The nurse wrapped her hand around my upper arm, “Be careful,” she said.
I nodded and stepped on the scale, all eight months of pregnant me, backwards.
“Another healthy gain.” She said a moment later after moving the pieces on the old timey scale this way and that. I sighed and gingerly stepped down. We had an agreement, the nurse and I.
I was pregnant with my second child and had stopped looking at the scale once I had reached 220 lbs.
Essentially the heaviest I’ve been not pregnant, I weighed 222 lbs. when I graduated high school. The thought of being that size again is something I cannot emotionally handle. It terrifies me as much or more than the thought of my tween daughter dating soon. I understand that this fear is irrational, and there are much bigger things to fear but with that number comes more than just a larger pant size. It comes with all of the emotional baggage I carried with me through high school and early college. In many ways,that time being so painful, I have internalized the idea that my weight was the catalyst for all of it.
Exceeding that number over the years has stressed me out to the point of obsession and potential starvation, leading me to destroy consciously and subconsciously relationships with women who I thought were more attractive than myself, encouraging me to distrust my first husband to a fault until he fulfilled the prophecy I had set forth the for both of us. I was an emotional mess and making myself and many around me miserable.
Once I joined Weight Watchers (for the second time) in late college, I decided to leave that part of myself behind. And, in many ways I did as long as I could stay a ‘safe’ distance from 200 lbs. It started that I had to be below 220, then I had to be below 200, then I had to be below 175 and so on until I got all the way down to 155 lbs and a size 6. But, a size 6, my body is not and so I have been a comfortable size 10 more times than not the last ten years.
But, in 2009, I had a baby to grow and could not be so preoccupied with weight; for the sake of my son, I had to allow myself to be more flexible. Trying to maintain focus on my growing baby, I talked to the nurse, and she agreed not to tell me my number and let me weigh backwards, if I continued to have what were considered ‘healthy gains.’ As a result, I have no idea how much I weighed at the end of both of my pregnancies, having made this agreement with nurses past as well.
Not knowing how much I weighed while I was pregnant allowed me to really enjoy my pregnancies. And so, where I had been so preoccupied by the number on the scale before, not knowing was enough for me to focus more on what my body could do, like bring a new life into the world, rather than what it couldn’t do, like weigh less than 160 lbs.
At times, while pregnant, I lived in a state of contradiction, scared to look at the scale, I loved how round and curvy my body was. My breasts were amazing and my belly was so smooth and round. My lack of preoccupation and embrace of my pregnant curves enabled me to eat whatever I wanted.
Consequently, being healthy and positive was easy once I took the scale out of the equation.
The scale…I can tell you exactly how much I weighed when I graduated high school, when I started and ended college, on my wedding day, on the day my divorce papers were delivered, when I moved to D.C., on my second wedding day or even the day I stopped smoking the occasional cigarette. Knowing this doesn’t make me that different from other women; in fact, I think it makes me just like most.
Since my second pregnancy, I have yo-yoed from slightly overweight to goal. And, I miss the carefree attitude I embodied from late pregnancy throughout breast feeding; yet, it eludes me.
In an attempt to motivate myself, last month I started a new body positive project where I take the question once posed by Hot Facebook Mom, Maria Kang, “What’s your excuse?” and put a more positive spin on it, asking women what’s their motivation to be body positive- not skinny, not sexy, or anything else…just positive and loving the skin that they are in. What I find interesting as I collect timelines from these women is how they can so easily tell me what they weighed 10, 15, 20 years ago, on a specific day when this or that happened.
When I read their timelines, I feel a female camaraderie that so many of us hide from in an effort to appear invulnerable. The more women I write about the more I realize that we all have a body story to tell; we are all works in progress. We all seem to embody a preoccupied knowledge of our bodies that dictates in varying degrees how we live our lives.
In my own weight related struggles, I have noticed these last few years that I am happier, fitter and healthier when I don’t know how much I weigh. This realization has resulted in my throwing away MANY scales over the last five years or so.
Here’s the scenario…I weigh-in after a long time of not having done so and I am at or below goal weight. For me, being at or below goal is like a green light to scoff down as much food and alcohol as possible. On the flip-side, what if I weigh-in and the scale is a little high…even worse.
I get depressed; really depressed. This often leads to emotional eating that has often packed on an extra 10, 15 or even 20 lbs. before I get my head right and back in the game.
Like a future menopausal self, I go through different moods…weight loss moods harder to shake than any hormone imbalance.
First, I get depressed and binge eat for a while (sometimes days, sometimes weeks) then I experience self-deprecation, and I stop eating. The numbers go down but quickly return because this is really just water loss. Once I have gone through these various moods, I am then ready to actively lose again. And, when I am actively losing is the only time I can look at the scale in a healthy way, if it can be called such. Once I hit goal, it’s like open season all over again.
Then I get frustrated and just throw away the damn scale.
I get happy and healthy, basking in a similar carefree attitude to that when I was pregnant, and then I feel compelled to ‘check-in.’ I buy a new scale and hop on for better or worse. The results of these check-ins are typically catastrophic perpetuation of the above cycle.
For example, in October of 2013 I was at goal weight. I had been for a year or more. Avoiding the scale, I decided to check things out prior to the holiday season. But, my check-in back-fired; I weighed 10 lbs.less than I thought I did and thus the cycle got amped and away I went on the weight gain train. Lose, gain, lose, gain…I’ve been on this train for more than 25 years, and I am sick of it. I just don’t want to think about it anymore.
I can lose weight; I can gain weight; I cannot maintain weight.
Halloween came and with it, a shit ton of candy. It seems like I started eating Halloween night and didn’t stop until after my brother’s wedding, after Thanksgiving, after Christmas. I kept telling myself after such and such is over, I will get back with it.
I woke up in January having gained almost 17 lbs.! The first thing I did was weigh myself obsessively every damn day. I restricted everything; no alcohol, no processed food, no meat, no chocolate…if I could take it away from myself I did.
I plateaued; I starved; I lost; I binged; I gained. My emotional vacillations wreaked havoc on my metabolism.
My body rebelled; I lost a fight I couldn’t win- again, and the scale mocked my failure.
The morning after I posted my first body positive article, I decided that I had to live what I was writing. I hid the scale, put on workout clothes and went for a run.While on the Metro Branch Trail (MBT), you can see the capital dome in the distance framed by large construction cranes, the metro trains passing by in the foreground. I focused on the dome that first day out, watching its orientation and positioning change on the horizon as I ran.
Since that first morning I went out, I have gone out more days than not, run a 5K with my daughter and lost one and a half pant sizes. On pretty days the MBT calls me. I go; sometimes I walk, sometimes I run, sometimes I stroll. But, I go and I inhale the scent of honeysuckles and fresh asphalt; I gaze at the capital dome and as it gets closer and closer, I am reminded of where I am, how far I’ve come and where I still want to go.
And, I have no idea how much I weigh.