Giving scales power to decide our fate daily distresses our emotions. An inanimate, metal box spinning numbers like the Wheel of Fortune for the winning weight offers little pertinent information. It serves as a unit of measure for successful or failed weight loss, yet limits our story. It knows not the decreased number of inches or muscle mass, strength and stamina, nor does it measure heart rate, hydration levels, or the size of our clothing. With considerable impact, it affects numerous lives, some as early as childhood. Allowing it to control our emotions daily weakens us.
First measurement of pounds affecting my psyche begins at age eleven in a school nurse’s office. Although not a contest, our sixth grade class enters an arena like a boxing match, weighing in for competition. Checking weight and height in public schools is routine. We stand in line for weight and height measurement’s announcement and entry onto a brown, clipboard. Each number’s declaration defines each person stepping on the metal device. Comparing individuals with murmurs and whispers, tension fills the air. My stomach curls with each proclamation, shame fills my insides, and the fear of weighing too much makes my heart bleed faster. An inner whisper confirms I am not likeable, excessively fat, and weigh a significant extra five pounds than taller bystanders.
My heavy feet walk the funeral march back to our classroom, along the white tiled corridor with flickering shadows due to the above faulty bulbs. Silence deafens my insides, my heart racing while the numbers twirl in my head lessening my worth with each step. Two friends identify my depressed demeanor, and speak encouragingly of how the numbers are worthless. Yet I remain vigilantly aware of the humiliating nature of those statistics, the story they confirm my suspected ugliness and not-good-enough feeling.
Had my mother not shouted obscenities countless times of “what is wrong with you” perhaps this story contains a different ending. Yet like many, our inner voice begins to host shame that leads to a lifetime of self-destructive behavior involving diets and surrendering to the scale’s daily assertions. Our relationship with the scale, shame, and weight varies depending upon initial exposure, stories we tell ourselves, and yearly pediatrician visit experiences.
Defining my existence, pounds rose and fell to meet a weight chart’s expectations of good versus bad, too little, or too much. Meeting these numbers fostered diets from childhood to adulthood. My success and failures lived and died with the scale, and determined self-worth. The story I designed established an inner critic, projecting judgment I felt from others. Daily I granted the metallic geometric contraption power to choose how I felt about myself based upon its numeric results.
Thirty-five years later, contemplating the influence the scale possesses the misconception and declaration of success or failure still affects me. During this new lifestyle journey, I remove the scale from my daily existence as recommended. The urge to know the number diminishes slightly. Although unwarranted, a weekly “weigh-in” at the gym still conjures old emotions. Recognizing a number cannot define our self-worth is crucial for well being.
Releasing the scale’s hold on us, acknowledging non-scale victories like clothing size changes, increased energy, strength, and feeling comfortable in our skin are true triumphs beyond measure. Acquiring emotional balance and well-being about our weight diminishes the power we have granted the scale. Giving away control to an inanimate object is futile. We reach success when the scale no longer carries weight. Until then, we remind ourselves daily of our true worth, aware we are not defined by a number, neither loss nor gain. While still emotionally triggered by the scale, weighing in carries too much weight.