A lot of people find themselves obsessing over their weight — to the point that it takes over their whole life. But what if you were to stop? Rebecca Jane Stokes at YourTango wrote about how she made the decision to stop weighing herself every day and how it's changed her since then.
I never saw this coming.
Before I was even 10-years-old, stepping on a scale was a regular part of life. At 9, my pediatrician was concerned about my weight. She pointed to a BMI chart saying, "This is where you should be," and then her pencil went up to where a lone dot hovered at the top of the page, "and this is where you are."
My mother was really proactive about helping me get "back on track."
Two of her sisters struggled with eating disorders and body images issues, so as their weight dropped dangerously low, it was easy for my mother's own emotional eating to slide under the radar. She struggled with her weight most of her life and she didn't want that for me. It's something I understand now, but back then all I knew was that when I stepped onto the scale, if the numbers went up, my mom was unhappy, so I did everything in my power to make sure that never happened.
The problem was that while I was becoming obsessed with my weight, I was also become obsessed with making other people happy.
These would become two obsessions that would only grow as I got older. Eventually, the struggle to get to a weight that seemed acceptable wasn't something I was doing just to make my mother happy, but something I was doing to make everyone happy.
Every time I over-ate, every time I yo-yo'ed, every time something didn't fit or a man rejected me, I felt like I was letting society down. I was letting the world down by failing to measure up to the standards I had been taught mattered.
Unsurprisingly, living my life this way was exhausting. I was so focused on looking the "right" way that there wasn't any space for me to figure out what I actually thought was important. Visits to the gym weren't about savoring the pleasure of making my body move or burning off stress or getting a nice kick of endorphins. They were about burning off the shame of whatever I had eaten that day that I "shouldn't" have eaten. They were about punishing myself for having cravings, for having a body that was soft, and for not having the "will power" to stay away from all the foods that brought me happiness when it felt like nothing else could.
Eventually, I started looking for ways to break the cycle. I started going to therapy in my mid-twenties when I finally realized that dedicating my life to trying to look the way the world at-large had me believe I ought to look was making me, you know . . . DESPERATELY UNHAPPY.
It took me a little while to get to know my therapist, and even longer for me to trust her.
I was worried that in therapy I would be forced to confront my deep inner darkness. Instead, I would come in and tell her I was sad and she would say, "When was the last time you ate a vegetable?" More often than not my unhappiness was coinciding with a lack of the nutrients my body needed to function to its fullest capacity.
It was the first time I ever talked to someone about food and exercise in a setting in which the goal wasn't getting thin.
The goal was treating my body with respect, learning to listen to it, and striving to figure out how to care for myself. For the first time, the focus on my body wasn't solely dedicated to all of the ways it wasn't good enough for anyone to love, but about how to give the best care to the only vessel I will have while I am alive — and it started making a huge difference.
The biggest change came when I stopped weighing myself.
Nobody told me to do it. I just stopped. The way I saw it, I had never in my life stepped on the scale, looked at my weight, and experienced a positive reaction. Even when the number was "good," I never walked away feeling good. Instead, I felt pressure to stay at that weight. Everything became dangerous and scary, a potential threat to that magical number.
When the number was "bad," it colored my entire day. It was all I thought about.
Until that one day when I had a novel idea. What if I just stopped?
Even thinking about throwing away my scale gave me goosebumps of sheer exhilaration. I had never lived one day as an adult where my weight wasn't my central focus. The notion that it didn't have to be that way was beyond my imagination.
When I tried it, I couldn't believe how it felt. I couldn't believe how I felt!
I could eat what I wanted. I could do what I wanted. I was free to think about other things. I made adjustments to my diet based on how my body felt. I went to the gym when I felt like it would do me good. I indulged in the foods I loved without being concerned I'd pay some sort of price for it.
I had no idea what my weight was, and sometimes I was tempted to check. I could feel my body change. Sometimes I was bigger, other times smaller, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that sometimes I panicked and felt the pressure to jump back into that cycle of weighing myself and shaming myself.
Ultimately, however, throwing away my scale, that freeing moment, made me happier than anything ever had, and there was no way I was going to give that up to satiate my passing curiosity.
My self-esteem wasn't magically fixed. That's not how life works, and it's certainly not how our relationships with out bodies work, but I no longer view my body as an enemy, or a monster I have to keep in line.
Learning that my body is my ally changed not just the way I relate to myself, but how I relate to the world — and there's absolutely NO going back.
Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, NY, with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 p.m. Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.
Check out more great stories from YourTango:
- A Woman Fat-Shamed Me on the Subway and I Actually Fought Back
- A Word of Advice to the Stranger Who Grabbed My Fat Belly at Starbucks Thinking I Was Pregnant
- 15 Very Real Struggles of Being a Plus-Size Woman