Mine used to.
Isabelle Tierney’s recent post, titled “God in Facebook Form” got me thinking about another way many of us end up seeking validation: seeing a particular number on the bathroom scale.
During a particularly difficult time in my life (when I was under a lot of stress and feeling pretty trapped), I developed a pretty serious obsession with my weight. My rationale was that in 8th grade I was 5 feet tall and 100 lbs. Going on birth control at 16 gained me 3 pounds, but I was OK with that. Fast forward 20+ years later, and you’d find me incredibly focused on getting back down to that specific number of 103 (since obviously I wasn’t getting any taller). I think I was around 110 lbs when all that started. When I hit rock bottom, I’d gotten myself up to 120 lbs–all by trying ridiculously hard to get the long and lean body I envied, weighing myself every day (sometimes more than once). That extra weight wasn’t muscle either: it was from the binging and overeating caused by how the number on the scale contributed to my already fragile mood.
When I started studying to become an Eating Psychology Coach, one of the first things that Marc David, the founder and primary teacher in the training said, was that we should get rid of the scale. In addition to the fact that there are normal fluctuations in body weight, he alluded to the psychological impact that seeing a particular number can have on us. In my case, if I weighed less than I had previously, or I was closer to my goal weight, stepping on the scale would have a positive effect on my mood. I’d find myself smiling, and being happy and confident in my body until my next weigh in. If I weighed more or hadn’t made any progress, I’d feel terrible. I’d go through my day thinking I was “fat and disgusting” (and I can’t count how many times I said that phrase aloud, further putting it “out there” into the Universe and making it seem more real)!
At first I found myself very reluctant to give up this mood-altering ritual. But eventually, the scale went into the closet. I pulled it out once a week instead of stepping on it every day, but I found that even the decreased frequency seemed to have the same effect on my mood. Weight down, mood up. Weight up, mood down. So back in the closet it went, and as I started to really internalize that I could love my body as it is (yet still exercise and eat well to be strong, flexible, and healthy),
I’m happy to report that it’s been over a month since the difference between a number in my brain and the one on a little square device has had any power over my mood, my confidence, or my life. Do I still think about weighing myself sometimes? Of course. Do I do it? Nope. Instead I remind myself that I can give my gifts to the world because of what is inside of me; and if that doesn’t work, I do something I know will make me feel good, like yoga. (And oftentimes, those self-care activities are exactly what I need to be as healthy as I can be! Funny how that works.)