The number on the scale: yes, I’m going there

A fit of madness has seized me, and I am going to talk about weight. Normally this is a subject I do not discuss. I don’t like when people talk about their weight; I don’t like when people compliment me on looking “thin”; and I really, really don’t like it when people talk about other people’s weight. I had a relatively brief phase of body-image self-loathing crap in college, and it was bad enough that I maintain pretty rigid defenses against those kinds of thoughts entering my world.

It’s important to me that I look good, and I think there are a lot of ways to look good, and I’m comfortable with my own way, which is soft and curvy all over, but still within the socially-accepted range of figure types for the most part. (Which is another reason I don’t like to talk about weight, by the way: I have some privilege here, and there are other people much more qualified to talk about body-size stigma and body-image disorders and the like.) It’s also important to me that I be reasonably healthy, and the way I do that is make sure I’m maintaining a moderate amount of physical activity, and eating lots of nutritious food, and not going completely overboard on junk food. I never weigh myself for my own benefit: the number on the scale isn’t going to tell me whether I look good, or whether I’m healthy, so I don’t do it.

Now I have two elderly cats, though, and as part of keeping an eye on their overall health, I’m weighing them on a regular basis. And by far the easiest way to do this is to pick up the cat, weigh myself holding the cat, and then weigh myself without the cat and subtract. Which means that, for the first time in many years, I know what I weigh.

Which brings me back to one of the reasons I never weigh myself for my own sake, because the number on the scale is invariably way, way higher than I think it should be. Which is stupid, because I have no reasonable basis for judging what that number should be. When I was a teenager, and too young to realize the multiple levels of stupid involved in this task, I went through an article in a magazine talking about different stars and how much they weighed, trying to get a sense (by comparing myself to the ones who were about my height) of how much I should weigh in order to be perfect. Like I said, stupid. Anyway, the number I came up with was around 130 pounds, which I then upgraded to 135 because, you know, these magazines exaggerate stuff (oooh, look at me being a critical consumer *cough*), and then found that I still weighed a full 15 pounds more than I should! The horror! At that time my body-image issues had not kicked in yet. I thought I looked pretty good, but this little exercise sowed the first seeds of doubt: I thought I looked good, but the magazine told me I didn’t, and proved it with math! Clearly, it was time to start fretting about my body.

Anyway. Fast-forward thirteen years, and what strikes me is that never, in all that time, have I heard a (non-pregnant) woman admit to weighing more than 130 pounds. Sometimes it’s a lot less. Like I said, I don’t listen to or participate in a lot of weight talk, but on the few times I’ve heard a number mentioned, it’s always been 125. Or 120. And often it’s “Yes, I’m 125, I really need to drop a few pounds.” So somewhere in my mind there’s this anchoring effect around the number 130, that that is a good and normal and attractive weight to be, and that I know I’m a little plush so I probably weigh more than that, so probably I weigh around 135 or 140. Which is what I’ve given my weight as every time I’ve needed to do so in the last decade, because that’s a number I can say that fits my self-image.

Well, I actually weigh 160. Which, when I discovered that, sent me into a little mental panic spiral that I had to firmly talk down, with only limited success. (I’m still firmly talking it down.) In my mind, 160 is way too much. Not because I have any idea what a doctor who didn’t have their head up their ass would say about my body’s health, not because I have any idea what’s average for my height, just because the only women who talk about their weight loud enough that I can hear claim to be 30 to 40 pounds lower than that, and because I read this magazine feature once. I have to actually remind myself that my body looks the same as it did before I stepped on the scale with my cat, and if I was happy with it then it would be stupid not to be happy with it now, just because I now know a fact I previously didn’t know.

So I wanted to post this just to correct the information imbalance that I, at least, was suffering from, even though I think the whole number-on-a-scale thing is bullshit. Apparently some fabulous-looking women weigh 160, and I bet some fabulous-looking women weigh a lot more, but I have no idea because I don’t know their number, I just know I think they look fabulous. The point here is that a number cannot tell you whether you look good or not. It just can’t. And for too long, I’ve let a number have that power, and only my elderly cats’ health has forced me to confront that little brain parasite and try to eradicate it. And this post is part of my attempt to do that.

(Admin note: this post has a zero-tolerance policy for fatphobic comments, or any comments that imply that a woman has an obligation to tailor her body to someone else’s satisfaction. I rarely delete comments but that shit will be deleted without apology. My blog, my rules.)

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3 thoughts on “The number on the scale: yes, I’m going there

  1. Weight IS just a number, and congratulations on your efforts to disregard it. You’re on the right track. If you feel healthy and attractive, weight doesn’t matter. I’ve been making the same change myself. I’ve been training for my first 5K. The number on the scale hasn’t gone down, but I’ve gone from running NOTHING EVER BEFORE to running THREE MILES just this morning in only 10 weeks. Those numbers I like 😀 And those numbers say a lot more about me than what my weight is.

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  2. I love the word “plush” here.

    I remember some website a few years back did a thing where they posted photos of women, plus their weights. It was EYE-OPENING. What I would have estimated was, say, 200 pounds, was actually more like 280. When I would have said 125, the woman was 175 or 190 or something.

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  3. I’m 5’1 and currently at 150. For my height, this isn’t good in the least. I’ve also lost 30 in the past 5 months. At this point, it’s about my health, and not even so much about my appearance. Tho I won’t lie, it’s nice to be able to wear my clothes again that I couldn’t at this time last year.

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