I went to the doctor for a check up and was asked by the nurse to step on the scale. I watched the numbers creep up, up, and away until they landed solidly, unapologetically, even happily on 197. I threw my head back and laughed. There was a freedom in that number.
Not more than two weeks before I had attended the funeral of a family member. The three hours that comprised the wake were a barrage of people who I hadn't seen in years. I stood in front of the memorial board of photos talking to the parents of the children I used to baby sit for when I was in high school. The father pointed to my picture on the board and said, "That's the Robyn I remember." I can't say I don't look different than that photo for a variety of reasons. I am eleven years older than that photo. But mostly, I am about 67 lbs heavier than the girl in that photo. I studied the picture and felt like saying, "You know, I don't remember that girl, but I vaguely remember what it was like to be that girl." It was exhausting. I remember going entire days without eating. Maybe I'd sneak in a Larabar. I remember being proud of myself for only drinking a small Dixie cup's worth of orange juice. I remember the feeling of stepping on the scale at the doctor's office and being proud that I hadn't eaten breakfast that morning.
This was my life for years. Equal parts restricting calories and exercising obsessively. I met someone when I was 26 who liked that I was "small." He assumed things about me based on my size. He called me beautiful, until I started to gain weight. Together we ate entire pizzas and made steaks slathered in butter and salt and drank our way through so many bottles of wine and beer that by the end of our second year together I had gained about 30 lbs. My body was starving, and I was all too happy to feed it. He was none too happy that I no longer looked like the girl he met, even going so far as to tell me one Valentine's Day that he "brought a certain something to the table in the looks department" and he felt that it "wasn't ridiculous to expect his partner to do the same." I was crushed.
My next relationship wasn't much different. I mean, we had a day devoted to eating crap that we called Faturday. Pancakes, cookies, entire pints of ice cream, dozens of donuts, you name it, we ate it. Until one day, my new man said, "Remember that time you lost a little weight? I saw you getting out of the shower, and I thought, 'Wow she looks great! There's less of her'." Even though I had gained another 10 or 20 lbs at that point, I was happy. His admission made me insecure. I hadn't really thought about my weight gain. But here were two men, back to back, who felt that my weight made me less attractive. So I began to see myself through their eyes.
When new guy and I broke up, I decided to try an experiment. What if I ate whatever I wanted and stopped caring what people thought? I wasn't on a quest to become obese. Nor was I intentionally on a journey to heart failure. What I wanted was to see if I could love my body at any weight. And it turns out...that I can. It turns out that the number on the scale does not dictate your level of happiness. A life is comprised of so many other things than being obsessed with your weight. For women, there is this value placed on how small you can make yourself. I don't want to be small. I want to laugh loudly and eat fried chicken and give big hugs. Who wants to live life small? That's boring.
So I stood on the scale at the doctor's office and laughed at that number. 197. A body that is soft. A body that is all curves. Admittedly, a body that doesn't fit into some of her favorite shirts. But nonetheless, a body that's full of life.