When was the first time you remember thinking (or caring) about a number?
We live in a world obsessed with the number on a scale.
Almost half of American children between 1st – 3rd grade want to be thinner and half of 9 and 10-year-old girls are dieting (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, 2011).
Unfortunately, many in our society correlate weight loss and that number with “health.”
Here’s a challenge for you: Simply observe and reflect upon the “health” messages you see and hear in a given day. A look at magazine covers scream claims like: “Lose 5 pounds in 5-days,” infomercials for a fitness video tempt potential customers with phrases like, “Tighten and tone,” trainers in gyms sell the secret to what every human “wants:” weight loss, e-mails in your inbox boast insider tips for boosting your metabolism and chiseling your waist, and the labels on many different food products in the grocery store remind us they are “Zero calorie” and “sugar free”—closely tied to this value of weighing less.
But does the goal of weight loss directly and controllably improve health?
In other words: Healthy eating, healthy exercise and healthy living is NOT just about weight (weight loss or weight gain for that matter).
DEALING WITH FEAR OF WEIGHT GAIN
“Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”
Instead, “healthy” is completely, 100-percent, totally up to you (and me) to define (and goes far beyond that number on the scale). For instance, in my own recovery, as I began to focus less on the number, “healthy” really began to mean things like:
- Being able to go to Whole Foods and eat something off the hot bar—even though I hated the thought of eating canola oil (and there’s canola oil in most everything on that hot bar)
- Going with the flow to whatever restaurant my friends chose—and finding something to nosh on
- Not having to call ahead to the hotel before I got there on vacation to find out where the closest gym was (going with the flow)
- Not packing my week’s worth of meals in my suitcase for that same vacation (again, going with the flow)
- Letting my mom cook dinner for my family—instead of me having to do it, or have a completely separate meal
- Experimenting with making a homemade almond butter cookie (it may not be a regular sugar cookie, but it was a cookie—a treat)
- Taking a bite of a thoughtfully-made cookie from a friend (even though I hated sugar)
- Not having to buy everything organic
- Being ok with less than an hour in the gym some days
- Being ok with an early morning meeting or 6 am flight that left me without my usual morning gym time
- Laughing…smiling…playing…being at peace…
Although weighing a “healthy” weight was also part of my recovery from disordered eating, ironically, the less I began focusing on the number on the scale, and more on self-care and self-love, the MORE freedom, liberty and total peace (with myself) I found. (And crazy enough, my weight didn’t
Kinda like that saying: “Love finds you when you least expect it,” when you stop trying so gosh darn hard to be the perfect weight or attain a weight range or body type that you approve of, the more peace, contentment and happiness (in your own skin) finds you.
Sounds crazy I know.
A method for helping yourself redefine how you view weight, beauty, weight gain and the fear of weight gain?
Picture yourself as the healthy, thriving, vibrant YOU that you want to be, then put on your own superhero cape (or “princess” dress like you did as a little girl playing pretend), and embody the girl you want to be. Pretend you are her.
How does that girl speak to herself? View herself? Think about weight? Fear weight—or not fear weight?
What is the mindset and relationship you want to have with the scale?
Embody that mindset and pretend to have it—even if you don’t feel like “her” today.
And, by all means, throw out the scale and refuse to step on it yourself, and focus more on the self-care aspects of your recovery: Fueling your body (nutrition), finding what moves you (fitness), connecting with community and LIFE (outside ED) and living your passions (or exploring what those are).
You are NOT a number. Nor are you defined by a number.
So stop believing and thinking you are.
So as YOU think, therefore YOU become.
BONUS TIP: DEALING WITH WEIGHT GAIN IN RECOVERY
How does “finding your happy weight” apply to your recovery from an eating disorder? Here’s my two cents…
“I thought they told me recovery was not about the weight?!…So why do they care so much?!” you may wonder as doctors and nurses ask you to strip down to your undies and a hospital gown, turn your back and step on the scale at least once per week.
Your nutritionist hides her own scale under her desk, and whips it out at the beginning of every appointment, asking you to do the same thing: “Turn your back, I need to weigh you.”
And your friends and family congratulate you as if you’ve won some award as they seem to “see” the pounds coming on—right before your very own eyes.
“I thought they told me recovery was not about the weight?!…So why do they care so much?!” you cry.
The truth: Recovery is NOT about weight. It is about so much more.
The weight piece is really only a reflection of the greater-something that recovery is about—genuine health and well-being on the inside, that reflects how you take care of yourself (inside and outside). When we ARE in a healthy place, our body will be healthier—in all aspects (not just weight, but nutrient deficiencies, heart function, gut health, and of course, our minds!).
If the scale IS part of your recovery and healing process right now (even against your will), you STILL get the CHOICE of what YOU choose to focus on.
It may seem as though everyone else cares about “the number,” but as you set your sights on thriving in your life—your body (and everyone else) will follow suit. You CAN have a body you feel confident and comfortable in, and a mindset that’s twice as stunning. Keep your eyes on your own version of thriving in the process, led by healthy, thriving self you. You’ll get there.
-Dr. Lauryn, xo