Lord Voldemort and THAT Number

And just like that, I can’t drink sugar drinks.  I thought that I bypassed a potential downfall. I saw the number, you know, that evil number that cannot be named, kind of like Lord Voldemort: “He who shall not be named”. I saw my weight. “That number that shall not be named.” (This is where we all cringe.) It was written on a tiny slip of paper, from the doctor’s office. They know not to tell me the number, but for some reason, they don’t know not to send it home with me. My two-year-old pulled it from my purse, and it was scribbled on the back along with my blood pressure, which for some reason, is so much more benign. I don’t remember that one. Go figure. But the weight is forever etched in my memory.   I haven’t actually known it for, well, years. Not since the collision I had with it in the OB’s office when I was pregnant with said toddler in 2012.   Then, I was so irate that I found a new doctor to deliver my baby, all because she slipped and told me my weight. It is absurd. I know.

It’s a number. My relationship with the gravitational force on planet earth. It would be quite different on Mars. It is always changing. Always.   Just like my blood pressure, or pulse, or vitamin D level. It has no bearing on my quality as a human being. And knowing it is not going to suddenly make me obese. These are rational thoughts. Yeah me! But my reaction in that moment of holding that scrap of paper was much more visceral and totally limbic. You would have thought that piece of paper was on fire. I dropped it immediately on the floor, only picking it up ever so gingerly to toss it in the garbage.

I want nothing to do with it that number that shall not be named. But somehow, it still defines me, and it defines me no more now that I know it than it did when I was running away from it, begging everyone else to pretend like it didn’t exist. The fear of that number defined me. It is funny how the eating disorder recovery community shields those seeking recovery from knowing the number. I get it. We are obsessed. We don’t need to know what the number is every time we get on the scale. But backwards weighing can be as much of a trap as running to the scale every time you go pee. I liked to pretend that I was weightless, that the number didn’t even exist. But the number does exist, as simply that: a number. And nothing more. It may or may not be an indicator of health. How it computes into the arbitrary value that provides the Body Mass Index that places us into arbitrary categories of thin, normal, overweight, and obese makes no difference. This is what I think. But it is not what I believe deep down.

For several days after my two-year-old showed me my weight on that fated scrap of paper, I was okay. My eating didn’t change. I even debated the idea that it could have been an acceptable number. Really, it was alright. It was pretty average. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? I worked for twenty years to keep it far below average. When it got up to the acceptable range, I certainly did NOT want to hear about it.   But I decided that day, or I thought that I decided, that changing that normal healthy number to a lower number would cost too much. It wouldn’t be worth it. As it settled over the next several days, however, I felt like I had swallowed a rock that grew heavier and heavier. I couldn’t bear it. The number has to change, now that I know it. The craziest part is, however, that I still refuse to weigh myself or know that blasted number. Therefore, the theoretical number has to go down.   This creates a great crisis in that my quality of life must go down in proportion to the number. This sucks. In addition, this risks the quality of life for my children and the quality of relationship with my husband. Thus, it is a pendulum. I had a few days of navel-gazing, where I started to cut out more food than my life could handle. I realized this after about three days of being afraid that I would pass out while caring for my children and staring petrified into the pit of eating disorder hell again.


So the meals are back. But all of the sudden, a few rules remain: 1. No. More. Ice. Cream. This a great loss, and it is directly going against my dietician. Ice cream is a daily requirement; 2. No sweets in general; 3. No snacking; 4. And finally, no sweetened drinks.   And this brings me to my crisis tonight. The husband called from Sonic to see if I wanted something to drink. The drinks that I have come to enjoy, albeit full of sugar but so delicious, are now off-limits. Not wanting to set off an eating disorder alarm in his very sweet and concerned brain, I asked for one of my normal drinks. But I can’t drink it. I have been battling this sweet tea all evening. A sip here and there, accompanied by fifty shades of guilt. But I gave up. The guilt was too overwhelming, so I grabbed a dang powerade zero.

Oh, these rules. And as I circle this mountain again, I guess that this is where I cry out for mercy and grace. The rules only build on one another. They are magnets, and they draw more and more unrealistic ideals into your life until you are living a daily death that becomes to overwhelming to bear up under. They are insidious, but I have enough experience to recognize them if I just step back.   It is okay to drink sweet tea. It is okay to be a normal weight. It is okay to live a meaningful life apart from size. It is actually desirable and wonderful. It is okay to eat ice cream every day if your dietician tells you to. That’s what you pay her for. To tell you to eat ice cream because you are pouring your breast milk into your ravenous little babies. They like ice-cream flavored booby milk. It’s okay to eat snacks. They keep your blood sugar from teetering over the precipice of catastrophe (no, I promise I’m not exaggerating there).

So I’m not super-duper-thrilled-want-to-shout-my-weight-from-the-rooftops happy about the number. So what? My life is meaningful and blessed. I love my family, and I can honestly say that I have been doing what is best for my body and my health every day.   I have never been able to say that before. Am I really willing to give all this up to try to drop a few arbitrary numerical representations of my relationship with gravity? I certainly hope not. Unfortunately, because I am slightly insane, I have to wait and see if I can act out recovery tomorrow. But at least I know that I can reason pretty well. Here goes hoping that my reasoning is enough to light a fire under my stubborn, emotional butt.

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Pastor Al Gilbert

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