To say I always battled my weight would be a lie. In fact I don’t remember even knowing what my weight was until shortly after I auditioned for Disney on Ice. I was a floundering sophomore in college and until I heard the words, “As soon as you can get your weight below 120 pounds you can come join us on tour!” I am not sure I ever stepped foot on a scale. In fact, over the next ten days as I tried to lose the weight (I needed to drop 8 pounds off my already thin frame as quickly as possible to join the company at their next city), I ventured up to the hospital floor where my momma worked to use the admissions scale at the hospital. I didn’t even own a scale.
That phone call started an obsessive relationship between me and The Scale. I lost the weight for Disney by starving and three times a day workouts, by dehydrating myself through water pills and restriction of fluids. I plummeted down in weight – obsessing over the blinking neon numbers to the exclusion of looking in the mirror and seeing my skin deteriorate, my strong muscles I had spent a lifetime cultivating were melting away and never noticing my inability to sleep and my lack of focus. I weighed myself repeatedly, obsessively, thinking constantly of the numbers.
Fast forward twenty years and I’m not so different, weighing myself every morning, every evening and multiple times in the hours in between. I analyze the numbers and can usually dictate what The Scale will say before it blinks it’s decision. It’s obsessive and ridiculous. Last night I was talking to E – lamenting the stubbornness of the numbers on The Scale – when he started to smile. And then kindly laugh. “Just quit weighing yourself. Just stop. You work hard, you eat well … just stop. It may never say what you think it should.” He said.
Stop using The Scale? Wtf? How?
This past Christmas Day we were watching old home movies, Aiden had pulled out the tiny VCR tapes and hooked up the old video recorder to his little TV in the living room. It started with just him, watching and giggling and within a matter of minutes the five of us had perched ourselves around the 12 inch screen reliving, reminiscing and remembering times gone by. Jackson’s little face popped up, a smiling, blue eyed one year old. His first birthday party. I saw his cheeks, his little runny nose (he had been sick). I wept at his husky voice and how he smiled out of the side of his mouth. I remembered all these things. I also remembered, before I saw myself on film, exactly what I was wearing — a lavender sundress I bought just after Cooper was born. I also instantly remembered how I felt in the sundress — heavy, sloppy, fat. I remember my exact weight, I remembered tugging and pulling at the bottom of the dress trying to cover up. Sure enough, there I was, purple sundress, tugging and pulling, and … not fat. Not fat? That’s not how I remembered it … I certainly wasn’t the tiny skater I was before I had my babies, but I wasn’t fat. I wasn’t the woman I saw in my mind’s eye, or even the woman I saw in the mirror some 15 years ago.
Why are my memories of my sweet baby boy’s first birthday clouded with visions of numbers from a scale?
My regular Monday morning yoga class was cancelled and I found myself searching for a new yoga home. This morning I landed in a Vinyasa class that proved very challenging, both mentally and physically. When beginning with our breath to start class, I asked my intention to settle on my shoulders. Sometimes it does. Sometimes I simply focus on balance or peace. But today, the power of my body kept coming to me, settling itself like a warm heavy blanket around my muscles. I didn’t understand at first, but I allowed the energy to settle on my heart. (I know, it’s a little out there, not something I am totally comfortable with but the energy of yoga and the power of it’s connection to our mind is something I have witnessed first hand. So, I don’t fight it.)
At the end of a challenging 90 minutes the instructor calmly said, “Be kind to your body. Honor where it is today. Don’t strive to be a yogi in some magazine, or the person on the mat next to you. That is their body. Honor your body. Be kind.” I began to weep.
I’m not so unique, I know. I’m not the only woman, mother, aunt, friend, sister, girlfriend, daughter who sees herself through a twisted lens. I have not been kind to my body. I have been a tyrant, a dictator, I have been a bully. I have listened to The Scale and not to me. I have let The Scale govern my food and my exercise, I have not listened when I was too tired, or was hungry. I have deprived myself and allowed those blinking neon numbers to decide how I feel about myself.
I have spent twenty years deciding I wasn’t quite good enough. I have spent twenty years avoiding foods, forcing workouts and embracing none of it. What would happen if I listened to me? What will happen if I tell the scale to fuck off? I’m not saying I want to sit down and eat a bowl full of ice cream – I’m saying what if I tell myself to eat the apple when I’m hungry because it’s what my body wants and needs rather than not eating the candy bar. What if I let go of the fear of The Scale and instead nourished my body with good foods just because they are good and exercised because my heart and body need it, not so the next time I stand on The Scale it will hopefully be nice to me?
What if I remembered that this body is more than the numbers. What if I remembered that this body skated in front of tens of thousands of people at The Forum in Montreal before it was torn down? Or that it skated across Radio City Music Hall, Rockafeller Center and in front of my hometown? Or that it is the same body that walked a marathon, ran 5Ks, pushed my son in a wheel chair for months, skiied mountains in New Mexico, hiked to the top of Bell Rock in Sedona and swam with sharks in the Dominican Republic? What if I remembered that this body biked miles and miles of trails on Pine Street in Big Rapids, and surfed in Costa Rica, snorkeled in the BVI, played tag in the yard and hiked through adventures in the woods? What if I remembered that this body walked down the aisle and went on to give us three sons and then fed and nourished and loved and cared for them for eighteen years? What if I remembered all of that instead of what The Scale has to say about me?
I’m not naive enough to think this epiphany will end my struggle with The Scale or that I will be free of the seemingly, never ending battle in my mind with food. But I do think I am onto something. Be kind. Nourish my body by way of acceptance, not of exclusion. Eat well, to eat well. Exercise to move, to be strong, to feel well. Fuck The Scale.