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?
Labels: body image