Numbers Talk… But Who’s Listening?

Filed in Health & Fitness, Relationships by on June 10, 2009 0 Comments

People say that life isn’t about numbers that it’s about what you do in between the moments you are worrying about the figures that count. I do agree with that, I really do. However, for a culture that tries to foster a belief that anything is possible, even when the numbers are against you, there still is a desire to match numerical values as representations of success.

How much is your salary? How old are you? What’s your social security number? Credit card number?  Phone number? How much does this cost? What was the score? How many miles to the Cape? Oh…. And… How much do you weigh?

All of these numerical topics are ones that come up at least once a day. And if these numbers don’t come up in conversation, you definitely think about them.

It is ironic that when a life is over we say that his life was immeasurable… but we know  really, that person was made up of a series of numbers that measured his value to the world. Hopefully those who were close to him cared less about these numerical measures and more about the unquantifiable influence that this unique individual brought to them.

As a young girl in Boston, I have experienced different acts of discrimination about my weight. Last year, I was on my to the Hotel Marlowe with a co-worker when this man followed us into the entrance of the Park Street T stop. The conversation went like this: Man: Hey there, wanna give me some money? My co-worker ignores him, Man: Aren’t you listening, I need some money!, My co-worker ignores him, Me: Hey buddy, leave us alone, Man: You? I don’t want money from you? You spend all your money on donuts

This was definitely one of the most hurtful and embarrassing remarks I had received. Embarrassing because it was the first time I had met that co-worker and because everybody around could hear what he was saying (and I couldn’t help but wonder, if that’s what everyone believed). To this day, I have a feeling of shame just being in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, or checking out at the grocery store with any sort of junk food. I imagine that the cashier is thinking in the back of his or her mind, “of course she only wants to eat ice cream.” or cookies. or potato chips.

My parents have been the type to support me throughout many numbers in my life. Through different birthdays, low test scores, high test scores, high scoring basketball games and even financial support. I consider myself lucky. There is one problem, one issue that they have always had: I weigh too much.

It started while I was young. I remember in the second grade working out, lifting dumbbells, jumping rope, and following along to exercise programs on TV. My parents had instilled in me, during my earliest days, that I needed to be conscious of my weight. They told me they thought I was getting fat and that I needed to be getting more physical activity. I was the kid they liked to command to, “Go run around in the yard, you need it.”

I remember I was 12 years old and my mother took me to the doctor. She had been lecturing me the entire car ride about being overweight. I kept responding, “I’m not overweight mom.” And, I really wasn’t.  We get to the doctor’s office and she asks the doctor about my weight… and he told her the same thing, “No, she’s at a perfectly healthy weight for her age.” After the appointment I gave my mom an “I told you so.” But she never really listened.

Here I am, 21, and now, I am overweight. There is no doubt about it. Both of my parents still criticize this of me. I remind my father that I, of all people, am my biggest critic. I, more than anyone, recognize how being overweight affects your life in terms of both health and appearance.

My sister of 35 tells me that I need to lose weight. She says that opportunities open for you, when you are very attractive and have a body to use as another asset. I understand what she is saying, and desperately want to be there, and in a sense I agree with her. My sister is a very attractive woman, has the physique of Penelope Cruz and even shares certain characteristics with her. She has always been whom I aspired to look like: A size zero woman, and not a “butter” face either. She’s the kind of woman that walks into a room and does not have to say anything to capture the attention.  Me? I’m the type of girl that is physically attractive, to those who can see past the “weight issue”… though, I’m not sure how many people there are in the real-word who can see past the “weight issue”; however, I am not naïve to the fact that I am my own biggest critic. Still, I digress: I’m the type of girl that is considered extroverted, charismatic, and charming. The kind that is able to command attention with my well-worded ideas and outside the box thinking. The type of girl that people say, “oh if she just lost some weight she’d have everything going for her.”

Hell, even my 99-year-old grand aunt tells me I need to lose weight. I see her and the rest of my family fairly infrequently since they are out in the Mid-West somewhere, but still, on my last visit a couple of weeks ago she noted: “You really need to do something about this weight issue.” This woman, my God Mother, has been a role model, provider of wisdom, and the unconditional love of a parent for my entire life. This woman has lived for 99 years and has endured through decades of loss, love and happiness. This woman was 20 years old during The Great Depression and then 50 in the 1960s. This woman has truly lived, and experienced the historical events that my generation can only read about in textbooks. But, still, 99 years of experience later, even she has enough in her to worry about my weight.

Numbers don’t determine your value, but when you are continuously told that you need to fit certain numbers in order to be considered “beautiful” then it can become a matter of obsession.

My great aunt, although wise in many ways, has not learned the one thing that I learned at the age of 9. That you never tell a girl she is fat, or that she needs to lose weight, because odds are she already knows it… and will constantly feel inadequate until that number matches up with what people tell her it should.

Yes, weight is something that is changeable, but just because it is changeable does not mean it hurts any less when people criticize you for it. In fact, it hurts more. It hurts more to recognize that something that is up to you can be achieved and it hurts even more when you fail to achieve it continuously.

This past Saturday I was walking with one of my lifetime best friends on our way to Project Rock (a Boston Pride event) on Kingston Street. As we were walking, two college age guys read my shirt out loud, “I got Soul” and then they added “but I’m fat.” This, for me, was the beginning of the end of a lifetime of undeserving judgment.

I am coming up with a plan for a healthier lifestyle. Of course I want to fit the numbers… but it needs to be more than just about the numbers. Yes, numbers talk but “words are the voice of the heart.” And, it’s time to start showing that even more than that, I can do it… After all, we all know the cliché: “actions speak louder than words.”

Fortunately, for those of us who live in Boston there are many places where those with weight issues can put words into action.  I’ve decided to attend the Weight Watchers meetings at 44 Winter Street right off the Park Street stop on the T.



Gabby Gabriel is a contributing writer/video blogger for

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