Weight for it.
The very same topic came up repeatedly within a week of client sessions, without my prompting:
These women each told me that the first thing they do upon waking (of course, after using the bathroom to remove any excess lingering weight) is hop on the scale.
I use the phrase "hop on the scale," but that's probably a poorly chosen expression.
In my sordid history with scales... there was never much "hopping" involved. More like... trepidation and fearful dragging with a bit of breath-holding and horrid expectation.
I'm not writing about a newly discovered emotion or sentiment amongst women: we all know scales and the relationship we each have to them is... pretty wonky.
"Don't let your scale define you!"
"Write a note on your scale that says 'the number doesn't matter.'"
"I'm more than a number."
It's one of those things that we all seem to know, collectively, as a society. We are modern women, after all. We will not be defined by a number on a scale! We will not allow it to dictate our days. It's a tool for health, no more, no less.
Why do we even have home scales? Why do we need to know, before we even put on our clothes, how much we weigh?
Does anyone measure their height daily? Or the length of their feet? Or weigh their car before stepping in to see what state it is in before taking it on the road?
I'm not asking a rhetorical question here. I am genuinely curious:
Why do you weigh yourself?
I spoke with a client who shared that the number on the scale will dictate how/what she will eat that day. If the number is good, she will eat how she ate the day before. If the number is bad, she will alter her eating.
I distinctly remember that experience.
I am NOT speaking from a pedestal, here. I am deeply familiar with owning a scale and weighing myself every day.
At one point, very early in my eating disorder recovery, I got this super fancy scale that would tell me my bone density, fat percentage, AND how much water I was carrying, so, you know, it wasn't about the NUMBER. It was about the science! (Spoiler alert: it was about the number.)
Confession: I still have this scale.
The battery is dead and has been for a while, but for whatever reason, I still have this scale.
I tell myself I have it so I can weigh my suitcase before traveling, but... then I'd have to get a battery for it. And then I'd have a scale again.
Ya know what? I don't want to be a person with a scale.
Today I'm ditching it. Bye, scale!
That scale is a big waste of metallic and plastic dead energy lurking in a dark corner of my bathroom, and every once in a while I see it out of the corner of my eye... and it just needs to not be there.
So, back to why we weigh ourselves.
I asked each of these women:
"If your scale turned into a person (or character in a movie), whom would your scale turn into? A familiar archetype or a specific character from pop culture..."
“The backstabbing mean girl from high school who pretends to be nice” (I suggested Regina George because she’s my favorite least favorite character ever)
“My doctor. The one who told me I had Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. The one who told me I maybe needed to gain weight. The one who told me that I needed to eat meat. The one who wanted to put me on birth control to get my cycle back. The doctor who didn't help me to heal and didn't want to take the time to heal the source, the doctor who wanted to give me a pill and move on."
I took to Facebook for more information, polling the many disparate women that I know with the very same question. Here are their responses:
My mother. The mean girl pretending to be nice and all the boys who thought I was so nice but not thin enough to date!
I would say the "family member no one likes to admit they're related to, but still invites to Christmas" someone you avoid at all costs, someone who has many opinions (none of which you agree with), and you only contact when absolutely necessary.
That nice aunt that checks in on you from time to time with words of encouragement or gentle correction such as- "See, it isn't as bad as you thought, you can handle this" or "You may want to go for a walk tomorrow, it will make you feel better." The few times in my life that she was a mean aunt, I put her away where I couldn't see her. I've even thrown her away before. She knows better now.
Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada.
Karen from Will & Grace. "Oh honey, that's ok, let's go get drunky drunk."
the little MF-er scale from the Wii FIT that would go "oooo" like i was crushing her every time I stepped on the board...what a bitch
My 10-year-old self in a rainbow bathing suit, feeling for the first time something was up with my body.
Edna Mode from The Incredibles or (like the previous poster) Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. Completely irritated and at the same time bored and not surprised by my incompetence and failure.
The scale reminds me of those games they have at carnivals where you take the mallet and try to hit the bell at the top by slamming on the plate or whatever. I just picture the bell ringing when I step on the scale, sort of like "hey you reached the limit of weighing more than you want wooooo"
My college director reminding us he needs lithe, lean bodies for Romeo and Juliet. Every. Time. No matter how many pounds I'm up or down.
Okay. Miranda Priestly and Regina George are GIANT bitches who GET WHAT THEY HAVE COMING IN THE END.
Like I said: I used to weigh myself daily. If I liked what I saw (which was NEVER, but if it was within the realm of acceptable), then I could eat "normal" food. If it wasn't, well, time for a smoothie cleanse, baby!
