I thought the world would stop. Hint: It didn't even come close.
My fear of the scale runs so deep that it's sent me to therapy. The thought of seeing a number—a number that's way, way higher than what's considered "okay" by my doctor or by any article on "finding your healthy weight"—makes me need a Xanax (or three). I always wondered if I just recalibrated my scale ever so slightly, giving the false impression that I was say, 20 pounds lighter, if that would do the trick. I asked my therapist about this tactic and she laid it out on the line for me: I'm not scared of the scale—I'm just in deep denial. Denial that my weight had been on a steady incline since my daughter was born just a little over two years ago. Denial that I need to take responsibility for the extra calories I consume when I cope via stress eating.
I mulled this over for a while. Months, to be honest. And then my husband and I were invited on a weeklong cruise. We hadn't been away from our daughter for more than three nights since she was born and desperately needed the time alone to reconnect and relax. Thankfully my parents didn't even hesitate to agree to watch her for the week. And we didn't hesitate to start referring to the trip as a second honeymoon.
But when I opened my closet to scan my vacation wear options, the honeymoon was already over (and we weren't even going to set sail for another month). Curating a wardrobe of tank tops, shorts, bathing suits and sundresses for an entire week felt more stressful than giving birth, moving, and searching for a new job combined. I needed to feel good about myself and not assume everyone on the ship would be judging my body. I knew I couldn't do that without a scale to guide me in the weeks leading up to the trip.
So, I went to the store and bought a scale. The last one I owned broke years ago, and I never bothered to replace it. I took the scale out of the box and placed it next to my side of the bed where it sat for a few days. I needed to get used to its presence. Just knowing it was there, waiting for me, forced me to stop and ask myself what I really wanted each time I opened the fridge—food or comfort? After a three-day standoff, I stepped on the scale. I winced like it was about to explode and shut my eyes tight. Now, to prepare for this travesty, I gave myself a range of numbers. The highest was slightly ridiculous (we're talking a scenario in which I'd need to be forklifted out of bed), but it helped because what I then saw didn't seem so bad. Yes, it was a lot higher than where I wanted to be, but I could now disarm its power. Here's why, and what I learned.
The truth does set you free.
My diet varies from day to day. Some days I eat super clean (or at least I think I do) and cut out carbs and processed foods: eggs for breakfast, salad with chicken for lunch, and a protein/veggie combo for dinner. Other days I pay no attention to calories or ingredients and eat only what I crave—which is usually pizza and chicken nuggets I rescued before my daughter threw them on the floor. Some days my jeans fit great and others they're so tight I can't breathe. Sometimes I'll even throw in a quick cardio sesh to counteract the "bad" days. The thing is, I had no real sense of what was working and what was derailing me because I wasn't tracking my progress. Yes, tight jeans are a great indication that maybe it's time to cut back on my afternoon mocha lattes—but the scale helps me much sooner. A few days of a plateau followed by an increase in pounds means I need to switch to iced tea before the lattes show up on my midsection. I started thinking of the scale as a brutally honest friend giving the tough love I don't want to hear—but know I need. Now when I lose a pound, I feel like the scale is winking at me, as if to say, "I got you, girl."
Knowledge is power.
They say that ignorance is bliss—but having access to my weight whenever I want has become an unexpected secret weapon. I'm the queen of the blame game—my weight is up because work is crazy, because I've been worried about something going on at home, because I was sick. The pattern is to blame my weight on ANYTHING but what I ate. And because I wasn't getting on the scale, these excuses turned to fact (in my mind) because I wasn't taking any steps to get the facts straight. Now that I'm getting on the scale at least once a week, suddenly the excuses have stopped. I have the knowledge—such as I went up a pound because I chose to have pizza instead of a salad. I went down a pound because of the workouts I committed to and the balanced meals I made. Stepping on the scale shuts down the excuses before they even take over.
And the scale has less power.
I was so afraid that the scale would completely derail my mood every time I didn't like the number. But it turns out that avoiding it all this time simply gave it more power. Now that I faced my fear, I actually obsess over my weight a little less, and I don't let the scale define me. Just this week, I stepped on the scale and it was a few pounds higher than I would like. But, I've worked out 18 out of the last 18 days and can fit into my "skinnier" jeans because I'm toning up. Plus, I managed to cook dinner five out of the past seven nights all while working what felt like 24-hour days and taking care of my very active and curious 2-year-old daughter. Phew. I can put what I saw on the scale aside while I focus on and celebrate my life. I can stop obsessing about what number I wish I saw because here's the beauty of the scale: It's not a one-time thing. I can challenge myself this week to maybe eat one less meal out or cut out one glass of wine, and then actually look forward to what the scale has to say the next time I step on it. The shift in mindset—that I have power over the scale and not the other way around—has been incredibly freeing.
And if you'll allow me to be a little vain for a second, I've also learned that the number on the scale has nothing to do with how I feel about my looks. Whenever I blow out my hair or rock a hot new pair of shoes—I feel like Kate freaking Upton, and no number can take that away from me. While the scale can help hold me accountable for my habits, it can't dictate if I feel happy, secure, confident and most of all—beautiful.