began to believe with conviction, that i was REPULSIVE. And that was when i finally had enough. There was nothing to make it better, and there seemed to be no other way to get out of that state of mind. It came to the point of being eaten up alive by an eating disorder. And that spelled the start of my slow descend from normalcy.

I have compromised my health in unimaginable ways so far, and if i had a choice, i would never have let myself go down this unwinding path. It got me thinking about what lengths people would go to when their life has become, not centred around, the numbers on the scale and the reflection in the mirror.

Why???

Gaining between 4-9kg, my gynaecologist is telling me, helps with the production of estrogen which can improve bone density and fertility. Otherwise a decrease in bone density could eventually result in osteoporosis, or in simpler terms, brittle bones. And infertility could happen.

Will i gain that weight? I don’t know. I have been turning down requests by my shrink to have my eating disorder addressed with the specialised team in another hospital. But very lately, i am starting to toy with that idea of doing just that, so that i can finally set myself free. I find it kinda funny that for so many years, i am being told in silent whispers that i ought to lose weight so that perhaps “my self-esteem will improve” (which is in and itself a lie). And now that i have lost some weight, i am being told aloud that i should gain weight so that i am healthier. I know it doesn’t bode well to listen and follow the words of others, that in the end i should do what i want to do, and what i think is right for me. *sigh*

I guess i am just terrified at the thought of gaining weight again.

To what extent? To the extent of compromising my health because gaining that bit of weight to be healthier is just not worth it.

I don’t know.

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