There’s a woman sitting near you in a restaurant, on a train, in a school meeting, at your kids’ sport, on a nearby desk at work, or walking past you in the street, feeling lousy about herself.
Hi. My name is Naomi and I am a scaleoholic. I have been scale free for 17 days. I am not sure when the fascination with weighing myself began. I can always remember having scales on the bathroom floor when I lived with my parents. I can remember (with complete horror and panic) having to be weighed at secondary school for fitness testing. So I guess it was only natural that as an adult, I equipped our house with a set of digital body weight scales.
Despite putting my scales in a different bathroom and understanding that it wasn’t necessary or conducive to my health, weighing myself somehow became a daily ritual. I couldn’t start the day without seeing the magic depressing number.
Seeing some alarm bells late last year, made me resolve (for New Years – how original) to only weigh myself monthly. That (as New Year’s resolutions tend to do) crept back to weekly and then almost back to a daily occurrence.
Regardless of if it was daily, monthly or just randomly, the result of the scales had the power to change my entire day (I always weighed myself in the morning. Habitual weighers always do mornings right?). My mood, meal plans, clothing choices, exercise efforts, confidence at work and the way I treated my 2 children was all tied up in the number that came flashing up. And it was rarely a positive outcome.
A friend suggested I ditch the scales. Smash them! Throw them out! Get rid of them! I nodded my head, I roar-roar-roared! I took charge and agreed that I would! Next week.
Eventually, the pressure of the scales got too much for me. I hated weighing myself but I hated not knowing what I weighed. I would stand butt naked at the scales (and in front of a mirror – awesome confidence booster for the day) and ask myself if I was strong enough to see the number today. I would answer yes. Then I would step on the scales. I would see “the number”.
Cue: World. Crashing. Down.
I wasn’t strong enough after all.
I’d pick myself up, get through the day, vowing to eat better, move more… get that number down. And like Groundhog Day, it would all happen at 8am again the next morning.
So, finally, I did it. I got rid of them.
Instantly I felt lighter. I felt empowered. I felt free.
But the next week I felt lost. Like a junkie, I needed a “hit”. I found myself seeking out scales in the pharmacy. I wondered if it would be weird to visit my friends and ask if I could use their scales to weigh myself. I mentally compiled a list of possible reasons I could go to the doctor and get weighed there.
Now at week three, I am reflective on what I have learnt about myself, without my “insecurity blanket” so to speak.
I have learnt:
No single food is responsible for my weight.
I used to jump on the scales and if the number had increased by any small amount (or even just stayed the same) it must have been the extra slice of cheese I had, or maybe the big handful of goji berries. Or possibly, the two freddo frogs (gasp!). This then lead onto a constant battle with the enemy-food: a love-hate relationship; a binge-guilt affair; doom.
Since ditching the scales I don’t blame any particular food for how I feel. Some foods, over an extended period of time or eaten in excess will make me heavier. But I have days where I just eat a little mindlessly and I don’t feel great for it. It feels much gentler to remind myself how overeating any food makes me feel, rather than what “number” it equates to.
We are governed by numbers
Imagine a world without numbers. A world where we just bought clothes for how they looked and felt. Imagine getting up when we felt recharged, going to bed when we felt tired. Imagine eating when we just felt hungry. Imagine running at a pace that just felt good and continued for as long as you felt good for. Imagine your age being measured by the state of your health. Image trading goods in return for other goods so both parties felt they were on the receiving end of a fair deal. Even imagine driving the car at a speed that just felt safe and courteous to other drivers. How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?
How comfortable would you be buying jeans if you didn’t have to consider the size? How heavy would you feel if you didn’t know how much you weighed?
We have forgotten to FEEL. Our society is governed by numbers. True, we can’t banish some of them. But some of them we can place less importance on. And the number we represent in weight, is one of them. It feels incredibly light and delicious to not have to think about that extra number in my day.
I have great skin
If I had just weighed myself I would look in the mirror and see “the number”. As I got dressed into my clothes I would see “the number”. I would eat my food throughout the day and see "the number". In the middle of discussions with friends, I would see “the number”.
The greyscale of “the number” in front of my eyes blurred my ability to see any other good in myself.
Since ditching the scales, I can see the good in myself a little clearer. Turns out, I have pretty good skin.
Fat days happen
I could have eaten “right” for a few days, done a stack of exercise and been feeling trim and fab and ready to don those skinny jeans for the day.
Then I would weigh myself.
And my “skinny” day would plummet to a “fat” day. I’d pack away the skinny jeans and pull on the sloppy joes. I’d dress how the scales had made me feel.
Without scales, I still have fat days and I have days where I am not. I deal with the fat days (and attribute them to tiredness, time of the month, the weather… could be anything!). And I embrace the "not feeling fat" days. Ain’t no number on a scale going to take that away from me!
I feel good.
After 8 days without my scales, a close friend said to me “You are looking good! Are you feeling good?” My response: “I don’t know. I have gotten rid of my scales.”
I realised what I had said instantly. I didn’t know how I felt without knowing what I weighed.
Now my response would be different. I. FEEL. GOOD.
My kids are right.
My mum had body issues. She often told my sister and I that she thought she was fat, frumpy and unfashionable. She compared herself to other mums. I never thought my mum was fat. In fact, if she believed in herself a little more, she really could have been quite banging (and I am not sure why I am talking about her in past tense…. She is still very much alive and quite frankly could still be banging, but the low confidence she has in herself is a tough cookie to shake). But I started to believe her. I started to believe she was fat. And I guess I started to believe that she represented fat.
So as I grew from a girl to a woman of a similar build, of course I saw myself as: fat.
Now that I am a mother myself, my kids tell me that I’m not fat (and it should be noted I am very careful about shaming myself around them and stopped weighing myself in front of them long ago, but somehow it still comes up). My kids tell me I have a wobbly belly (I really do). But they also tell me that I am beautiful and strong.
With the scales aside, the self-hatred is fading and I can start listening to my kids.
Do you have an obsession with weighing yourself? Do you feel like it is something you could live without?
Ed Note: This article was written over 12 months ago. While I still don't weigh myself, I have at times found myself drawn to a set of scales at a relative's house or the gym. Thinking I am now immune to weigh in results, I have used them. But, apparently, I'm not. The struggle is real people.