Last week, I shared a personal experience with my Special Crew. I knew it hit a chord as I’ve rarely received such vivid feedback in so little time, and I’ve had multiple conversations on the topic ever since.
But here’s how the whole thing started: two weeks ago, I went to visit my current doctor for the very last time (because she’s retiring, not because I have anything against medical care!) As this was to be a last visit, we opted for a very thorough exam, including the one component that used to fill me with unspeakable dread: stepping on the scale.
I’ve written before about how diligently (i.e. obsessively) I used to track my body weight, going as far as creating spreadsheets with complex formulas to keep tabs on myself. But that, at least, was at home, with no witness to bear this but myself.
A doctor’s visit with its mandatory weigh-in was another story. No matter how young I was, how thin I was, or what circumstances I was under—even during pregnancy, being weighed by someone else was always nausea-inducing for me, and made me feel vulnerable and judged.
If the weight that appeared in the doctors office was higher than what my home scale indicated, I would feel indignant. If the doctor commented on any weight gain, I’d feel crushed and ashamed. If she commended me on any weight lost, I’d feel virtuous and worthy.
Suffice to say that those were interesting ideas to ponder as I made my way to her office, while the wind made the freshly fallen snow swirl around me.
See, as coincidence would have it, I realized that I hadn’t stepped on a scale for exactly a year that day, having deliberately chosen for the last 12 months to use an entirely different scale to inform my feelings towards myself, and checking in with my body, heart and mind rather than giving any power to what I now see as an arbitrary number. It’s become the only input I need these days.
Still, I can’t pretend that I was completely devoid of apprehension that morning. Not so much about whatever the scale would say—I’m happy with the way my clothes fit, and I know that my body is quite healthy—but about my potential reaction to that number, whatever it was.
What if I freaked out? What if the work I’d done over the last year, to break free of the power that the scale held over me, crumbled into pieces right in the doctor’s office and left me worse off than I’d started? And—maybe just as worrisome!—what if the number, instead of just remaining a piece of data, gave me a self-worth boost?
Isn’t it weird how fragile we can feel when push comes to shove, and when the things we’ve been practicing have to actually come into play?
Here’s the thing with practice, though: when we’re actually doing it, it does work (just talking about it doesn’t, though—we have to really walk the talk!). When we are put to the test, we are able to react appropriately, because we’ve been training for it. This is why we practice.
Practice isn’t easy; nor is it comfortable. And it sure as hell isn’t knowing something but not acting upon it.
Because of this diligent practice in not only refusing to compulsively check my weight (as if the very fact that I was keeping tabs was what kept it under control), but in disassociating it completely with my self-worth—I truly now believe that my contribution to this world has little to do with how much my body weighs—I was able to accept what transpired in the doctor’s office as just a piece of neutral data.
But I know—through my many discussions with women both online and face-to-face, and my daily interactions with friends, family and clients—that this position I now find myself in is still pretty uncommon. This was at the heart of the many conversations I had over the last week. While I’d like to say that these exchanges gave me hope, the truth is that most of them saddened me.
For each woman who reported that they were finally able to change their relationship to their scale weight, from seeing it as neutral data to going as far as getting rid of their scale entirely, I had at least twice the amount of painful exchanges with women, eyes brimming with guilt and pain, who admitted that try as they may, they couldn’t stop tying at least part of their self-worth to whichever number the scale gave them on a particular day.
Even though they knew it wasn’t helping them.
Even though they knew they were increasing their misery.
Even though they knew that scale weight was an arbitrary health marker.
I’m so, so tired of seeing women enslaving themselves to the scale despite knowing better.
Having to stand witness to them agonizing over and over again about fractions of pounds gained or lost makes me want to scream. Furthermore, I’m deeply discouraged to think about ALL THE THINGS these same women could be accomplishing if the energy that they dedicated daily or even weekly to their scale ritual was channeled towards other more constructive pursuits.
We will never fully embody our desire to be more until we rid ourselves of the deeply-ingrained belief that we must first become less.
How many hours of your life have you spent weighing yourself?
How many hours of your life have you spent worrying about that number?
How many hours of your life have you spent convincing yourself that your life would magically get better once you reached the number you so desired?
Does that reflect what you want your life’s legacy to be? I think it’s time for a reality check: the way that you perceive your contribution to the world should never be tied to a number on a scale, or to a clothing size.
Being smaller will not make you a better, kinder or more interesting person. If you’re not showing up fully, authentically and wholeheartedly in the world right now, weighing less will not fix that.
Does that mean you should abandon any physical health pursuit? Of course not! There’s much quality of life to be gained by working to have a fitter, more powerful body, for sure.
Still, STOP TRYING TO BE LESS.
And start working on all the ways that you can be MORE.