I got my body mass index measured at the gym on Monday, which I’d never done before. It came in at a more than respectable rate for an overactive, middle-aged, female martial artist. Unfortunately, the BMI was displayed on a print out full of additional information about my body, and one line of that little piece of paper keeps coming back to me in flashes – the line telling me my weight.
I’m disappointed in myself that though martial arts has returned me to wearing the same size I wore when I graduated high school, I still care about what the damned number on the scale says. Never mind that the number reflects muscle mass more than anything else!
The brainwashing of American women has been thorough. These Barbie Doll, size zero images that have ruled since the days of Twiggy in the late 1960s, have been ingrained as the body image to shoot for. Weighing more than a buck and a quarter is incompatible with acquiring the ideal – even when the body looks great. It’s ridiculous, but for so many women like me, it’s true – women who’ve been overweight and have gone to war with ourselves to keep from becoming so again.
I’m very happy to have dropped almost thirty pounds from the days of my depressive overeating after my mother’s death through the beginning of black sash testing. I’ve only regained five pounds or so in the fifteen months since testing ended, and I appeared to have dropped them again while training for tournaments. But I will never forget feeling too tall and too fat from about five-years-old until thirteen. And after shedding the pounds and the laughter of schoolmates and family members alike, I spent the latter part of the teen years as a bulimic, fearful of ever going back. It isn’t just societal ideals that warp the mind; one’s own experiences can do further damage.
It’s up to me to remember that those days are over. I will never be shamed again for my weight. Even if another life tragedy produces a depression that’s soothed with food, I’m capable of returning to a body that makes me happy. I’ve proven that more than once.
The scale is irrelevant. It’s up to me to remember that.