When I showed up last Wednesday he asked again if I wanted to weigh-in, as a way of “seeing how I did” over the holidays. To be quite honest, I know full well how I did over the holidays. I ate a little more chocolate and dessert than I usually do, I sat around a little more than I usually do, and I worked out a bit less. So yes, the jeans felt a bit tighter.
More than wanting to know my weight, I felt keen to get back to weight training at my usual intensity. It was interrupted at the end of November because of a lower back strain that compromised my mobility.
I explained to my personal trainer that I didn’t find weight to be a helpful measure of anything. He suggested that the body fat percentage reading also came from the scale. This is true. But I honestly don’t expect to see dramatic changes in body fat percentage from week to week.
In the end, I didn’t step on the scale that day. But I also failed to convince my trainer to stop hounding me to do it again in the future.
I have, however, resolved to put the scales away. I want to say “for the rest of the year,” but I have to admit that the thought terrifies me.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m re-acquainting myself with some literature that became popular in the early nineties. It’s about making peace with food and developing a positive and accepting body image. I’ve started with Overcoming Overeating: How to Break the Diet/Binge Cycle and Live a Healthier, More Satisfying Life by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter.
The book outlines a plan that is supposed to get rid of the diet mentality of good foods, bad foods, and restricted eating, and replace it with “demand feeding.” They suggest that this is the only way out of the “change your shape, change your life” game that so many of us have played for many years.
It’s not for the faint of heart. If you have become accustomed to restricted eating and the idea that certain foods are off limits (or just for special occasions), chances are you will either feel terrified or giddy at their suggestions.
The instructions include: purchasing a full length mirror if you do not already have one (you will stand in front if it naked on a daily basis and look at your body in purely descriptive terms); dropping any distinction you might have about the difference between carrot sticks and carrot cake, i.e. all foods are equal and all foods are “legal”; making a list of all of your favourite foods and filling your kitchen with them in ample amounts (like, more than you could possibly eat; if you love carrot cake, buy three cakes, not one slice); feeding yourself “on demand” by responding to hunger (this means waiting until you’re hungry and stopping when you’re satisfied); dispensing with all sense of “meals” and replacing it with “food experiences”; and…..
…TOSSING YOUR SCALE.
Any one of these suggestions is blogpost-worthy. And I have not done them justice by just listing them without an explanation. To many, they will sound crazy or even irresponsible without more context. I’ve actually, over the years, incorporated many of them into my life already and found relative peace with food.
Today, I want to focus only on the one about the scale since this is the one that remains the most challenging for me.
The authors say: Every day, millions of people allow their bathroom scales to determine their general outlook. Most of us who live in a fatphobic culture are addicted to the scale. When our weight is high, we feel low; when it’s low, we feel high. We allow the scale to tell us how we’re doing with regard to much more than weight.
What they say resonates strongly with me. As much as I believe in my head that the scale is just a number and that weight is not important, I still feel good about who I am when I’ve lost, bad about who I am when I’ve gained. This is despite a set of explicit and conscious beliefs that oppose that way of thinking. And despite too that my weight fluctuates within the same 4 pound range and has done so consistently for more than a year.
Hirschmann and Munter go on to say: If you are earnest about accepting yourself, the scale must go. Simply put, the scale is the most powerful symbol of nonacceptance in our life. It measures, and it judges. It sits quietly in the corner of your bathroom and beckons. “Come on. What harm can I do? Take a chance. Maybe you’ll get good news.”
As an educated woman and feminist who knows better, it embarrasses me to admit just how much I can STILL identify with what they say here. Even now, I find myself hedging my bets. “I will put the scale away for the month of January” is about all I can comfortably commit to at the moment.
Why? Like my personal trainer, there is a part of me that believes that I won’t be able to tell “how I’m doing” unless I can weigh myself. But if I am truly committed to the claim that weight is not an important measure of anything, then I need to take this further step. Hirschmann and Munter assert with confidence that “once you become not-a-weight-watcher…the scale’s importance will diminish.”
So, I’m going to give it a go. The home scale is about to get packed away.
As for the weigh-ins at the personal training studio, I’ve decided for a number of reasons to stop working with a trainer. I enjoyed it and learned a lot, but my partner and I are bringing our workouts home for 2013. That’s for another blog post.