Remember when you were a kid and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? I wanted to be the first female President (stay tuned…there’s still time!). Somewhere along the way, I let myself get pulled in another direction. I joined the Air Force instead. I was a bright-eyed, energetic girl on my way to boot camp.
What the heck did I sign up for?!
My favorite part was actually the physical training. I loved being active! I loved hard workouts and I loved that feeling of satisfaction after you were done. I also loved being more physically fit than most of my squad mates (even the men).
In high school, I had run track, played soccer, held World records in powerlifting and was a cheerleader. I loved sports! Then, something unexplainable happened.
I took my first military physical fitness test, and I barely passed. Even though I passed my fitness portions with flying colors, I weighed too much according to military standards. I had gone from extremely fit to fat in the blink of an eye.
When I joined, the military used body mass index (BMI) as one of the fitness components. BMI is purely weight divided by height. I was 5’6” (168cm), 155lbs (70.3kg), and I was considered overweight.
I was told I needed to lose weight or they would put me on the remedial Fitness Improvement Program. This could have career implications, would negatively affect my performance appraisals, and if I could not stay within the standard, I could even be kicked out of the military.
I was devastated! How could I possibly maintain this standard? I thought I was super fit already.
That was when the purging began. Working out was obviously not going to be enough to maintain an acceptable weight, so I thought I just needed to get rid of the food I ate. Turns out that is not an effective weight loss tactic either. I was still barely passing the BMI.
I started squeezing in a work out whenever I could—before school, between classes, after school. This was in addition to the military training we were doing every day.
But, you know how it is, it seems the harder you try, the more stubborn the weight is. I wasn’t getting any lighter.
In reality, I was starving my body. I had slowed my metabolism, and my body was hanging onto fat for survival. I had no energy, I wasn’t sleeping at night, and I could barely stay awake during my classes. I was completely exhausted!
I graduated the Air Force Academy, reported to my first base, and my first Commander nicknamed me the “Chubby Bunny.” I was mortified! Now I was a “Chubby Bunny”?! Another blow to the already struggling self-esteem, so the cycle continued.
At some point, the military changed from BMI to a waist measurement. Now, if your waist is too big, you can fail your test. Sure this number has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but I didn’t have any indicators of cardiovascular disease. My resting heart rate was in the 50s, my lipids were low, and my blood pressure was normal. This change wasn’t an improvement over the previous standard.
In my first command, my next level commander (who was tall, rail-thin and had severe back problems due to a lack of muscle and flexibility) told me he knew I could run circles around him and that I was extremely fit, but I needed to “look the part and lose some weight.”
In the military, a commander can enroll you in the Fitness Improvement Program if they think you do not look professional, even if you have passed all the portions of your fitness test.
Now, I was contending with not only a waist measurement but also one man’s subjective opinion of my appearance.
At every turn, the message that I was fat and that my weight and appearance were unacceptable were reinforced by people in power positions. I was clearly healthy and fit, but for the military, I wasn’t good enough.
Maybe, someday, the military will join the Health at Every Size® (HAES®) movement and realize that you can be healthy and fit at any weight, size or shape.
Health At Every Size® supports 5 beautiful Principles:
- Weight Inclusivity seeks to Accept and Respect the inherent diversity of body
shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights. Your weight, size or shape does not define you or your value.
- Health Enhancement supports health policies that improve and equalize
access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs. Our health is holistic. We have to satisfy all of these needs to be healthy. Being at an ideal weight does not mean you are healthy, just as having extra weight doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy.
- Respectful Care acknowledges our biases, and works to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. It provides information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and supports environments that address these inequities.
- Eating for Well-being promotes flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control. Your body is smarter than you think. It will tell you what it needs. We just need to learn to tune in to what it’s telling us.
- Life-Enhancing Movement supports physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose. Being healthy doesn’t require killing yourself in the gym. This can often be counterproductive. Being active can be playing with your kids, taking the dog for a walk in the park, doing a few minutes of stretching every day. The goal is to move your body in a way that make your mind and body happy.
The Health At Every Size® movement boils down to one guiding idea. You are perfect just as you are. Live the life that You choose that makes You happy.
For more information on HAES®, check out https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/
If you’re struggling with Bulimia or a Binge Eating Disorder, you may need a helping hand to see your way to the other side.
Are you ready to transition from a life focused on food and your weight to one filled with comfort and joy?
If you weave even a few of the habits we spoke about into your daily life, you’ll be well on your way.
But, what’s next?
Come check out my webinar.
It’s been creating quite a buzz, so seats are filling up fast. Try and register as soon as possible so you don’t miss out.
I’m looking forward to seeing you there!
~Love. ~Live. ~Connect.