Well, it’s a rainy Thursday night and I’d ordinarily be at my knitting group but there were no parking spots and I still feel like crap. After sleeping in quite epically and taking part in a conference call that involved four people (myself included) talking over each other for an hour, I decided to head down to my parents’ house because they’re on vacation and their washer and dryer don’t require quarters.
While my clothes were spinning I paid a visit to a drawer in my mom’s desk that contains my full dossier from birth through college. I love looking at all the teacher comments, newspaper articles, playbills, etc. that make up my life during that 21 year period. As I thumbed through this retrospective, I found several things that I don’t remember seeing before but must have been there my whole life. First, I found a series of notes on prescription pads, starting with my first pediatrician in New York City when my age was still measured in months.
I had found the Holy Grail of fat kids…my first diet. Apparently, at 18 months I had gained 6 lbs. in 6 months and needed to trim down. While my actual weight wasn’t listed, my mother was advised to watch my intake and cut me back to skim milk. Similar, and more detailed notes from my New Jersey pediatrician indicated my current weight and height for the next several years with suggestions of increased activity, skim milk, and a 1000 calorie a day diet (around 7 years of age).
I’ve always joked that I’m forever on a diet, but I never realized I was being quite so literal! I’m not sure if this gives me any sort of clarity. I know I’ve always liked to eat. I know my grandparents (on the Jewish side) showed love by feeding me. I know my Dad has always been on me about my weight. I know I need to lose weight now. Whether I attribute this lifelong battle to biology, environment, or lack of self control, it is a lifelong battle. The one thing I can say for sure in the face of this is that a lifetime battle requires a lifestyle change – not a diet. This just reaffirms that Weight Watchers is the right choice for me.
The other thing I found in this treasure trove that made me stop and think was a stockpile of teacher comments and grades from high school. The one that gave me the most pause was my “Fitness” report. It reads as follows:
12 minute run: 1.15 miles – Poor
Sit-Reach – 20 – Fair
Body Composition – 29% body fat – Poor
Sit-ups – 49 – Good
Push-ups – 35 – Excellent
Written Test – 15 out of 15
First, I WISH I could run 1.15 miles in 12 minutes now. I know plenty of people who are ok with a 15 minute mile. I also cannot do push-ups to save my life so it’s nice to know that I could at one point. I did a little research on normal body fat ranges and a healthy range for women under 40 is 21-33%. The American Council on Exercise puts the range for a teenage female ATHLETE at 14-20%, and the AVERAGE teenage female at 20-25%. At 17 we’re really edging out of teenage and into woman so I think it’s fairly fluid. I’m not saying that I wasn’t a little overweight at 17, but I certainly wasn’t obese. Not only did I rate a “Poor” (according to what standard I’m not sure), but based upon my stats, I got a nice B- added to my GPA.
High School is tough…especially if you don’t exemplify the ideal. I was tortured by certain peers for being fat and, frankly, I’m not that coordinated so sports and gym class were never my forte (though I do boast a Varsity letter in softball). Let me just say right here that I would be SHOCKED if the woman wielding the caliper during this body fat measuring session was in the 21-33% range herself. So as an already insecure and persecuted 17 year old, rather than being graded on my test score, participation, and even improvement, I was academically penalized for being out of shape.
No, my Fitness grade didn’t keep me out of Vassar. I got in Early Decision and I never took a Gym class again. My problem here is with the message where there was a real opportunity to do some good. Those stats are useful as an assessment tool – they should have been the basis for creating a workout plan and goals for the trimester. I would have rather seen those measurements taken at the beginning and then had the curriculum be based upon tools to live a healthy lifestyle. All this taught me was that my numbers were all wrong (with the exception of my ability to do push-ups, sit-ups and to pass a written test). Yes, she could have given me a D and it would have been far worse, but in terms of 29% body fat and the big ol’ POOR next to it – I was being told I was a fatty..not that I was a little above the ideal range and could drop down with some exercise and a healthy eating plan. There were no comments on this comment form, just the stats and a grade.
I think it’s a good lesson to Phys Ed teachers, but also to us who are trying to lose weight and get healthy – the numbers are not the whole story and we can’t let them deter us. I focused on the poor, I didn’t see it as a benchmark, I saw it as a failure…as something wrong with me. We have to stop being angry at ourselves about the number on the scale or the BMI and congratulate ourselves on what we’re doing about it. We’re choosing a healthy lifestyle, we’re caring for ourselves, and we’re succeeding…even if it’s a slow process.
What victories are you celebrating this week?