I see my new doctor furrow his brow as he types something on to my file: obesity.
“Don’t worry,” he tells me as I stare at the screen. “It’s just a random combination of numbers.” He may be right. Body Mass Index (BMI), the scale that measures weight to height ratios, is an arbitrary score based on how much space I take up in this world.
To be honest, I take up a lot of space. An obese BMI starts at 30. Mine is 33. He mentions to me that he’s referring me to a nutritionist, as well as the clinic’s laboratory to get blood work done, “just to make sure everything is fine.”
It’s not fine. The next day, I get a call. The blood work comes back, and I have high cholesterol and am borderline prediabetic. Classic symptoms of obesity, a condition with which I am now labeled.
The nurse on the other end of the line tells me that it’s nothing to worry about, and with lifestyle changes, I will be able to get my numbers under better control.
Here’s a hint: lifestyle changes means losing weight.
I haven’t always been obese, though. One could say that I’m new to the term. In 2014, I started a new medication, and gained 50 pounds in less than a year and a half. No one told me when starting this drug that a large amount of weight gain was to be expected.
However, the next thing I know, it’s all about “moderate aerobic activity,” “five servings of fruits and vegetables,” and, of course, “lifestyle changes.” I’ve personally found that the healthcare system sees me as obese before they see me as a person.
Even when the random combination of numbers classified me as just overweight, I’ve heard about my need to drop some pounds from the most random healthcare providers.
From the walk-in appointments at KSC’s Center for Health and Wellness where I’m being tested for strep throat, to Planned Parenthood, mid-IUD insertion. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m being lectured about portion control when there’s a speculum involved.
The weirdest thing about being obese, though, is the idea that there’s no doctor or nurse telling me why my body is this way or how to get my size under control. It’s just a prescription for weight loss without a pharmacy to fill the order.
This situation sounds dismal, and, sometimes, I feel hopeless. However, the lab results were a wakeup call. I’m 20 years old, and it’s time I make some lifestyle changes to improve my own health and quality of life, not to make some random nurse satisfied with what she sees when I step on the scale.
Thankfully, there are some solutions I’ve found lately. The nutritionist at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Keene is phenomenal.
For the first time in my life as an obese person, a professional is giving me clear ideas about how to lower my blood sugar and cholesterol. My first meeting with my personal trainer at KSC’s Recreation Center and Spaulding Gymnasium is this week. I’m starting to see my body as a resource for my life’s goals, instead of seeing it as the enemy on my quest to satisfaction.
As someone who has recovered from an eating disorder, this is monumental. The resources available just here in Keene and at KSC make me feel like I have some sort of control over my health.
While I haven’t accessed many of the options at KSC to seek a healthier life other than personal training, there definitely are more out there. I saw on the KSC website that there’s free Nutrition Coaching, which is a great resource for students. From the time back where I had a meal plan, I remember seeing healthy options (even though I often didn’t choose them.) Lloyd’s Marketplace recently incorporated a smoothie bar to get some servings of fruit and vegetables alongside your chicken tenders. At the Zorn Dining Commons, different food options are labeled for their nutrition benefits. I am glad KSC has these opportunities to seek a healthier life, and I wish I accessed them more.
Many students fear gaining weight at college, but here there are resources here to maintain wellness during this time in our lives.
It’s important to remember that a “random combination of numbers” such as a BMI doesn’t define you, and neither does your health. While I look forward to my journey to have a stronger relationship with my well-being, I recognize the importance of being true to myself. For the first time, life as an obese woman feels okay.
Abby Shepherd can be contacted at email@example.com