The weight of numbers


Four times a week I climb into my truck and make the forty minute schlep from my house in the suburbs to the big city of Dallas. Those these trips are often riddled with traffic and drivers that, for no apparent reason, leave their turn signals on, I kind of like them. I turn up my favorite car-dancing playlist and let my mind wander. Sometimes I get so lost in my thinking that I don't realize how fast I'm going until I pass a speed limit sign. This is a Problem. I will not mention how many speeding tickets I've gotten over my lifetime because the number is humiliating. (I will say this, though: Fake crying to get out of a ticket does. not. work.)

As I make the trip yesterday, I starting thinking about numbers. Numbers have dictated my life since I was little. At first, they were about the hour of my bedtime and the score I got on a test. Soon after, numbers evolved into how many friends I had, and how many people I thought didn't like me. As an adult, the amount of money in my bank account and birthdays of my children are just a few of the numbers that are important. And in the blogging world, the number of followers I have, amount of page hits I get, and number of times I'm featured hold a lot of power.

But numbers have played the biggest role when it comes to my body. There's the question of my weight: The number the scale says I am, and the number where I want to be. There's the number of calories I've eaten - broken down into number of carbs, grams of fat, and amount of sodium and sugar. Then there's the amount of miles I've logged on the treadmill, the size on my jeans, the measurement of my hips, the total amount of weight I want to lose, the pounds a week I need to drop. And so on and so on.

My number on the scale has been the key determiner of my mood for years. Weight gain sends me into a spiral of shame, guilt, negative body image and
embarrassment. And the discovery last week that my bra size was larger than I thought sent me into a tailspin of depression and anxiety I'm still struggling to overcome. I suspect I'm not the only one who has dealt with this. So why do we allow a number to influence our lives? 


"I will be/get/do ___ once I love___ pounds."
"If only I weighed less, my life would be perfect."
"I'm up a pound today. I shouldn't even bother leaving the house."
"I've gained weight. I'm a worthless fat cow."

The world keeps shoving numbers down our throats, like in The Devil Wears Prada, when Anne Hathaway’s character Andy says, “So none of the girls here eat anything?” and Nigel (played by Stanley Tucci) says, “Not since 2 became the new 4 and 0 became the new 2.” And then Andy says, “I’m a 6,” and Nigel chokes on his  salad. Like a size 6 is totally behemoth or something. Pick up any woman's magazine and the covers scream "Twenty Days To A Sexier You!" and "Flatten Your Belly In 8 Days" or "Get Flatter Abs In 4 Weeks!" It's enough to make any woman obsess about numbers.

It's incredibly challenging to avoid letting a number determine your self-worth. But granting power to an arbitrary number says absolutely nothing about who you are. It doesn't take into account your talents, your gifts, your individuality, and the ways in which you bring beauty into the world. It pays no attention to your hobbies, sense of style, likes and dislikes, sensitivities, ways you enrich your relationships, and your intelligence. A wise therapist I once saw told me that our bodies are merely vessels that transport who we really are. And we're thinkers, givers, movers and dreamers. No number could possibly encapsulate that.

I have taken the bold step and gotten rid of my scale. Doing so was a tremendous turning point in my recovery from anorexia. It felt liberating and kind of scary and like the most courageous thing I've ever done. Sometimes I miss it, but most of the time I don't. Because without that number clouding my vision, I'm able to see who I really am. And I'm proud of what I see.

Do you think you could ever break up with your scale? Do numbers dominate your life? How often do you weigh yourself? Does the number on your scale have any power on your mood?


14 comments:

  1. I love this post so much. I used to weigh myself every day. When I got up in the morning. When I got home from work, and again before leaving to go back for evening drama club rehearsals, then again after my evening bath before bed. It was exhausting. With the perspective of 10 years of adult life, and a healthy loving relationship that supports me, I can see I was so mired in depression I clung to the only thing that I could control. I did break up with my scale, and when the doctor weighs me, I told her to only let me in when it is an unhealthy number and I need to do something about it! Now I stay away from the magazines, blog sites, and people who make statements that make me feel badly for what I look like. I have better things to worry about! It isn't easy-I have times when I wish I was a bit thinner so I had better selections in stores, or could wear a particular fashion. However, I'm in a much better place now than ever before in my life. The numbers I do worry about now are much like yours-my bank account, the gas prices, the days left in my summer vacation, the pounds of tomatoes I'm harvesting this summer, or even the days before my baby sister returns home from studying in Eurpoe. It makes for a more balanced life:)

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  2. I don't think I could break up with my scale, but good for you! See...if I don't weight myself, then I start ignoring the fact that I'm feeding my body crap, not moving and getting unhealthier by the moment. I do think I need to move off the daily weigh-in's though. It's not like it has moved much lately anyways. I might start in gently and do once a week.

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  3. I love this post! I completely understand the obsession with numbers, but I've learned that you're right - they don't say a darn thing about who I actually am. I have a scale, but it's been at the bottom of the linen closet since we moved into our house back in 2006. I think I pulled it out once. I don't bother with sizes - I wear what fits and feels good. And most of the time, what I wear in one store is completely different in another store.

