Living by the Numbers

Scale model

Scale model (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)

Last week, while still in the grips of a very bad few days, I did something I hadn’t done for about two years: I pulled out the scale and weighed myself.

I don’t know why I did it. I knew at the time that it was a bad idea, and I hadn’t had too much trouble studiously avoiding the scale since being advised to stop weighing myself when I started recovering. As I was pulling it out from its “hiding place” (which has always been lame–it’s underneath the couch in our studio apartment), a little voice inside me was saying, “It’s not a big deal. It won’t bother you. You’ll just find out how much you weigh, and then you can go back to ignoring it. It’ll be fine! Just do it, just step on the scale!” Somehow, I managed to convince myself it was alright. And then I stepped on the scale, and before I even looked at the number, I regretted it.

The thing is there’s no way I could possibly have not regretted it. There’s no way in which the idea could have been anything other than a bad one. As far as I’m concerned, no good can come from knowing my weight. If I feel like I’m too heavy, it’s bad because I end up wanting to lose weight; if I feel like I’m where I want to be or below, I end up getting obsessed with staying at that point, or continuing to dip lower. It’s a battle I know I can’t win, at least not at this point in my recovery.

Ever since I weighed myself, my feelings about my body and my weight have been nothing but negative. I feel more self-conscious than I did before stepping on the scale, and instead of paying attention to how my body feels (am I hungry? full? tired?) and acting accordingly, I’ve been thinking in terms of my weight and letting it determine whether it’s a good day or a bad day, or whether I’m exercising enough or not. For a while now working out has meant a lot more to me than looking a certain way or fitting into a certain size; I run to feel good, deal with stress, spend time with friends, and do something I love. Getting to this point has taken effort, and it’s something I’m really proud of. But over the past few days I’ve taken a few steps back and slipped into thinking about exercise to lose weight.

The effect those numbers have had on me makes me think of how I used to feel when I would go for a run and feel like I hadn’t run fast enough or far enough based on what my Garmin would tell me. A “good” run had more to do with the numbers on the watch than the way I felt when all was said and done. Now that I’ve run largely Garmin-free for a pretty long while, I find that I’m much more focused on the way running effects my mood, and how good I feel to run a few miles regardless of the pace–choosing to stop living by those numbers made an enormous difference for me and put me back in touch with all the best things about running. Now the bad days are much fewer and farther between, and when I do have them, I dwell on them much less than I used to.

My mood and my attitude about my body shouldn’t be dictated by what the scale says, and next time I feel tempted to get on it I’m going to remind myself of that fact. There’s nothing to be gained from knowing my weight, and I’m much better off working on getting things into balance emotionally and physically and keeping them there. I know it will take me a while to get over the way I’m currently feeling about my body, but I’m glad that now I can at least recognize that I shouldn’t try to measure my happiness and satisfaction in pounds.

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  1. I agree – weight scales are terrible little devices that we have become enslaved to. They just remind us of our failures. Except when we are having success at losing weight, but that’s only some of the time it seems. This will sound trite and expected, but you are a beautiful young woman. I’m looking at photos of you while I write this and I see a beautiful, fit, healthy young woman – I hope you can celebrate that. Maybe since you have written this post you can! ❤

  2. I haven’t weighed myself, but I’m getting weighed by others more and more frequently these days and the urge to look is there, although I know it wouldn’t do me any good. When I found out I was pregnant I fell back into patterns of counting calories and measuring all my food… living by numbers. I had an epiphany last weekend that I don’t want my child coming into this world thinking that’s the way to live so I haven’t lived by those numbers for a week… And even though I know it is better for me, it still feels so hard.

    Good for you for sharing your latest experience though, it will help you and inform others of how messed up it can be to live by the numbers!

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