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  • michelle m. davis

The Number on the Scale

Have you ever woken up, gotten on the scale, eyed the results, and said, “This is going to be a shitty day!”?

I suspect that many of us have fallen into this trap. But, when I step back and contemplate this irrational reaction, it makes me ask… why should we allow tiny numerals, barely visible without squinting, to set the tone for the next fifteen to eighteen hours of a potentially glorious day? But we do, at least I do. No doubt someone at some time conditioned me to revere the reading of the scale!

I’m guessing it probably began when I was a little girl. My pediatrician, Dr. Kotzen, would kindly let me know that I was a bit, well “over weight.” At the end of the check-up, I didn’t get the lollipop… I got the special pencil or some other penny toy. But, it didn’t end there, even after I lost my baby fat, I continued to worry about the number on the scale during my high school and college years. And, when I was pregnant, I went so far as to graph my weight so that I didn’t go above the recommended limit my obstetrician set. While I’ve come a long way and am no longer obsessed with what I weigh, I still must own that I can be affected by what the scale tells me.

As a society we’ve bombarded with countless articles about “our ideal weight” and how to obtain that magical number through miracle diets. This industry infiltrates our lives at multiple levels, constantly harassing us about our body image, causing many people to become consumed about what the scales tells them, regardless of their shape. I’m sure you’ve seen someone refuse dessert, stating she was on a diet, and you just looked at her tiny body and rolled your eyes. But, to her, it’s real, or perhaps just a way to maintain a weight that she can “stomach.”

Yes, I admit that I tip toe onto the scale… always the first thing in the morning and always naked, no matter how cold the bathroom is. And, I feel happy when the number is lower than expected but become disturbed when it reads above my “acceptable range,” coming up with all sorts of explanations as to why this number is higher than I anticipated. In fact, this past weekend, I actually accused my son of “adjusting” the scale when he brought it downstairs to weigh the turkey. (Background information… I have a special scale… to be honest, it’s about four pounds lighter than your average scale, but it counts because I know when I gain or lose weight. Still, my family constantly teases me about how I’m only fooling myself.) Regardless, my son didn’t try to alter the scale. I just refused to admit that I’d been eating and drinking more than normal, and exercising less. But, that’s what’s holidays are about, isn’t it?

While I’m conscious that the number is just that… a number, I am aware of its potentially huge impact. But why does what the scale tells us really matter as long as we feel healthy, look good, and have awesome energy? I’m guessing that some of you never weigh yourself and don’t struggle with “the number.” But, for those who do, how can we get past this sadistic ritual? What do we need to do so that three numerals do not set the tone for our day? How do we disempower the scale?

This makes me wonder if the “Battle of the Scale” is actually tied to our “Fight to Control.” Could we be attempting to manage our weight when we cannot seem to maintain a grasp on other things in our life?

Perhaps. Right now I’m dealing with a few uncontrollable issues. While I accept that this is all normal stuff, I do feel frustrated that I cannot influence what is happening around me. When life is smooth and things are flowing, I don’t seem to be so obsessed with the scale. No, it’s when the waters become a bit rocky that I try to cling to what I believe I can fix, control, make right. I attempt to take charge of whatever I can hope to maintain a sense of security, even if it is false.

But is this struggle worth the fight? Could a better response be to simply surrender? I’m not talking about eating the entire pumpkin pie, quitting the gym, or throwing out the scale. No, what I mean is reminding ourselves that there is very little in this life that we do control, and maybe we need to show ourselves a bit of compassion, ease up on how much we judge our own actions. Perhaps bypassing the workout and indulging in that extra helping of stuffing or the additional glass of wine is okay for now. Maybe we don’t get on the scale until we’ve gotten back to our normal routine. Could we possibly give ourselves a pass? Allow ourselves to be as we are until we can resume the stricter lifestyle we aim to follow? Are we capable of speaking to ourselves the way we would to a good friend who complains about the number on her scale? Would you tell her that she’s lazy and undisciplined, insist that she begin an intense fitness program? I hope not. But, have we ever suggested these things to ourselves?

What if we allowed self-compassion? It’s something we rarely indulge in. Sometimes we feel guilty offering ourselves kind words, forgiveness, and empathy. But, maybe it’s the perfect gift for this Holiday Season. What if we all committed to setting time aside to love ourselves? My guess is that not only will we feel immense benefits, but also this loving act will ripple through our beings and beautifully impact our family and friends. In essence, our present to ourselves will be the gift that keeps giving.


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