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Psalms for Black Girls, weight and health

Source: iOne Creative / iOne

So, a national coalition of women’s health organizations and advocates recently came up with the bright idea to have physicians “counsel” midlife women on our weight at doctor’s visits and now I want to punch a wall because my God, really, do we need to officially weaponize yet another group of people to talk crazy to us about our bodies?

I mean, I’m 54 now and let pop culture tell it, if I’m looking like my celeb contemporaries—like Mary J. Blige or J. Lo or Jada Pinkett Smith, all of whom are thin and muscular and put-together and sexy—I’m looking good for my age, right? And if I don’t look like them, well, I’m letting age get the best of me, and falling down a slippery slope headfirst into a consortium of life-threatening disease. Or at the very least, I’m expected to submit myself to a very public flogging at the hands of the same type of Neanderthals who body-shame Lizzo and question her health and well-being for sport, or who write foul comments beneath the IG photos of women who don’t fit society’s “ideal” body shape—whatever that is—questioning their life choices, eating habits and health status.

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Like we women don’t already look in the mirror every minute of every single day and talk crazy to ourselves—“Like, girl, look at your belly—maybe you need to wear two layers of Spanx with that dress,” and “Ugh, why your thighs jiggling like cheap jello?” and “Are those arms or bat wings?” And now, the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI) of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), says we must stand on a scale at the doctor’s office and get throttled about the head by our physicians, too?

I mean, I don’t know about yall’s doctor visits, but my anxiety and self-doubt already are on DEFCON 1 levels when I go for my annual physical, where I’m consistently told I weigh too much and, let my Body Mass Index (BMI) tell it, I’m technically obese. A couple years ago, my weight triggered an automatic message from my insurance company, gently telling me to exercise, eat more fruits and veggies, meditate, sleep more, and get some of the weight off my fat ass or else I’mma get some awful disease and die. (Okay, there’s some dramatic license in the last part, but the message was received in that way all the same.) That email was on my phone before I even got back to my car, and it made me feel terrible. TERRIBLE. Like a failure.

What my doctor’s automatic response to my weight (and that automatic email from my insurance company) didn’t consider is that I haven’t been my “ideal” weight since junior year in college, when I was (barely) surviving on ramen and PB&J sandwiches and regularly dropped weight by restricting my diet to sherbert and popcorn. Beyond that, my physician really does act like I’m lying when I tell her I lift weights three times a week, power walk at least two miles a day around my hilly neighborhood, run up and down at least 20 flights per day in my three-level condo, and eat more vegetables and fruits than most of the vegetarians I know. The fact that my cholesterol, blood pressure, A1C levels (a barometer for diabetes) and the like are normal means nothing because I look fat and my BMI agrees with this assessment, and so I must be counseled on the importance of not getting fatter. Because, you know, I’m not already obsessed about such things.

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Here’s what this “midlife” woman wishes, and I know I’m not alone on this one: I wish people would stop making assumptions about a person’s health based on how they look or what their dress size is. At 5’1” and 173 lbs, I’m technically obese, but healthy AF.

My mama, on the other hand, was thin as a rail and died suddenly of a heart attack at age 62. Of all my friends, I’m the biggest of the bunch, but the smallest amongst us has battled more health issues more than any one person should bear. Lizzo ain’t no little woman, by any stretch, but she’s a vegan and twerks and plays wind instruments for 90 minutes every night while on tour; meanwhile, Ye had lipo and got addicted to opioids, and honestly, these days, he ain’t looking like nobody’s prize. This is to say that weight is not the sole standard barometer of someone’s health.

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You would think this consortium of doctors and women’s advocates would be clear on this and overstand the psychological implications of “counseling” us about something we already obsess over. Here’s a thought: how about these doctors who claim to care so much about midlife women, oh, I don’t know, study and give us counseling on things that truly matter to us but remain elusive—like menopause and all the ways our bodies change because of it, or stress and all the ways our bodies respond (and bend) to it, or sexual health and all the ways we should be counseling midlife women about getting our grooves back, or the efficacy of using BMI as a barometer for a human’s health, particularly considering it doesn’t differentiate between body fat and muscle and doesn’t take into account diet, exercise or genetics.

Now those things I would happily listen to while I’m sitting in my ob-gyn’s office, legs spread akimbo with her face all up in my lady parts.

RELATED CONTENT: Black Women’s Bodies Is None Of Your Damn Business

In the meantime, I’ll be steeling myself for this dumb “be careful not to gain weight” talk from my doctor by reminding myself that I am enough, and that I will not let some ridiculous (and arguably inaccurate) measure of my weight negate the fact that I do take care of this glorious machine that is my body—that I do treat it with the care and love that it deserves, and that I will be gentle with myself and remember that I arrived on this planet already innately enough, “without caveat or addendum” as body activist Sonya Renee Taylor says.

I am enough. I am doing what I can. This body is divine. A message necessary at every age, for every single body.

*HelloBeautiful hosted a Twitter Space discussion titled “Let’s Talk: Plus Size,” on Oct. 25, which included HB’s social media manager Char Masona; Bossip’s editorial director Janee Bolden; MADAMENOIRE‘s managing editor Ida Harris and its social media manager Tiffany smith; and iOne Digital senior vice president Allison McGevna. Readers can catch up on the conversation below:

 

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