I think of myself as the perfect marketing target for the Weight Loss Industry: I’m bigger than conventional wisdom would call thin. My BMI oscillates between “normal” and “overweight’ on an almost weekly basis and I am vain enough to care. I can easily tell myself that if I just had a little more self control, I could rock a size 6. As an early adolescent, I started hating my body. As an older adolescent, it flared up to full on rage, punishing myself by extreme dieting, extreme exercise and extreme negativity. I tied my self worth to my weight and let it stay there for a very long time. It stayed there through my thinnest days and my fattest days, both of which are behind me.
And then something shifted. One day, in the thick of hating myself and punishing myself, I was really tired. I was at the bottom of a large staircase with an escalator on the side. I never take the escalator, but that day I really wanted to. The voice in my head said “take the stairs, fat ass!” And then almost immediately, another voice in my head said “Don’t talk to me that way!” I woke up. I realized all the hate I was giving myself. I would never speak to someone else like that, never motivate a client that way, never accept a trainer saying it to me. How could I say it to myself?
So I stopped. I stopped speaking to myself with venom and hurt. I started treating myself, little by little, how I would treat a client or a friend. If I couldn’t lift the 30lb dumbbell one day, I could do a few more reps with the 25 and not be a failure. If I couldn’t hit a 9 minute mile, I’d put on really awesome music and enjoy my 9:15 pace. If I wanted a cupcake, I was going to get myself the prettiest, most delicious cupcake I could find. I started carrying 85% dark chocolate around with me in my purse so I always had a delicious treat available.
That was at least 8 years ago, and it was the beginning. I’m in the middle now. I still fret about my weight. I still have moments where my jeans feeling tight ruin my morning. I still sometimes wish for that elusive size 6. But those moments are fewer and far between. I think I’m now at my heaviest adult weight since the really heavy college days and I’m happier with my body than ever. I watch myself in the mirror at the gym and think I look strong and fierce. I see the cellulite but I don’t fixate on it. It doesn’t define me as a person, it doesn’t make me “bad.” We have to stop labeling ourselves as good and bad, especially when we’re talking about food. In all truth, I was my worst self when I was beating myself up.
I guess my point is that it’s a choice. It has to be a conscious choice and you have to practice it all the time, but positive body image and self esteem aren’t tied to how you look. They’re tied to how you feel. And if you can feel like you’re making the best choices available to you, that you’re taking care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs, then the number on the scale will hold less power. And maybe eventually, no power at all. And in the meantime, just chuck the scale. It’s tough to practice not caring what it says when it’s staring you in the face.