    There is a quote by C.S. Lewis that I love: "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." I love it because I believe it speaks to the internal/eternal nature of us as people. I have a body but it doesn't mean anything as far as who I am is concerned. My body doesn't say that I'm a wife who loves to take care of her husband. The size of my jeans doesn't tell anyone that I adore my chocolate lab, that I hang out with my little brother on a pretty regular basis or that I love the color blue. My measurements, height, weight, and bra size don't say a thing about my love of the Italian culture, how much I love music or the fact that I can't draw to save my life.

    I have a body. But that's not who I am.
    Keep doing what you're doing! Your bravery in documenting what you've learned from your past is inspiring. :o)

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  4. I never used to weigh myself but have become embarrassingly obsessed by it. I blame the Wii Fit!

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  5. I don't weigh myself. I quit smoking a year and a half ago. I also decided to just start out forgiving myself. No exercising, eat what I wanted and quit killing myself. I came out the other end a whole lot heavier but a nonsmoker! On my one year anniversary I started to lose weight. Within a few weeks I realized I have always loved exercise. Love is a little bit of a understatement. The weight melted off, I have no idea how much though. I do know I went from a size 18 to currently a 7/8. I'm doing my first sprint in October (mini Tri). I have this really hard road ahead of me and it hit me the other day. I CAN NOT DO THIS WITHOUT MY BODY. When I'm hitting the tenth mile on the bike portion, I bet I don't care if I'm a size seven or zero. I will care if I trained well enough. All of a sudden none of this means a thing to me. The only numbers I care about is. Is a good resting heart rate, a cadence that fits ME and keeps me from hurting myself. A portion of time to do what I love. Those are my numbers now. i'm really excited about that! I feel like I have come a long long way.

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  6. I am starting slowly with trying to get myself fitter and healthier and have been wondering how to go about tracking this without becoming obsessed with numbers like so many people do.....dont' want to end up weighing myself every day as I know logically that is a waste of time as your weight varies depending on hormones, food eaten etc....I guess I could go by clothes fitting, not fitting etc....wondering if promissing to only weigh every fortnight as a method of checking? Hmm will have to put some more thought into this one I reckon

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  7. "A wise therapist I once saw told me that our bodies are merely vessels that transport who we really are. And we're thinkers, givers, movers and dreamers. No number could possibly encapsulate that." What lovely sentences to read. Learning to ignore the number on clothing is a struggle at times after all it's more important the item fit well than the dress size on the tag.
    This old girl will never be a model but that doesn't matter since being a healthy me is much more important than a size.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I learn so much from you and love your thinking.

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  8. This post really speaks to me. When I was a teenager, I got obsessed with weighing a ridiculously low number. Wanting to avoid that obsession, I haven't owned a scale since I left my parents' home to go to college 30 years ago. I judge my weight by the way my clothes fit. Last summer while cat-sitting for a neighbor, my curiosity got the better of me when I spotted their sleek, modern scale. Feeling apprehensive, I gingerly stepped on the scale. Sure enough, I didn't like the number that popped up - it seemed too high to me, even though in my head I know I'm trim. So I won't be giving in to temptation again. I actually kind of dread visits to the doctor because I know I'll be weighed, and I'm happier not knowing what that number is. Would love to get to a point where I know the number but don't give a hoot about the number.

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  9. This post really speaks to me. When I was a teenager, I got obsessed with weighing a ridiculously low number. Wanting to avoid that obsession, I haven't owned a scale since I left my parents' home to go to college 30 years ago. I judge my weight by the way my clothes fit. Last summer while cat-sitting for a neighbor, my curiosity got the better of me when I spotted their sleek, modern scale. Feeling apprehensive, I gingerly stepped on the scale. Sure enough, I didn't like the number that popped up - it seemed too high to me, even though in my head I know I'm trim. So I won't be giving in to temptation again. I actually kind of dread visits to the doctor because I know I'll be weighed, and I'm happier not knowing what that number is. Would love to get to a point where I know the number but don't give a hoot about the number.

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  10. My scale broke 2 summers ago and I never replaced it. Best thing ever. Of course I think about my weight and what I'm eating and how acive I am but it's no longer dictated by a number. A number that had the power to make me feel guilty or awesome... Too much power for a number.

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  11. When I lived without a scale, I gained a lot of weight! It was the heaviest I ever was. I ate with abandon. Now I weigh myself every morning, which stops me from getting out of control.

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  12. Love a Devil Wears Prada reference ;) I don't have a scale in my apartment and I try not to let numbers affect me. However, like you mentioned with all the magazines and models it's hard not to think about it. I love how brave and open you are about your body issues. Every woman can relate and you are a strong role model :) xoxo

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  13. I, too, am recovering from an eating disorder. The thing that those obsessed w/ weight don't realize is water can make it fluctuate every day. I had a hard time coming to terms w/ this. I've stopped weighing myself and worrying about it awhile ago. I've recently stopped worrying about the number on the clothes I wear too. Its been a long time coming but its so liberating. Thanks for this post!

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  14. Applause for getting rid of your scale. I wish I could say I was right there with you but scale numbers are still an issue for me in my own recovery process. Thanks for this post!

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