Thursday, October 24, 2013
Rather unceremoniously, she took it out of my bathroom, put it in the trunk of her car, and drove off. I think it’s still there, beneath jumper cables and grocery bags. I wonder if it misses me stepping on it three or four times a day. I missed it at first, but now that my habit has been broken, I’m not sure I want to be reunited.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my weight/body image/scale addiction. They are not all the same thing, and I’m still discovering how they are all connected. According to the charts, I’m overweight, maybe even obese. (I don’t know for sure without that trusty scale.) I’ve been normal on occasion, but according to said charts, doctors, Weight Watchers, people on the internet, and the whole wide world, I’ve been fat for most of my life, and I’m fat now. OK. That’s just the way it is.
Body image is another story. There’s no chart that you can look at that tells you how to feel about yourself. I can be fat and happy or skinny and sad. I can think I look OK and then see a photo of myself or catch a glimpse in a mirror and decide that I don’t deserve to be fed. I know people who are much larger than I am who have wonderful confident attitudes; they love their bodies. I know of very slim, fit women who struggle every day with self-hatred. It’s a complex issue, rooted in ultimately in our sense of truth, beauty, and love.
The scale was simply the tool I used to link the data and the image. It was my barometer of self-worth.
If my weight was down, I was happy. When it went up, I was devastated. It meant that I was not good enough. I was such an out-of-control beast that I couldn’t even do this one thing right. I was a failure.
I was powerless.
I have often told my husband that this struggle is less about what others think of me and more about power and control, and he always asks me “Why do you have to have control?” This enrages me. How dare I try to have control of anything! Who do I think I am? What kind of woman thinks she has any right to be empowered about anything?
Yes, I said woman. I do believe this is a feminist issue, and I am an authentic feminist. Some men, many gay, suffer from these issues as well, and I don’t downplay their suffering, but I’m writing as a woman here. As a woman I am sick to death of this. I am tired of wanting with every fiber of my being to be something I cannot be. I am exhausted with my obsessions. I am so over weighing every particle of food and counting every calorie, because even though they tell you at Weight Watchers that this is normal behavior, IT IS NOT. It is not normal to write down every crumb you eat, and use a measuring cup to count the ounces of wine you drink. It’s nonsense. It’s not normal to weigh yourself every day – or even once a week at their meeting – and base your happiness on that number. It’s not healthy to deny yourself birthday cake on your child’s birthday, or bring raw veggies to parties so you can eat them while everyone else has pizza.
I’m writing this today because a part of me wants the scale back. I have probably put on a couple pounds since it left me, and I’m scared. I’m scared that I will become even fatter, fatter every day; that I will become so fat that I become invisible. I fear that this will happen even though I actually eat very well and exercise, because without the scale to tell me to hate myself, how will I remember?
Some part of me knows the truth, the big truth that I am not my body, and that this shell that contains Me will never be adequate to reflect the wonder of who I really am.
But I am still seeking power. What if I could grasp the power that I already have, as a child of God? What if I recognized that fat or thin, young and beautiful or aging and wrinkled, I am worthy of love? What if I focused on my inner beauty (i.e., the fitness of my soul) instead of the circumference of my waist?
I’m not there yet. I am vain and I’ve been deeply influenced by years of cultural influence. I’ve allowed the image of feminine physical beauty to be my benchmark. But I am willing to experiment with a new idea. Might I be enough as I am?
For now I will avoid the scale. Maybe eventually I will forget about it. Maybe I will find new ways to measure success, power, and worth.
You cannot gather those things in your arms and hold them close, so that they will register when you stand naked, waiting to be judged. You can only release them and wonder at how light you feel when you finally stop trying to grasp them, and let them go.
(I stole the title for this post from my friend Kate's book. I'm in the dedication so I didn't think she'd mind. Go to her site to learn more.)