My nutritionist looked at me with a carefully neutral expression before asking, “Do you want me to tell you your weight or not? It’s up to you.”
December, before the holidays, was the last time I’d been in the office. She’d given me two tasks then: continue healthy eating and cease weighing. “Healthy eating,” designed to raise my energy level, involved more calories, fat, protein, and carbs. She’d based this adjustment on my food log and resting metabolic rate, and I’d begun to see positive results almost immediately.
The scale was a problem. Rather, my relationship with the scale was a problem. Whenever the number rose, I’d react with immediate horror, knee-jerk recriminations, and a desperate urge to severely restrict calories. That behavior had gotten me into the original low-energy hole and my nutritionist had warned that my weight fluctuate as I ate better. She pointed out how glad I was about returning to sorely missed activities. Wasn’t feeling better success? Didn’t that make me happy?
And then she’d said this:
Your body may want to be at this weight.
That’s when she asked if I could quit the scale.
Whoa. My chest tightened as I fought a rising sense of panic. “I’m afraid if I don’t weigh myself,” I stammered, “I’ll just get bigger and bigger. I’ll be huge.”
Yes to Body Comp, No to the Scale
Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. I’m about to step on the scale for the first time in two months.
Why now? Waist measurement and weight are two data points necessary to complete the body composition evaluation my nutritionist conducts. Strength would be my measurement for success, revealed through comparing muscle mass. The number on the scale wasn’t so important–had my improving wellbeing led to increased fitness?
Straightening my shoulders, I resolutely said, “Yeah, tell me. I won’t beat myself up over it but I’d like to see how the number compares to how I feel and what I think it should show.” (Translation: I’m pretty sure I’ve lost weight.)
I stepped on the scale. There was a momentary pause before she read out the number.
I weighed the same.
Immediate deflation occurred. Physically, my shoulders slumped. Mentally, I reeled, the thoughts coming fast and furious. I was exercising more regularly than in years. I had more energy. I felt so much better than I had in New Mexico, when I decided to tackle my health again.
So why wasn’t I losing weight?
What was I doing wrong?
Anne smiled gently. “Leah, you went from weighing yourself constantly to not getting on the scale for two months. You’ve made some big neural resets. And those two months included the holidays. You didn’t worry about your food; you didn’t feel deprived. You have more energy. You feel more like yourself. And you didn’t gain weight.”
She waited a heartbeat before adding: “Isn’t that freeing?”
Bathing Suit Fears
I knew her words were true.
Hadn’t I started the session by happily relaying my increasing daily step count, how often I was running, and future exercise plans?
Hadn’t I just told her that my friend, completely unprompted, had said “you’re feeling much better these days, aren’t you” as we ran straights and curves in the early morning light?
Hadn’t I already said the last two months felt like a big success?
But . . . (insert tiny voice here) . . . that was before the scale.
Nearly in tears, I squeezed out a shameful confession: “Yeah, but I don’t like the way my body looks. I like clothes but it’s awful when I want to look nice and nothing fits. Intellectually, I know the problem’s their sizing and not my body. But emotionally?”
Feeling shallow, I swallowed hard before continuing, “And I’m dreading bathing suit season.”
Anne looked at me compassionately. “Find a bathing suit you love,” she said firmly. “If you love it, you’ll feel good wearing it.”
Without directly saying so, she’d taken me back to that earlier observation: Your body may want to be at this weight.
My next task isn’t so much about healthy eating or regular workouts or avoiding the scale (though I will certainly continue to do all three). There’s a greater exercise ahead: can I be happy in this skin–no matter its size?
I’m starting the bathing suit search because, damn it, I will be happy in the water.
Some Back Story
(my food log, determining resting metabolic rate, and determining a healthy diet)
(making a renewed commitment to resolving my fatigue issue)
(negative thoughts surrounding weight)
(applying Marie Kondo to feeling better about myself)
(on living in a swimsuit catalogue world)
(effects of again on an athletic body)