Like a great many women in this world, I have my own body issues and occasionally suffer from what can be called the wrath of the bathroom scale. It’s not something I’m proud of, because I have a standard-issue ‘Women’s Studies 101’ grasp of some of the bigger societal problems that underpin body and eating disorders, plus I feel like I should be above all of that crap. There are countless days when I consciously catch myself loving my body and reveling in its mobility, strength, and curves! That said, sinking back into days where a few extra pounds on the scale threaten a good morning makes me feel all the more petty, ungrateful, hypocritical and guilty. Believe me: I am no stranger to guilt!
In any case, 2010 was a pivotal year for me in terms of my relationship with The
Devil Bathroom Scale. When I cut dairy out of my diet in mid-January due to a lifelong (but persistently ignored/denied/flagrantly assaulted) allergy, I noticed two things:
1. My digestion improved dramatically, making my body feel remarkably more lithe and efficient. I had never really thought about food in terms of fuel before (it was always and inescapably tangled together with various emotions), but once the dairy that had been clogging up everything inside of me was taken out, I found myself literally seeing my body as a lean, mean, well-oiled machine! This engine runs on kale, baby– steamed veggie power! 🙂
2. I automatically and easily dropped a bunch of weight and, with it, I dropped the need to weigh myself every single morning. I just started feeling so great and healthy on a daily basis that the corresponding number on the scale hardly seemed to carry any value anymore. It was awesome!
Yes, there were times when I ‘slipped up’ and reverted back to bathroom scale worshipping. When we were working down on the harbour and I could no longer make all of my meals from scratch, for example, I noticed with dismay that I was packing on some pounds whenever I’d sneak a peek at the scale. (In turn, I’d notice with dismay that I was back on the bathroom scale scene and equating my worth with whatever number was glaring back at me). Also, when I first started going back to the YMCA, there were days when I was convinced that all of my sweaty hours in the fitness studio would translate into lower numbers on the scale and was subsequently knocked over with shock and disappointment to discover that I was, in fact, gaining weight instead of losing it. The self-perpetuating Academic Thought Cycle inside of me started taking over once more:
“You should go by how you feel, not by how much you weigh.”
“Muscle weighs more than fat, so it would make sense that your weight has creeped up since going back to the gym. Don’t worry- it will stabilize!”
“Why am I even thinking about stuff like this? I have way more worth than a number on a machine.”
“I shouldn’t have even stepped on the scale and hereby declare the bathroom scale evil and wrong!”
Overall, though, my view of my body, weight, and general health was fairly upbeat throughout 2010 and was not subjected to the scale’s-eye-view nearly as much as it was in years past. (I swear!) And just when I defied all logic and started wondering if I should maybe weigh myself again ‘because of the new year’ to ‘establish a baseline’, I bore witness to the following scene at the gym:
I had just finished a fitness class (Zumba!, which by the way I am now rather addicted to in spite of my awkwardness) and was in the locker room changing. My slab of bench du jour was positioned within earshot of the scale– one of those doctor’s office-style scales with the sliding bars to measure weight and a measuring stick to check height (if anybody cared enough to see how tall they were). Two women approached the scale and launched into an evidently well-worn dialogue concerning their own/each other’s weight.
“I just like to see how this scale compares to the one I have at home.”
“These scales are better and more accurate– they use this type at my doctor’s office.”
“Oh no!!!! [total despair] I weigh 125lbs- that’s more than I weighed this morning!”
“But don’t forget to subtract a few pounds for the clothing you’re wearing now. Nobody weighs themselves at home with clothes or shoes on.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Plus, I’ve eaten breakfast and lunch already, and when I weighed myself this morning, it was before I ate anything.”
“But still… I thought I would weigh less because we just spent so long on the treadmill.”
“Well… you are wearing a pretty thick jacket and workout pants right now. And you’re pretty sweaty, which must add some water weight to your clothes. You probably weigh the same as you did this morning. Or less. And you look great!”
“But this scale is probably more accurate than the one I have at home. I probably really weigh 125lbs and just think I weigh less because my bathroom scale is wrong.”
“Well, in any event, you look great!”
“So do you!”
“Oh no no no no– I put on so much weight over the holidays. I can totally feel it around my stomach and thighs.”
“Don’t be silly– you can’t tell!”
“Oh, trust me: I can tell”
Everything about their conversation was so familiar and ordinary to me (as an average, occasionally-weight-concerned woman) that the hum of their voices gradually just faded into the background. It wasn’t until I zipped up my jacket and rounded the corner to leave that I noticed that both of these women at the scale were well into their sixties. Golden Girls! White hair and everything! Totally fit and healthy looking! And concerned about being a measly 125lbs!! I had merely assumed that these women were younger because, well, they sounded so much like somebody my own age. To discover that these women, who presumably have led rich lives and experienced so much in the world, were still boiling their worth down to the size of their thighs was more than a little discouraging. Discouraging in one sense (‘Really? Is this as good as it gets?’), but also encouraging in the sense that I felt motivated not to obsess about my own weight so much, especially into my golden years!
Will my life be all the more fabulous if I can ever squeeze into size X jeans? Perhaps… but probably not. That said, life can be a lot less fabulous if every waking moment is spent worrying about weight, counting calories, and bemoaning every little blemish, jiggle, or patch of cellulite. Honestly: WHO CARES?! Well, thanks to the YMCA’s Golden Girls, I don’t so much anymore. This doesn’t mean I will never step on a bathroom scale again, but after getting a fresh (and sad) lesson in perspective, it does mean that whatever number greets me on the scale will not set the tone for the rest of my day or the rest of my very life!! ROCK ON, SISTERS!!