Not Happy to be Happy
I take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. I take off my shoes. I close my eyes. I tell myself it’ll be OK. I take one step up: into the deep, the unknown, the abyss.
AKA: I step onto the scale.
If you’d asked me recently what my view on weighing myself was I’d have said a combo of the following:
Not ever again.
Não (gotta use that 9 grand’s worth of Portuguese degree somehow, gang).
I don’t think I’ve weighed myself since around September last year, when my GP popped me on the scales when I went to file a missing report for my period (pls come home ASAP, I love you). And ever since then I have avoided scales. I know that the number means nothing. I don’t need to know how much I weigh and I knew that weighing myself would probably impede the intuitive relationship I want to eventually have with my body, diet and fitness.
It was a pretty clean break. I used to weigh myself every day, in my underwear, first thing in the morning to get what I considered to be my ‘true’ weight, i.e my lightest weight. I would then go on to weigh myself at multiple points in the day, I’d move the scales around the bathroom and get the average, I’d crouch down close to the dial to get a better view, I’d weigh myself at the gym, I’d weigh myself on other people’s scales, I'd convert my weight from pounds into kilograms, because hey, I might thin by imperial standards but how about metric? TLDR: I was obsessed.
I read a bit in a self-help book a couple of weeks ago where one of the daily challenges was not to weigh oneself. “HEH”, I laughed. “Easy. Can tick this day off immediately. Well done, CM, you really are the best human ever apart from maybe the person who invented Millionaires Shortbread”. I mean, up until a couple of weeks ago I’d gone from weighing myself multiple times a day, to not having stepped on a scale for 6 months. I didn’t buy scales for my flat in Spain. I didn’t sneak a peak at my weight at Chrimbo when I went back to Blighty. I didn’t pop onto the set at my Mum’s house when I visited in January. Me and the scales had had an intense, all-consuming fling and now we broken up and we would NOT be getting back together and I would not be sad when I scrolled past their new pic on Tinder just a lil’ bit too soon after the split (file this reference under: me trying to look cool and relevant and like I have more dating experience than just 1 boy). I was on a roll.
And then last week, in an alien bathroom, a wild, surprise set of scales appeared and it was like those 6 months never happened.
Inhale. Exhale. Boots off. Step on.
I knew I shouldn’t have done it but I argued with myself that I feel like I’m OK enough with my body these days to weigh myself and just accept the number whatever it is, to view it as an arbitrary measure of my relationship to gravity and not a measure of my worth. That, and it’s just interesting, ya know? It’s just interesting to know how much you weigh, just super interesting, just like temporarily blinding yourself with pepper spray or a bikini wax or any other type of self-flagellation are just INTERESTING, YOU KNOW? (no).
And it was so weird.
My weight has not changed as much as I thought since I gave up dieting, in fact, it was kind of the same. I was a wee bit heavier than my weight when I was dieting and instantly my mind went into overdrive making all the excuses I used to make when I wasn't happy with the number on the dial: 'Well, you’ve eaten loads today, so this is not your 'true weight''//'You’ve got all your clothes on, idiot woman! Take off your culottes, stat!'//'You’ve drunk a lot of water. I hate u, hydration'//'It’s a different set of scales, it doesn't know you like your scales' and all those other thoughts I haven’t had in so long. It was such a weird, instinctive reaction: dang, those neural pathways I laid were strong.
But what was weirdest was that I was not happy with how happy I was with seeing that number. I wasn’t happy with how relieved I felt by seeing that the number hadn’t changed that much. I wasn't happy to be happy because I think it means I'm not as far along with body acceptance as I thought I was. I'm still a beginner with the whole anti-diet, body positivity thing, peeps, so be patient with ya gal CM, but doesn’t my contentment with this most recent experience on the scale mean that I’m still attached to a certain number? Doesn't it mean that I haven't fully gotten on board with accepting my body, no matter what I look like? Does it mean that, in some way, I still measure my worth by my weight?
And what would’ve happened if it’d been a number that I'd been less happy with? A higher number? Would I have eaten less at dinner? Would I have spent hours thinking about the cardio I'd have to do to 'make up' for all three courses I was having that evening? Would I vow to 'do better' the next day? Would I have devised an impromptu diet plan? Would I have been thrown into a restriction and binge cycle, yet again?
And, really, even though it was a number I deemed 'OK', weighing myself has definitely had a palpable effect. This week I think I've eaten more than usual: I've certainly eaten past the point of fullness more often than I'd have liked to and have continued overeating, even though I was conscience of it, buoyed by the thought that 'well I'm still x pounds so it doesn't matter, I obviously just don't put on weight that easily, another digestive please'. And oddly, the pendulum has swung in the complete opposite direction, too, and when I have eaten something that used to be a 'fear food' (something I considered 'bad', 'unclean' and generally off-limits) I've thought 'Oh my GOD, I can't eat this and still maintain my weight of x pounds! What if when I go home next week and I'm not x pounds and no one recognises me and my mum hides my Creme Eggs because she thinks I've put on too much weight?!' (24 years old and still counting down the days to the Easter egg hunt, ya know).
It's made me realise that it could've been any number on that scale and it would've changed the way I think about my body and my behaviour. And so I won't be weighing myself again for a long time. Granted, I think it has been a good exercise in perspective and an opportunity to check in with myself about how I’m feeling about my body. And even though I'm still not sure how I feel about my reaction to weighing myself, one thing is sure: it negatively affects my ability to tune into my body. It negatively affects my ability to eat intuitively. It made me think so much more about my body. It brought me back to eating and exercising according to a number.
And when you weigh all those things up, it just doesn't seem worth it, does it?