Stepping on the Scale Didn’t Help Diagnose My Fat Disorder | Don’t Weigh Me

Over the past few days a Washington Post article about patients requesting not to be weighed at the doctor’s office is making the rounds on social media.  It’s done a wonderful job rallying the anti-fat trolls.  Seriously, don’t they ever sleep?

I’ll summarize the article for those who don’t have access or time to read it.  A few years ago, Ginny Jones, an eating disorder coach who is herself in recovery, developed business cards that read “Please don’t weigh me unless it’s (really) medically necessary: if you really need my weight, please tell me why so that I can give you my informed consent.”  You can buy them on her website here.  The article goes on to present perspectives from patients as well as doctors and does its best to be balanced.  The internet hive mind, on the other hand, is vociferously against these cards, at least in my feeds, which I thought were pretty body positive.

I unfollowed most of the people I’ve seen post about this article – including some in the keto community – because they reinforced the idea that weight equals health and without knowing your weight your doctor can’t know if you are healthy.  “Give me a break!” scream some of the trolls.  “Denial!” shout others. 

I don’t know how I can say this more clearly…  For nearly 30 years I lived with an undiagnosed fat disorder.  Every doctor I saw weighed me.  Every doctor I saw mentioned my growing weight.  None of them diagnosed my lymphatic and fat disorder.  The doctor who finally recognized my lipedema, and who has treated me with great success the past two years, never once weighed me.

So how can my doctor possibly know how I’m doing?!  We talk about my symptoms, self-care regimen, and concerns.  She listens, examines my body, and gives me her advice.  I drive 15 miles out of my way, past many other doctors, to see her because she trusts me as a partner in my own health and as a reliable source of data on the state of my body.  How revolutionary is that? 

The people who are truly in denial here are not the patients – many of us have long suspected something was off about the simple calories-in-calories-out weight arithmetic peddled in diet books – it’s the greater medical community that needs to wake up.  Too many of our doctors are in denial about how woefully little they understand weight and what makes people fat.   (Hint: not always too much food and too little exercise!)  That’s the real fantasy that needs to be shattered.  That’s the denial we need to confront. 

In the meantime, no, you don’t need to weigh me.

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Be As You Are | Music Monday

Women, especially those living with lipedema, learn to apologize at an early age. We’re sorry for taking up space, having bodies that look different, and failing at diets that work perfectly for others. So many of us internalize the message that we are failing at the DIY project that is supposed to be our bodies. Sturdy readers, that is crap. It’s a big, scary pill to swallow, but you will be the most radiant, joyful, and successful when you put down everyone else’s baggage about your body. You weren’t born hating your body – the world taught you to do that. And just like anything you learned in school (except maybe math?) you are free to take it with a grain of salt. Heck, in this case, dump the whole salt shaker on that body shame nonsense and suck the life out of it. The most radical thing you can do is reclaim ownership of your self image. Play, laugh, dress up, and dance in the mirror. Better yet, skinny dip in the ocean like the people in today’s video.

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This week I am reminding myself to let go of the body shame baggage with Mike Posner’s Be As You Are. The main refrain is “just be as you are” and that’s such a beautiful reminder at the beginning of a new week. I think I’ll post that on the wall above my desk to remind me to gently excuse the world’s toxic labels and tune into a more authentic voice.

There are moments when you fall to the ground
But you are stronger than you feel you are now
You don’t always have to speak so loud
No, just be as you are
Life is not always a comfortable ride
Everybody has scars that they hide
And everybody plays the fool sometimes
Just be as you are

Mike Posner, ‘Be As You Are’

For years I entered every room braced for and anticipating failure, rejection, and chairs that couldn’t accommodate my lipedema hips. The past few years I’ve worked really hard to put down that shield and… share the precious blossom that’s me as I am. Here’s to having an authentic week!

I Like Your Waist in Particular | Music Monday

What puts a smile on your face and makes you feel at home?  Maybe it’s a familiar meal, scent, or piece of clothing.  For me, in 2017, it was a song.  I had recently moved to Boston for graduate school, straight off six years in West Africa and I was miserable.  The people were cold, and the weather was colder.  I was deep in the throes of reverse culture shock and fighting a body that, with undiagnosed lipedema, I considered enemy number one.  In Liberia my clothes had literally been tailor-made and suddenly, back in the United States, I couldn’t seem to fit my exploding upper arms and thighs into even the ugliest clothes at Goodwill.

To boost my spirits on the frigid walk to school each morning I created a playlist called “I am strong” and blasted it while wishing I was anywhere else, in any other body.    Particula by Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa was the far and away most played track on the list.  Not only does it feature cameos from some of Africa’s most well-loved modern musicians, but the beats demand to be danced to, and the fashions are the stuff of style dreams. If I closed my eyes and channeled equatorial sun, I could almost smell the now so distance mix of pepper dust and dried meat in the outdoor market or see the smiling faces of children gathered to dance on my porch. Passersby on the sidewalk couldn’t tell, but I was transported.

The lyrics start out smooth and cool.

