Why Did It Matter To Me So Much If My Boyfriend Knew How Much I Weighed?
So last year, when I still worked at BuzzFeed, I did a video about trying a DNA Fitness analysis program called Fitness Genes. At the time that I did it I was at my heaviest weight in the last 10 years, and also in a relationship with my now ex-boyfriend. For those of you that didn't watch the video, Fitness Genes was a truly revolutionary experience for me, and I managed to lose 11 lbs in the first 30 days of doing the program.
Excited to share my journey with my then boyfriend, one day we cozied on up on his couch and I pulled up the video to show him. So we’re watching the beginning where I’m talking about my past, and this slight tingle of insecurity pricks at the roof of my mouth as my tongue rubs hard against the ridges because these horrible photos of me pop up on screen.
And let me tell y’all, these photos aren’t necessarily bad because I’m fat, but more so because during that time in my life, I literally only wore matching, obscenely bright-colored tracksuits (LOL). And don’t get me started on my bangs.
But if I’m also being real, a little part of it was also because I was afraid of him suddenly thinking that if I ever stopped working out, then I would go back to looking like that, and he would no longer want me. It was a hard thought to stomach at the time because I knew I was a body positive feminist who shouldn't feel fear about her body potentially changing in the future because we’re human, and it happens.
But it was also an even more interesting thought to have considering that when me and my ex first met, I was probably somewhere between 188-193 lbs; the heaviest I’d been in the last 10 years. And I can honestly say he loved and caressed every inch of it, and never made me feel weird about my size even though he weighed less than me. He’s actually one of the very few people that I would feel confident in saying that he would love me unconditionally at any size.
And yet still, I found myself experiencing this fat guilt; like I wanted to apologize for having let myself get that way at some point in my life, but also reassure him that he would never have to worry about it happening again.
I think everyone gets embarrassed at showing old photos of themselves, but there’s just something about when you used to be fat. It’s like a double-whammy of embarrassment; or I guess it’s the routine embarrassment of the weird shit you did/wore in your past, and then the fat guilt. And I guess fear as well; the fear that they are willing to accept you now that you’re at a tolerable size, but then that they will always be nervous about you potentially slipping back.
And then on top of all of that, I also realized that it was the first time that I told him about my disordered eating problems, which comes with a whole other bag of emotions to deal with because you feel like people are going to overly scrutinize when you eat, and how much you eat (another blog post for another time).
So we continue to make it through the video, and as the pre-30 day stats pop up on screen, which have my weight listed on them, I suddenly feel those pricks of insecurity that I was feeling in my mouth earlier spread throughout my entire body like as if I were covered in fire ants. My skin felt like it was radiating a sweltering heat, and my head felt like I was in an invisible neck brace that had my head locked into place, and unable to look over to my boyfriend.
Now while I know I said my ex would love me unconditionally at any size (and I truly did believe that), for some reason I just couldn’t shake this wave of insecurity. Then suddenly my mind became flooded with beliefs that I didn't even realize that I had been harboring for all these years.
I remember thinking that there was something about not knowing what your weight number was that made “loving you at any size” a possibility. I suddenly acknowledged that I had this weird belief in my head that by my boyfriend not knowing my weight number this somehow made me look skinnier to him; that there was something about putting a number to it that would suddenly make me look heavier, which came with a subtle-not-so-subtle implication of unattractiveness.
Coming to this realization annoyed the fuck out of me. Why was I so self-conscious about him knowing how much I weighed (especially when I literally just showed the entire internet with no problem)? Why did I fear the possibility of him putting on the "heavy goggles" when he looked at me by knowing my weight (also given the fact that we started dating while I was at my heaviest)? And more importantly, why did my body looking heavier in my eyes always correlate with being unattractive, as I've known plenty of heavier set women in my life who I truly believe look bangin af? For some reason, it was always so hard to see the beauty I see on them within myself.
This moment made me realize how rare, and often, taboo it was (and still is) for women to talk about how much they weigh, especially in a dating/relationship context. Even though I don't think you should have to share how much you weigh with your bae (or anyone), I also don't think you should have anything to fear if you do end up in a situation where they find out. It makes me sad to think about how much stress I put on myself in that moment, when my ex literally couldn't have given a damn.
