Warning: This post is raw. I am working to release the fear of vulnerability.
Tell me, friends, what is it about the scale? Why do we feel so drawn to it? I know people who weigh themselves every day, twice a day, even sometimes more. I have thought about this recently, and I do not understand why we put so much of our self-worth on that tiny machine. I am not excluded from this.
Ever since I can remember, I have had some sort of investment in my size. As a middle schooler, I recall counting points on Weight Watchers. As sick as it is, I could tell you the points of a food without even using the calculator. Through high school, I thought about my weight, and though I did not weigh myself often, I worried about the sweets I was eating and how much I was exercising. Was I doing enough? Did I need to do extra sprints to work off the chocolate I felt I needed to eat? And somehow, I needed a sweet every single day. I justified it with my athletic pursuits.
In college I let my obsession continue. As a Division One athlete, I was under the illusion that I could eat whatever I wanted because I was working out so hard and so frequently. I gained the “freshman fifteen” by eating ice cream or frozen yogurt from the local cafe just about every day. I drank sugary post-workout drinks, and I justified eating chocolate by saying that I had just worked out, so I could handle it. I filled up on protein bars that have a significant amount of “inventory.” Meanwhile, I still ate salads and vegetables at meals, but the volume of food was simply too much.
In this time period of self-reflection that I am experiencing, I look objectively at this attachment to food and physical appearance. As I sit here now, I still think about my body in a critical way–even though I am in the best shape of my life. I eat an incredibly clean diet, I have not had sugar in more than a year, and I do not go outside of my healthy calorie window. This saddens me. Even when I make a non-sugar, fruit-based dessert, I cannot bring myself to eat it. I never give myself a break. Why can I not love myself as I am, no matter the size, but especially now that I have achieved the goal? Somehow, I always want more.
Right now, I am taking baby steps towards my mastery of this attachment. Here are some of my current and future endeavors:
1. I vow to never weigh myself again. The scale is no longer an appliance I will allow. When I go to the doctor from here on, I am going to stand with my back to the scale and ask the nurse to write it down without telling me. This summer while I was losing weight, I weighed myself once every two weeks. Even though I would prepare myself for it, and tell myself that I was doing everything right (eating, moving, etc.), I would still let the number and its direction of movement affect me all day. When I was in Hawaii, I stepped on the scale at a friend’s house, just out of curiosity. I had gained some weight (probably a healthy couple of pounds), but I immediately felt discouraged. Less than myself. Worthless. This was and will be the last time I ever weigh myself. The scale in the bathroom does tempt me, but every day I consider it a victory that I walk by it. (And I do so often…I drink a lot of water…)
2. Decrease the volume of food. For the last year or so, I have eaten pretty much the same way every day. Three large meals a day with at least one snack. I work my workouts around my meals. By large, I mean mounds and mound of vegetables. I ate so much beta-carotene that I was a consistent orange (which some mistook as tan). I figured that since I should not eat many “calories,” I would fill up on vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I love them. But the volume I was consuming was unhealthy. I would feel bloated and uncomfortable after my meals. Now, I limit myself to a smaller bowl, and though I don’t feel stuffed after my meals, I feel content. Satiated. And instead of scoffing down a big meal that may take 45 minutes to eat, I relish in every delicious bite, with all of my senses.
3. Explore other options. Like I said prior, I pretty much eat the same thing every day. This transfers into my life. I am very much a creature of habit. When I do not have time to create a big meal, I start to feel anxious. When I go out to eat, I feel anxious about the restaurant having a meal that will fit my stringent diet. I feel anxious when there’s not enough options in the house. Anxiety, I keep hearing, is not good. This keeps me in a very comfortable place. I ignore opportunities because of my need to create the perfect meal. I am looking to break this attachment because I do not want to let these opportunities pass me by. I am exploring other meal options, like smoothies, bars, quiches, and other quick foods that are healthy and wholesome. Right now, my life fits my eating schedule. However, I foresee a time when my life will not allow for hours spent on meals. I want to learn to live, more than just eating.
4. Listen to my body. Within us, we have all the tools. We can heal ourselves. How else can miracle healings happen? The body has the innate wisdom to heal us if we let it, but our minds and egos get in the way. Same goes for just about everything. The body is always trying to tell us what it wants to eat, how it wants to move, and what it wants to be fueled with. Why do we let the teachings of the collective decide for us how best to serve our needs? If you do enough research, you can find a counterargument for just about every dietary belief. Veganism vs. paleolithic (grains vs. meat). Should we eat eggs? Gluten. Organic. Milk. All of these controversial foods have been debated over and over again. The only way we know for sure what is good for us is to sit with it and decide how it feels.
This is what I am doing now. If I am deciding between couple of options, I sit with each one. I go with the one that makes me feel the highest, fullest, and most alive. I stop eating and rest for a moment when I feel myself getting full. I ask my body if it needs more. And I fail. Over and over. But I get better, each day, and I am moving towards that self-mastery.
5. Learn to give myself a break. I had a small success with this one over Thanksgiving. Before, I said that even when I make a “healthy” dessert, I cannot bring myself to eat it. After Thanksgiving dinner, I was really craving some apple bake. We make it with apples, raw honey, oats, and vanilla. It is delicious, and I was craving it. Since my diet it so clean—free of chemicals, sugar, caffeine, etc.–I trust that when my body offers me a craving, it really does need something sweet. So, I had a small helping, and I ate just enough to satisfy the craving. I looked at the bowl, and I could have easily finished it of…there was a time I could have done that. But once I knew I had enough, I put the cover back on the remains, and returned it to the fridge. A small, yet remarkable victory.
After I ate that, I did have to remind myself that it was what my body needed at the time, that I wasn’t going to gain weight from it, and that it was a perfectly healthy and wholesome option. These are little reminders I am going to have to keep repeating. However, with each victory, I am starting to believe.