A friend of mine expressed anxiety about getting on the scale after the holidays. She was concerned with “how bad it is.” Like many of my friends, she was raised in a home with a scale. I wasn’t. Everything about measuring devices and the mindset that goes with them is foreign to me. What appears to be foreign to my friends is the idea of seeing themselves any other way.
“I’m scared of what the scale will tell me.” Then don’t get on the scale. Scales don’t “tell.” But mothers do – and other relatives, friends and lovers. They tell what those numbers mean and where one falls on a whole other scale: hierarchy of standardized beauty. Don’t give an inanimate object – and all that crazy stuff others believe about themselves – that much control over how you feel about yourself. If you must give an object that much control, make it a tennis racket, a Wii controller or a dance video. If you must give a person that much control, make it yourself, since not one of those other people is ever going to be with you every minute of every day for your entire life.
When someone tells me they’re scared of what the scale will say, I hear several other things: “It will confirm how fat and ugly my mother said I am.” “It will destroy the illusion I have of myself as pretty, deserving, and fun.” “It will outweigh how good I feel when I accomplish something, help someone, enjoy the sunlight, or laugh.”
Anything you use to numerically measure yourself (scale, measuring tape, etc.) does nothing more than reinforce however bad you already feel. Throw these things away – and with them, everything you’ve heard from others about what those measuring devices and measurements mean. If you can’t zip up your favorite pair of jeans, then shift your focus away from that which makes you feel bad and onto what will make you feel good. Eat raw or cooked vegetables with olive oil; salads; yogurt; or baked fish. If you can’t do without sweets, get a large variety of dark chocolate stuff. Dark chocolate, while not as initially appealing as donuts or cake, will become way more satisfying than any other kind of sweet.
Make the buying and the preparation of your meals the gifts you give yourself. You have to eat, so make it a big deal. Make it special even if it’s just putting a banana and a yogurt in a beautiful bag with a cloth napkin and a silver spoon. Build a routine and make a ritual of it. Use your finest dishes and lay out the linens. Instead of a lunch pail, use a picnic basket.
Stay active in ways that keep you interested – walking, hitting the weights, swimming, dancing around your house and getting up from your desk at least once an hour to stretch. Do you have a Wii? Go nuts. Is there a sport you like? Pursue it now and then. You don’t have to do the same thing every day and it’s better if you don’t because it keeps you from getting bored. Yes, you could do weight training for weeks on end and get where you want to be, but will you? If you will, great, but we don’t have to set ourselves up for failure just because we’re so familiar with the process.
Know your strengths as well as your weaknesses. If you feel anxiety about getting on the scale, that’s a weakness. Put it in the trash, tie that bag up and dump the damn thing. If your strength is walking, go. Whatever it is that holds you back, get rid of it. Whatever it is that supports you, do more of that. This doesn’t just apply to things; this also applies to the people in your life.
You’re probably not going to fit into those jeans next month, so don’t set yourself up for that disappointment. Stay focused on eating good stuff, moving your body, and how you feel. The scale tells you what to think; and if you’re going to listen to what an inanimate object tells you, you might as well ask a clock or a pair of shoes what they think for all the good any of it does you.
Look at yourself naked in the mirror every day. And don’t even start in with how big this body part is or how flabby that other body part is. Look instead at what those body parts have done for you. Your legs have carried you around the world and to all manner of social and familial events. Your torso has heaved with laughter. Those arms have held groceries, books and friends. Stand there and catalog all the things your hands have made. Give due credit to the things you’ve shouldered and the times when you sat on your butt to watch a play, work on your resume and visit with friends. Do you have scars? Replay those stories to yourself when you see them in the mirror because those are stories of survival, strength and tenacity.
Rather than focus on the person you think you should look like, focus on the person you’re going to be in a month, six weeks and a year from now because this is the only person who matters. Stop setting your future self up for disappointment and shackling your well-being to a number. Buy nice-smelling body wash, enjoy how soft a sweater is, feed yourself food that’s good for you and move your body regularly in the ways you enjoy. When you see yourself in the mirror, say nice things. Do a little dance. Look yourself in the eyes and smile – at yourself. You’re the only person you are ever going to be around every minute of every day, so treat yourself with the same respect and dignity you would a friend – because you are your friend.