We literally finished the video, he complimented me on how well it came out, gave me a kiss, and we went on with our day. He never looked at me funny, or made me feel weird about what I ate. He never put pressure on me to maintain a certain look. He just continued to love, and accept me for who I was. So why, given that I was in a loving and accepting relationship environment, did I still feel so much stress and discomfort about sharing my weight?
Why the fuck did I care so much?
I remember this saying growing up that you never ask a woman about her age, her weight, and her height (although I'm not so sure about the last one). And now, as someone that is growing older and starting to question things that I’ve been blindly following for all these years, I gotta be real and say that I hate how as women we are taught to fear, hide and despise our weight. I hate that we are taught to always see shame in the number that the scale reflects back at us, regardless of how big or how small we are.
I have been a multitude of sizes throughout my whole life, and unfortunately, the one unifying experience about all the sizes I’ve been is that I never felt good or desirable at any of them until most recently. In every picture I took in my past I always felt like I had this never ending 10 lbs to lose; that my true beauty was being covered underneath those constantly lingering 10 lbs.
And this feeling of discomfort is even more interesting to me given that I've almost never looked the same despite being the same weight at different points in my life. The way I looked at 193 this last time around is astronomically different than how I looked like at 193 as a teenager. I feel like there are so many subconscious, and oftentimes, untruthful associations with someone’s weight and their physical capabilities that have played into my feelings of discomfort
Like some people think someone who’s close to 200 lbs hates walking, has no stamina, and is ridiculously out of shape. I don't drive. So I usually walk everywhere I need to go, and I remember a time that a guy friend who was probably around 10-20 lbs lighter than me complain about walking like 3 blocks to go to a taco truck.
I have literally gone out dancing for hours, and maybe stopped for a break once or twice. And this is all while I was in 190 lbs range. Now to preface this, I’ve built a lot of muscle underneath my fat all these years since I first started working out. So I was definitely a different 190 than someone who doesn't work out at all. But if anything, it adds to my point that the literal number you weigh has no correlation to your capabilities. Are you going to find a woman that is 190 and out of shape, sure? But just because that is possible doesn’t mean that you won’t find a woman that is 190, and could out run you in a marathon. So again why, knowing this, was I still so stressed to share it?
Maybe it was from that time when I found out during my senior year in college that there used to be an old tradition where graduating women would post their height and weight in the school newspaper for a prospective husband to “size” them up. And maybe it was also the fact that I found out that the tradition only stopped in the 80s (literally only 30 years ago).
I think even though I was lucky to be in such a body positive relationship, my discomfort about sharing my weight reflected how deep those old patriarchal traditions and attitudes still affected me. Despite my ex-boyfriend's actions, I think I felt like deep down he had to (whether consciously or subconsciously) care about what my weight was and what it implied because of the historical context of knowing about these kinds of traditions, and just knowing in general how much society is obsessed with scrutinizing a woman's weight.
But in many ways I'm appreciative of this experience because it also made me see just how subconscious some of these problematic societal norms were, and how deeply they lived within myself. It made me realize how important it is for even body positive folks to acknowledge where they, too can have dormant patriarchal thoughts that might be secretly enforcing their own oppression.
While my ex and I are no longer together for other reasons, I am proud of my ability to acknowledge that I was the main source of a lot of my weight insecurities within our relationship. I'm proud to know that I could recognize what was him and what was me, and that I did not make him out to be the source of my problems just because of my knowledge of those traditional societal standards. While society still plays a huge role in why I harbor those negative thoughts about my weight being known in the public space, and has a lot of work to do in adapting its attitudes about women's weight in the public space, this experience has also equally highlighted for me the importance of us as women to be in conversation with ourselves about the times in which we might be sourcing and reinforcing our insecurities.
Just because men have traditionally created these insecurities doesn't always mean that they are the ones that are enforcing it. And if we truly want to "smash the patriarchy" as we say so much on social media, sometimes that also means having the humility to dig a little bit deeper into our body positive feminist selves. As products of the patriarchy, we also need to become comfortable with acknowledging the fact that we might hold conflicting ideologies within us , and but humble ourselves to find the solution that allows us to do and be better.
I don't think that you should share anything that you're not comfortable sharing, but I would like to propose that as a society we could work on getting to a place where the idea of sharing our weight doesn't make us do mental gymnastics, and feels as casual as putting in your coffee order.