On Weighing Myself
Last spring, I was feeling bad about my body.
This is certainly not a new thing---I’ve been finding creative ways to get down on my looks since I was a teenager, and while it’s a habit I’ve mostly broken free from, it still nips at my ankles every once and a while. It used to be more of a horrifying monster. Now, it just occasionally stings when I slap it away. I can work with that.
When I was younger, “feeling bad about my body” was one of my base emotions. If you asked me how I was doing, I would say “fine,” but the context was “until I see my stomach,” or “until I get this five lbs off me and I will be cured,” or whatever. It was a lot of what I thought about. I dedicated a large part of my life to it. I struggled with this dislike for years, along with the consequences that came along with it—working out till I was sick, an eating disorder, and serious restrictions. These were unhealthy. I knew they were unhealthy.
When I got better, I found another curious consequence. When I wasn’t sick anymore, I had to learn a new way to deal with feeling bad about the way I looked every once and a while. I didn't know how to deal with it now that it wasn't the center of my thoughts. It...didn't matter to me as much, but I didn't know how to handle it when it did matter to me. I learned some good tricks: long walks, stupid selfies that let me look the way I wanted to look, lipstick, the occasional run, healthy food and unhealthy food and balance.
But in the spring, I felt more than bad. I thought about it more. I felt a little sluggish. I complained about it more. My favorite shorts left the little red mark on my stomach that said they were getting tighter. I had a lot of anxiety, and I didn’t know what to do with it.
So I joined a gym.
I am the kind of person who can lose weight in a healthy manner after ED recovery. I am proud of this, because it's something that I didn't think I could ever do. But I've done it. I made a judgement that I was feeling unhappy with the way I was eating and looking, and I lost a few pounds to better fit into a bridesmaids gown. I lost a few pounds when I gained them last winter. I did them both in ways that I wish I could always do: with exercise and whole, good foods. Understand me: I don't think anyone should ever lose weight if they don't really want to. But I wish everyone could do it in a wonderfully healthy way when they want to.
Still, the one thing I could never do: I could not weigh myself.
No matter what I do, weighing myself brings me back to the memories of doing it, over and over again, until I was so frustrated with myself I thought I would never eat again. Up and down the stairs in my parent’s house I would go, hoping that peeing or waiting 4 hours after a meal would get me to some number that I would like. There was no number I liked. There never would be.
And years later, healthy and better and also a little heavier, I couldn’t do it. At doctor’s offices, the number the nurse read would haunt me, no matter what it was. But the number itself would twirl around my head, over and over again. I would tell myself I was wearing sneakers, and that took a pound off. I was wearing shorts. Another pound. It was 3 days to my period. Probably 5 pounds. And of course, I had just had coffee. Good news! I probably didn’t weigh anything at all!
Hearing the numbers freaked the hell out of me. What if I became as fixated on getting them down or keeping them the same as I used to? What if I could…never weigh myself again? I was okay with that, of course. But my own way of keeping myself healthy is challenging myself, and I try to do it often---challenging myself to be full, challenging myself to wear things that are tight around places I’m insecure about, and now? It occurred to me I could learn to weigh myself.
Of course, this is a piece that is about success, but it also is about failure.
I went to the gym for almost 3 weeks before I saw a change in the way I was. I came into it not particularly knowing what I wanted, and so I discovered the things that it changed: my anxiety was better, I liked having a routine, I felt good, and the red mark on my shorts were gone. I felt pretty healthy. I was eating well, moving around more, feeling an energy spike, and was basking in that awful self-confidence people who work out sometimes feel.
And then I weighed myself before a workout. I still couldn't stop thinking about it. Was it a good number? How much did I lose since I started working out? Was it a normal weight? What is my BMI? I couldn't concentrate. And right after my workout, I weighed myself again. I thought that was a bad sign, but I didn't give up.
I didn’t weigh myself for another month. I had dropped 4 lbs. I weighed myself a few weeks after that. I had dropped another 2. I thought this would make me feel great. I had lost 6 lbs! I fit in all the clothes in my closet better!
Fuck the numbers. I don't care about the numbers. The numbers were what ruined me when I was younger. I did not feel good. I felt good when I worked out. I felt good when I baked tofu or ate whole grains or baked a sweet potato. I felt good when I lowered my mile time. I felt good when I drank water in the morning. I felt good when I was shaving my legs and felt a calf muscle. And yes, I felt good when I could see a difference in my body.
But I did not feel good when I weighed myself. This surprised me. It disappointed me. It made me feel like I was a failure. It made me question how “healthy” I really was. Which is wrong. It’s a lie. I’m not perfect, but damn it, I’m a lot better than I used to be. So why did I feel so bad?
And that’s when I decided this: I don’t have to weigh myself. I never have to weigh myself again. I never have to do anything just to prove to myself I can do it. I will trust myself when I feel good, I will do things for myself that feel good, and I will allow myself to feel good. I say this a lot, like an awfully annoying and necessary mantra. But it works for me.
Perhaps I’m telling you this because I want you to hear that you can protect yourself. Or perhaps I need to hear it, too. We can get used to hearing it sometimes. Just like another thing I can say: fuck the number. Don't worry about the number. Worry about being better. There is a difference.
I haven’t weighed myself in a few months. For now, I will not. For later, well, anyone is underestimating themselves if they say they’ll never try again. I have learned not to underestimate myself.