Inspiration to change
By: Kristin Blank
It’s 2008, and I’m happy to say that my body mass index, or BMI, is 24, healthy. But it wasn’t always that way.
At my first Weight Watchers meeting in January 2002—at a strip-mall squeezed next to an aromatic Chinese restaurant—my sister Jennifer and I filled out registration forms and waited to step on one of three electronic scales.
I observed the other women. Some looked too skinny to need the program. Eventually, I became one of these women, working to maintain weight loss, an equally daunting challenge, I would discover. Others looked just like me, flabby skin sweaty with the exhaustion of hauling ourselves around.
I stared at the blank space on the form that read “Starting Weight.” I never let anyone know my weight and got red-faced when even a nurse found out. I didn’t even know the exact number, but figured it sat somewhere around 200. I closed my eyes and climbed on the scale. This is the last time I have to be ashamed, I thought. It can only go down from here.
The woman directed us to the meeting room. I peeked at the box: 238. Oh, God. Don’t cry.
I knew the world thought I was fat; I knew my body was larger than other bodies. But that number innocently staring up at me was like a floodlight on my mind—I was massive. I can’t do this, I thought. I’ll never do it. I pushed this little voice down and away.
I glanced at Jennifer’s paper—220—and showed her mine. Neither of us could believe I weighed that much. I told myself then that I must have carried those 238 pounds exceptionally well.
I found out that night that to be healthy, at 5 feet, 6 inches, I should weigh no less than 124 pounds and no more than 142 pounds—at least 100 pounds had to come off.
I filled out a true-or-false questionnaire that evaluated one’s readiness for permanent weight loss. “Losing weight will solve all my problems.” The right answer: False. My secret answer: Absolutely.
And, the biggest shock: I found out my BMI.
That January night in 2002, my BMI was 39.7. A BMI of 20 to 25 is healthy, and a BMI over 30 is considered “very overweight (obese).” I was nearly 10 points above “obese,” which meant I was unbelievably obese, send-in-the-clowns obese, morbidly obese.
I’d never defined myself by that term—who would want to call themselves morbidly anything? Morbid equals rotten, near death, odorous, gruesome, or somehow depraved. He took morbid satisfaction in pinning live insects to cardboard and watching them writhe.
To be morbidly obese meant I was hopeless, completely disgusting, fit to be examined beneath glass, but never touched with bare hands.
I sighed. So, some people considered me morbidly obese—good for them. I chose: Inspired. Worthwhile. Ready.