Thursday, March 25, 2010

why i refuse to step on the scale

OK, seriously?
There's now a $160 scale that will tweet your weight. Meaning, you step on the scale and it posts your weight on for the whole world to see.

No way am I stepping on that scale, or any other scale. Because stepping on the scale and looking at the number, not to mention broadcasting that number, sets off a cycle of obsession and compulsion in me that I can't control. Being female, and American, I am, as required, obsessed with my weight and size. And, as required, I judge and value myself by how big or small I am and how good or bad I look.

The messed up thing is when you're dealing with a chronic illness, you often don't have control over your looks or your size. So now on top of judging yourself for your inability to work full-time, or to do basic things like keep your house clean, or enjoy simple things like going to parties or taking a nice long walk, I get the added bonus of judging myself for how I look and what I weigh when the illness and drugs have drained the color out of my face, made my hair fall out, given me a rash and zits, and made me puff up like a balloon with water retention.

So, no, I'm not getting on the scale. Because somehow, I can magically eat nothing and gain 5 pounds.

Everyone says, when they decide to lose weight (and let's talk about that terminology, shall we? How can "losing" something be good? Let's call it "decluttering." I'm going to declutter my thighs!... ) What was I saying? Oh yes, everyone says they're losing weight for their health. If you're really losing weight for your health, then you should be looking for permanent changes to your diet. What we often see, thanks in part to shows lie the biggest loser, celebrity fit club, bride boot camp, etc., is people making radical changes, eating food they don't like, feeling deprived and hungry for the entire time, doing workouts they despise and ultimately looking forward to the day they can go back to sitting in the la-z-boy eating whatever they like. That is not helping your health. It's not just being overweight that is tough on your body. Losing weight is tough on your system- all that fat getting jogged loose, running through your veins and kidneys- and gaining weight is also hard on your body. In fact, that's what kills most anorexics- their heart fails as they put the weight back *on*. Same with those who have been in concentration camps; they have to be eased back into eating full meals. So, we can't just jerk our bodies around, living irresponsibly most of the time then going on extreme diets here and there to "atone." We have to find something we can live with, period.

In high school, I counted calories. I didn't need to. I was a size 5. I marched witha tuba and did aerobics records- for fun. In college, I gained about 10 pounds, so I went on a slim-fast diet. 2 shakes and 1 meal a day. a couple years later, the same 10 pounds (I guess technically it was a new 10 pounds, built from a new set of calories, but on the scale it was the same number), I went on weight watchers. I was always hungry, but it worked. Once I developed lupus, all bets were off. I lost weight for no reason, without trying, and at first I didn't mind. I'd never been too thin before. Then again, I'd never had kidney failure before, and i'd never been too weak to get out of a chair on my own. Then I went on prednisone and gained 40 pounds in teh first month. Talk about demoralizing! Obviously we all know fat does not equal health. But clearly, thin does not necessarily equal health either. (Do I need to repeat that?) So what equals health? It's not a number, and that is why I am not using the scale.

Health equals vitality. Health equals joy, energy, being able to pursue your dreams, wholeness, wellness, peace, well-being.

According to the world health organization:
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
See, not even a single mention of weight.

Since developing the illness, the scale does not correctly reflect whether or not I've eaten properly. It doesn't factor in my water retention from kidney issues or drug side effects. it doesn't play by the rules. It doesn't tell the whole story. And it sets off my neuroses, and makes me want to starve myself and do intense exercise, both of which will only make me worse off than if i'd never stepped onto the scale. (Is it any coincidence that the US population has scales everywhere you look and probably more fat people than any other country? I don't think all those scales are helping!)

I do not measure my well-being by a scale.

Does this mean I just gave up and decided to be fat? Hell no! I've just decided this is not a tool that is helpful for me, because my weight fluctuates wildly during the week (well to me 3-5 pounds when you're 5 ' 2" is wildly), and it is more discouraging than helpful.

Instead, I have committed to lifestyle changes that I am working to make both permanent and pleasant. I trust myself enough now not to binge on foods that I shouldn't be eating. I eat what I should be eating to nourish myself- a vegan diet (no wheat, dairy, sugar, meat), and that number will take care of itself, as will all my other numbers. I get blood tests. I go to both the MD and the acupuncturist. If I'm getting worse, they will notice. But I'm not. I'm getting better, and everyone is noticing. I really am doing this for my health.

Since giving up the scale and going vegan, I've tightened my belt 2 notches. Weight loss- excuse me, de-cluttering- is just a bonus, because what i really want is to feel great, to be well, to have energy, and to enjoy healthy food, to find healthy food that I can eat and enjoy for the rest of my life. And there, I've made great strides.

So, no thanks, I'll pass on the fancy scale, and on reading people's weight tweets. Until they come up with a scale that measures my spiritual well-being, I'm way more interested in reading tweets about making tofu tasty.
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