Happiness Scales

I am overweight.

That’s what the color-coded table on the wall behind the scale says. That’s what the nurse wrote down on my chart. That must be true.

After all, these are the experts. The doctors, the graphs, the numbers. They know.

I’ve never seen them do it before, maybe I never noticed. I’ve been the same weight for about a year now, give or take. After my body hoarded fat for a while as it tried to rebalance after 15 years of an eating disorder, it’s finally calmed down. It’s landed and settled. It’s a lovely place to be, because I feel happy for my body. Like it finally trusts me again.

Like it knows I’m not going to starve it anymore.

I feel amazing. But I’m overweight. That’s the word. For my height, if I weigh this number, I go into an “orange zone.” It’s not the “normal” zone. It’s over the line. I’ve gone too far. Medically, I set off an alarm.

There is no category for “underweight.” Not on the chart behind the scale. I looked. My old weight, the weight range I was before I got healthy, it isn’t even listed. It’s not worth the effort of assigning a color. I weighed myself obsessively every single day for years, and I know all the numbers. Not one of them was on that scale.

Only two doctors ever seemed alarmed by this. The one who diagnosed me with an eating disorder when I was 18, who never saw my face again, and another one that mentioned it in a laughing way. Kind of like, “you should get a little meat on your bones!”

The number didn’t need to be highlighted and labeled. I was hurting myself. I was nutrient deprived and anemic. I was often weak and shaky. Mentally, I was tortured.

Today I feel great. I weight what I weigh. My clothes fit. I can run 5k on the treadmill just fine. I can ride a bike all around the city. I can do all the yoga poses I need to in a class. I can dance for hours if I go out, gleefully so. I can do super hard butt and ab workouts, even though they aren’t fun, while my “normal” weight husband has to stop and rest at least as much or more than I do.

Today, at the doctor, all my tests check out. He has no worries. I’m healthy and, as he says, an “easy” patient. Everything is fine. I feel great.

But there is a solid black line that my number of pounds lives to the right of, and so I get a label that means “wrong” and “unhealthy” and, to many people, “bad.”

Today, I’m sitting with this. With the labels the medical community puts on a person, based on height and weight alone. Two numbers, no other factors, that, when plugged into an equation, determine what a person “is.”

It’s a powerful word to sit with for someone who spent the first three decades of her life obsessed with being perfect. Consumed with becoming a person no one could ever label in any negative way at all- not if she had anything to do with it.

I understand it’s just one easy way they can add up a few different things to determine your risk factors, health-wise. I get the big picture. I wasn’t shamed by my doctor or made to feel less than (although I have experienced fat-shaming by another doctor, which was a horrific experience, and definitely a story for another blog post).

I did take note, however. I noticed that that nurse put her finger on the chart, drew it across the line, mumbled “overweight” to herself, and wrote it down. I thought about how many perfectly healthy people have that same moment. How many women especially see that label and it hits them where it hurts.


Not normal. Not healthy. Not the right shape.

Overweight. A word we equate with all the other ridiculous labels we use. Fat. Chubby. Heavy. Whatever.

Something about that system feels off. It feels like we could do it better. It feels like we have some labeling and shaming that isn’t necessary. I don’t know how to fix it, but something didn’t sit right today.

I’m overweight, according to a brightly colored chart.

I’m healthy, according to my doctor.

I’m finally free and happy, according to me.

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