The life of a woman in 2012 often feels like a numbers game. The number of calories in each granola bars, the number of times per week you go to the gym, number of ounces of water you “need” to drink each day, the number of hours you sleep each night (and what time that sleep starts, even!) and the ultimate number: your weight.
I’ve been working for years to see beyond the numbers. When I was on the crew team in college, it became abundantly clear that the sleep number mattered most (though it was thoroughly unattainable), and the calories and number on the scale needed to cease to matter – only with this view did I turn into a strong woman with broad shoulders (I literally had to go out and buy new shirts) and strong calves. But in the post-college world, I’m surrounded by numbers again, and seemingly ridiculous ways to reach them. Why give up running if it’s your passion, just because it’s forcing your weight to plateau? And can you really live a life without chocolate (who would want to??)?
Recently, Alice Randall penned a New York Times Op-Ed calling for black women to commit to setting a new standard for curves and getting under 200 pounds. I don’t disagree with her health-based reasoning – I operate on the idea that you should avoid every kind of cancer you can (because they might sneak up on you anyway) and that theory can extend to other diseases. But what I really love about her writing is the blow-back it’s gotten and the debate it started.
All the opinions are interesting, especially the way they question stereotypes about fat and thin people, but the message that I really love here is that instead of focusing on any one number, we’re bringing it back to health. How much fat do you have around your heart, rather than how much weight is around your hips. How often you dare to take the huge staircase at work instead of who wears an XS top and who’s in an XXL. And who is moving, shaking, and living their life, and going to get more out of it as a result.
This is my goal: to feel strong, and hot, and like I can take on anything without starting to wheeze. To look good in my clothes no matter what size they may be. And not to punish myself with ill-fitting clothes because I’m striving to be a perfect size __, and still working every day to be a better ME. And doing it in a way that makes me happy - Hunger Games gym classes, post-work swims, and everything in between, no matter what parts of me get overly muscular and what parts stop shrinking.
Because what really matters is the life that these numbers help you live – and at the end of the day, isn’t it better to enjoy life than to stop and measure?
What do you think about Randall’s article and these responses?