They told me everybody’s
15 minutes in a different time zone
And since I have it at the moment
You’re the one I wanna shine my light on
Get your life, get your life, little mama
Won’t you get your life on

Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa, “Particula”

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It then progresses to some of my all-time favorite song lyrics, including “ain’t nothing cooler than the wrong moves when you do them to the right song.”  Let me tell you, nothing I did in 2017 felt cool or seemed right but I could get through it with Particula as the soundtrack.  I hope, on this Music Monday, it feels like the right song for whatever new and awkward thing you are brave enough to try. 

The song continues almost immediately with “nobody’s trying to bring sand to the beach” which always sets me off and puts me in my groove.  What a great reminder to bring something new and different… which is exactly what you are when you show up as you.  And just at the moment Particula has you wondering if it’s safe to do that, it launches into a refrain that’s perfect for Sturdy Women everywhere.

I like you, girl, in particular
You in particular
I like your waist in particular

Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa, “Particula”

The video then launches into one of the best dance sequences I’ve seen, complete with a Dance Dance Revolution battle and a synchronized performance with plastic drink crates.  If you can watch it without tapping your foot, bobbing your head, or jumping out of your chair… check your pulse.

So, my question to you, Sturdy reader, is could you dare to love your waist—your body—in particular?  What can you bring to the beach today that isn’t sand?  Could you allow yourself to do the wrong moves and trust your heart will sing the right song?  Imagine the colorful, funky, perfect dance party that would break out in your soul if you allowed yourself to feel at home here and now, exactly as you are.  Press play below and invite it in with Particula

Someday | Music Monday

Today we wrap up January, Sturdy readers.  How did it go for you?  I’ll be honest.  I haven’t written about it here, but it’s been a hard month for me.  Winter is never my season.  The cold.  The darkness.  None of it charges my batteries.  It’s no wonder, then, that over the past week I found myself listening to this week’s Music Monday selection on repeat whether walking, sitting at my desk, or dancing in the kitchen.  There are none of the horns, funky beats, or electronic hooks that I usually fall for, but “Someday” by OneRepublic is hopeful, steady, and makes me feel like I’m on the right track… all I need to do is keep going.  I’d never heard it before it popped up on my Pandora, but as soon as I realized I was bopping my head, clapping my hands, and finally breaking it down to the refrain, I knew it would be the the musical glue for my week.

Somedays I’m treading water and feel like it’s getting deep
Some nights I drown in the weight of the things that I think I need
Sometimes I feel incomplete, yeah

OneRepublic “Someday”

Do you ever feel like that, Sturdy readers?  Maybe you had some Sunday Scaries yesterday and already feel anxious about your inbox and to-do list?  Hold on.  The beat is about to pick up.

Oh, you say someday when we’re older
We’ll be shining like we’re gold
Won’t we? (Won’t we?)
Yeah, someday when we’re older
I’ll be yours, and you’ll be mine, babe, happy

Oh, you say someday when we’re older
We won’t worry about the things that we don’t need
Yeah, one day down the line
Before we both run out of time
You’re gonna see
That someday we’ll be all that we need

OneRepublic “Someday”

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Ok, Sturdy reader, who do you assume they are talking about when they say “we”?  A romantic partner?  What if the we is really more of a me?  That’s how I listen to it.  Growing up with undiagnosed lipedema, I learned to be in constant battle with my body.  Why are YOU doing this to me?  Why can’t YOU just cooperate?!  My body wasn’t me.  It was something external and insolent, something to be disciplined, fought, and ultimately corrected.

But of course, my body is me and the past year I have been on a journey to reconcile the years of abuse I waged on her.  Part of that has been reminding myself that my body and I are a we not a me and a you

With that in mind, scroll back up and re-read those lyrics. 

“Someday we’ll be all that we need.”  Take a big breath and let that soak in.  Could someday be today?  Could you make peace with yourself and your body right here and right now on a Monday?  Press play and let those beats soak in.  We are sturdy.  We are strong.  We are all that we need to light this world on fire.

Out and About: National Gallery of Art

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for nearly three years and for three years I have planned to go to the National Gallery of Art. I don’t have time. I don’t have anyone to go with. To be honest, I also didn’t want to be seen. And isn’t seeing what a museum is all about?

Women with lipedema understand the twin and often intersecting sides of being seen. People look away and ignore us, perhaps when we walk into a store to shop for clothes, or they look directly at us and judge us, possibly on public transportation or in a restaurant.

During my undergraduate years I studied history of art, often telling people I was getting my degree in beauty. The truth was, however, that I was much more interested in the deconstruction and re-imagination of beauty. Whereas centuries of art focused on seamlessly capturing – or even improving upon – reality, modern and contemporary art dares to embrace the messy everything else.

Movement. Emotion. Color. Space.

Think Jackson Pollock, who rebelled against the canon by painting on the ground rather than on an easel then, to add insult to art historical injury, launched his paint at it with a stick rather than with the neat and controlled strokes of a paintbrush. Think Frida Kahlo, who painted herself in a wheelchair and with a uni-brow even though she could have easily “fixed” her body’s “imperfections.”

What do you wish was different about your body? How can you, as your own modern artist, embrace its messy beauty and set it free to take up space? If Marcel Duchamp can turn a urinal into art by putting it in a gallery then you, my dear sturdy woman, can make your body beautiful just by setting it free in this world. Go forth and let yourself be seen!