Chapter Two: The Numbers Game
When I was thirteen or fourteen I remember my doctor sitting me down with a concerned look on his face and overtly telling me that I was overweight. I had gained an exponential amount of weight in less than a year and unfortunately had not experienced the boost in height that would have lessened the concern. Being alarmed with the number of pounds that I had put on, he immediately pulled out a BMI (body mass index) chart to show me where I stood based on my weight and height compared to where I should have been. My BMI teetered on the edge of obesity and being the good doctor that he was, he made it quite clear that if I continued down this destructive path, my weight would spiral even more out of control.
At this point in the conversation he arrived at one conclusion: that I was to see a nutritionist who would fix all of my problems and set me back on the right track toward a healthy weight. Being young and susceptible to the influences of the doctor and my mother at the time, I agreed to do as the doctor ordered and enter a program in which I would meet periodically with said trained nutritionist to try and fix whatever the problem was.
My first appointment with the nutritionist came the following month and in what seemed like no time at all I found myself face to face with the very large Hulk-like Pete, who upon first inspection seemed more qualified to be a linebacker than a health professional. Despite my skepticism of the hulk’s qualifications, I sat down and got acquainted with my new ally in the fight against obesity. In less than an hour we outlined a plan of attack, which more or less focused on me keeping written tabs on everything that went into my mouth and every physical activity that I was doing outside of my normal routine, which to Pete was a flawless plan. I, however, knew better than to overestimate my attention to detail at that age. With my skepticism still in check I made my way out of the office and back to my life, silently hoping that Pete’s faith in me wasn’t misplaced.
A couple weeks had passed and I found myself in a constant battle with my memory to write down what I was eating, the serving size and time of each meal, and the amount of physical activity in my day. Each day I would remember to write down one meal only to forget the next and by the time the end of the month rolled around I had nothing more than a dozen or so items logged in my journal. My next appointment had come and the disappointment on Pete’s face was visible and overtly present in the lecture that followed. What made the appointment even worse was that I hadn’t lost any weight since the last visit. After he finished reprimanding me, I left the office feeling low; low enough to down my feelings in whatever food I could get my hands on.
In the following weeks I continued trying to keep track of my food intake, but to no avail. By the time our third appointment had rolled around I had done just as poorly as the last visit. Instead of facing Pete’s disappointment, however, I decided to go through my journal and make up every single meal for the last month. I added a fruit here and subtracted a brownie there until I had successfully created a food journal that could fool the great and mighty Hulk. Luckily for me, my deception went off without a hitch. Pete was more than delighted with my journal, while I was secretly ashamed that I was fooling someone who only wanted to help me.
Despite my shame, I continued to do this month after month in order to avoid that look upon his face; I would fabricate the contents of the journal to appease Pete while constantly fighting myself to do a better job of keeping up with the journal. After several months had passed and my weight had begun to increase again, contradicting the contents of my journal, Pete finally caught on to my lies. In no time at all I found myself at the receiving end of a lecture that could only end one way: with me confessing everything and Pete expressing his utter disappointment with my failures. The only difference this time was that instead of giving it another go, he decided that maybe it was best if we were to take a break because I clearly didn’t want to put in the appropriate amount of effort. He told me that he felt like he was wasting his time and for me to come back when I was willing to make the changes I needed to make in order to lose the excess weight.
I left the office feeling like I had not only let Pete down, but myself as well. I spent the following days retracing my failures and trying to figure out where it all went wrong, only to find myself obsessing over the numbers: my weight, height, BMI, serving sizes, calories; all of the things that would push themselves to the forefront of my mind because it seemed like the numbers were the only thing that mattered. To thirteen year old me it seemed like the numbers, to some extent, were all that my doctor, Pete, and parents cared about. It wasn’t about helping with my deeply rooted self-esteem issues or setting me up for a healthier life; to me they only cared about me reaching a stupid number that says nothing about who I am.
In the months between my annual physical and the end of my monthly sessions with Pete, a part of me had changed; I had taken on the notion that my weight issues could be fixed by reaching the numeric ideal that all of the adults in my life had in mind. I became obsessed with the notion that the numbers were the key, something that I would take with me in the years that followed every single time I raised a fork to my mouth or stepped on a scale or measured out a bowl of cereal. The numbers became a part of me; the numbers became the ghosts that would haunt me throughout my teenage years and into my early adult life.
That’s all I have for now.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry