by Deah Schwartz, Ed.D, CTRS, CCC
I was 8 months pregnant and had gained 55 pounds so far. Then I went for my check up and my doctor said to me,
“Deah Schwartz, WE don’t have 50 pound weight gains in THIS practice.”
I looked at him, half defiantly, half ashamed and said,
“YOU do now Doc.”
When I gave birth to my son on January 24, 1992, I had gained just under 65 pounds during my pregnancy … notice how I didn’t say just over 63. I was trained by my weight obsessed mom that when talking about weight to emphasize the “lower than, or under than, or less than” reference as being the more preferable comparison.
My son weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces, no over or under there, exact weight known and used.
My Aunt said to me,
“Deah, you gained all that weight and your baby is only 6 pounds 9 ounces?”
I looked at her (over the phone, she was in New York), stunned. Here I was with a redheaded baby boy all happy and healthy and her only comment was about my weight in comparison to his. I said to her, half defiantly and half ashamed,
“It was a helluva placenta Auntie.”
Fast forward the tape to 2011. My 18 year old son had just moved cross country to college, I was smack dab in the middle of menopause and loss was a huge issue for me. I was losing everything; my keys, my glasses, my rapid word retrieval, my eyesight, my fertility, and to some extent, my child. What I was not losing, was weight.
I went to my new Ob/Gyn. (My doctor of the 65 pound weight gain practice retired.) She examined me and asked me how I was? I started to cry, not unusual in those days. I told her I cried all the time, and felt uber hormonal. I felt apologetic. Here I was meeting this doctor for the first time and she is seeing this woman balled up in an already soggy paper gown crying over NOTHING!! She asked me if I had gained weight, and I confessed that I’d gained about 12 and ½ pounds in the past few years, since I turned 50. We both looked at each other, knowingly. There was no “about” about it. It was exactly 12 and ½ pounds.
I had all of the affect of someone who knew EXACTLY how much she weighed at EVERY point in her life.
She looked at me and with great efficiency and said,
“Some of it is genetic.”
This was not news. I grew up knowing this. My first cousin was Mama Cass. Literally, that is not an analogy. The rest of us, less famous members of the family came in varying degrees of fatness, but when left to our natural habits and inclinations we were a genetic load of fat.
I nodded at the doctor, wiping the tears from eyes with the paper gown that was barely covering my belly.
“And some of it is your age, this just happens.”
I nodded again, but looked carefully at this petite, strong, wiry doctor and added half defiantly and half ashamed,
“But you are older than I am and you are thin, does genetics make THAT much of a difference?”
The doctor took off her glasses, looked at me with the wisdom of having probably had this conversation with hundreds of menopausal women struggling with self-acceptance based on the scale’s accusations of failure and paradoxically said quite kindly,
“And you have to be a little mean.”
I exhaled as I slid down on the exam table. I got it immediately. I needed to be a little mean; mean to myself. Deprive myself, denigrate myself, and hate myself until or unless I weighed a certain amount. Never mind that I walked the 3.2 mile trail around Lake Merritt EVERY DAY. Never mind that I had a thriving 18 year old son kicking ass in college and my blood pressure was perfect. My eyes welled up with tears and I replied,
“I don’t have a mean bone in my body.”
She put her glasses on and half defiantly and half ashamed, shrugged her shoulders and said,
“There it is then.”
In that moment I realized that I had just learned more about who I was than when I had first walked into my new doctor’s office. I realized that I was NOT willing to be mean to myself. It is not in my nature. I left the office that day knowing that I am kind, I am completely defiant, unashamed, and to this day my scale is NOT the boss of me!!!
Note: A version of this blog post was originally posted in 2011 in Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels.
Deah Schwartz, Ed.D, CTRS, CCC, Educator, Activist, and Clinician with a private practice in Oakland CA, has more than 30 years of experience in using Expressive Arts Therapies to treat Eating Disorders and Body Image issues. Deah is the co-author of Leftovers, The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater DVD/Workbook Set, a resource for Eating Disorders, and author of the Size Acceptance syndicated blog, Tasty Morsels. To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work visit her website at www.drdeah.com.