It truly comes down to the body-mind connection.
Fortunately, I'm writing a book about this very thing right now, and since I'm doing a lot of writing for that, I don't have a ton of time to write fresh content right now. So to answer my own question, I'm sharing the below excerpts from The Book (as it's yet untitled).
We are taught by society to count calories, count nutritional information, and look at our weight in numbers.
This is all logical thinking, ego, and data which completely disregards the emotional, day to day ever-changing nature of the human body. This is often compared to as “left brain” thinking, based on a metaphor born out of the 70’s which stated that the left brain is our logic brain while our right brain houses creativity and emotion.
Logic, data, and control: the house of our ego, or our identity with the self. Ego is the face you put on for the world. It is who you project yourself to be.
Ego is my social media Facebook profile picture, which is hands down the most flattering picture that shows me not only in my best physical light but also emotional.
In this left brain v. right brain metaphor (which I happen to love because I am a visual processor, and I can see the hemispheres of my brain with my mind’s eye) the left brain is in charge of decoding patterns and calculating for the future based on past experiences. The left brain is the part of you that rationalizes, reasons, and generalizes new information in order to relate the past to the present.
This left brain logical planning and plotting and assigning nutritional value and micros and macros is the "right" way or the "good" way (and there are parts of it that are certainly valuable—nutrition is key).
This left brain logic is what we're applying to the scale.
However, the voice you hear in your head that whispers sweet cravings... the one that tells you what tastes good, what textures you like, and the side of the brain that experiences flavor, colors, etc... this, in the metaphor applied here, is from the right side of the brain. The creative side. This is also key.
This right brain feeling is arguably a much better way to start your day.
These characteristics of eating and the process of eating food are what make food pleasurable; this is the "emotional" way to eat. The "wrong" way. The "bad" way.
You may be feeling the pressure to do this “health” thing perfectly.
The problem with trying to be perfect is that as soon as you have one tiny set back, the temptation is to say “eff this, I’m never going to get this right, so why even do it?” That urge is strong. Sometimes the desire is to be so perfect that you’re rigid and controlling.
The body-mind connection seems so elusive. It seems some utopian ideal that we all strive for and post about on Instagram along with a carefully chosen photograph.
Carrie Fisher describes the body-mind connection in a way that finally made sense to me when I saw her post it on Twitter, quite bluntly, and it is to this day one of my favorite quotes:
“My body is my brain bag, it hauls me around to those places & in front of faces where there is something to say or see.”
It sounds pretty woo-woo, but, you’re pretty deep into this with me by now, and you must know that I love woo-woo: to fully appreciate the reality that we are simply visitors here—to our bodies and this time, is to accept that we don't own a damn thing. Not our bodies. Not our jobs. Not our identities.
As humans, we are chronically stealing from life and our environment, and we often make choices that steal from our own futures. (Oh, hey! That’s self-sabotage!)
When I used to have horrible binges that would leave my body wrecked and exhausted, I was stealing my joy from myself in the following day. I knew I would wake up drained of mental and physical resources, filled with anxiety, but I could not stop myself.
Bouts of restriction and binging had me in a seemingly never-ending cycle of stealing from myself.
I remember being deep in a binge, spent and wasted, crying softly to myself: I thought I had this under control.
Another set of not rhetorical questions:
Is your scale serving you?
Is your scale a tool for growth or self-sabotage?
What is your thought process when you step on the scale?
What is your response when you like the number?
What is your response when you don't like the number?
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Have you ever sat down with a bag of chips or a package of cookies? Maybe a pint of ice cream, or even just an amazing home-cooked meal. The first bite is glorious. Delicious. Decadent. Maybe you keep eating. And eating. Before you know it, your stomach is completely full, distended, uncomfortable… and you realize you've gone too far.
You begin to feel guilty. Shame. You know this isn't what you planned for your perfect diet. You beat yourself up and swear to do better next time. You wonder why you can't stop. Where is your willpower? What is broken in you?
You hear yourself say: This is why the number on the scale won't budge.
The question isn't why we can't stop. It isn't "why we are so bad"? It isn't, "what's wrong with us?"
There is nothing wrong with you.
We have so many different desires, and we have so often conditioned ourselves to go to a certain action <like hopping on a scale> or food to relieve emotional and physical stress that may be linked to those desires.
The question is: What do you want?
Can you replace the moment you would otherwise spend mentally ruminating on the scale instead on how you actually feel in your body? How your sweet body feels before it is thrust into the business of your day?