For as long as I can remember, numbers have controlled me. Numbers such as birth order, height, GPAs, IQ, salaries, pregnancies, loans. I have collected numbers along my life path just like everyone else bumbling along. Some of those numbers have brought me great joy (such as the years I’ve been married or the number of kids I have) while others have carried a sting. And for a non-math-loving girl, this numerical influence chafes.
But perhaps the most influential number, on a daily basis, is my weight. I cannot even estimate how many good moods I have had torpedoed by the simple act of stepping on a scale. Last week, one of my CrossFit inspirations shared a link to Primitive Stimulus’s blog post on reducing the influence of the scale in our lives. It also happens that the day before she linked Jason Seib’s blog I started my day in my traditional manner: use the potty, weigh myself, make coffee. By the second act of my day, my previously good mood had evaporated at seeing a number I just really, really didn’t like. Poof! A great mood gone.
It occurred to me while reading Jason’s blog just how much my daily experiences are tainted by my obsession about my physical body. Years ago during my then-weekly therapy sessions I mentioned how hard it is for me to make peace with my physical self. And my therapist, whom I feel is very good at helping people overcome emotional issues said to me, “well, that’s just something you’re going to have to get over.” In her defense, body image probably seemed inconsequential to the PTSD I was struggling to overcome then. But my body image and triggers for my PTSD are all wrapped up into one complicated package. And it is a package I don’t like very much. In fact, there are days when I hate it.
But how does one “get over” body hatred? Because that is what I struggle with every day. Not wishing I were taller or my bosom larger, but truly despising the body I’m in. For me, my physical self has long been a source of angst because it is visible proof of my inability to control my world. As a child, I may not have been able to control the abuse but I could control my body. I may not have been able to control the voices that hurt me, but I could control what I ate. The fact is, for me, diet and exercise is a slippery slope. I diet too much and the obsessive behavior comes back. Not enough and my health (and important numbers like blood pressure and cholesterol) suffer.
So what to do, what to do? Last week I made myself a deal. I would put away my bathroom scale for six months. I would not “diet” for six months – no counting calories or weighing green beans. Instead, I would continue running and CrossFit. I would continue eating primarily Paleo or Primal but if I really wanted a chocolate chip cookie I would have it. If my pants got snug I would eat more veggies and fewer non-gluten based carbs (I’m gluten sensitive so I try to really limit them in my diet). But most of all, I would stop letting a number rule my life.
It’s been a week. So far my pants seem the same but my moods are vastly improved. Now if I wake up in a good mood, it takes an argument with my Littlest over wearing shoes to make it crumble about the edges. Who knows what the middle of November will bring. Perhaps my experiment will be a colossal failure and my doctor will be aghast over my weight. But for now the sense of calm and ability to stop hating myself for not controlling my weight is worth it.
BTW, in case it seems that this is just a girl thing, please think again. Every female struggling with body image has a family and friends. The toxic words and feelings affect everyone she knows. And it isn’t only girls. Boys grow up with body image issues but we are not as likely to hear their struggles. The time has come to stop letting lives be ruled by numbers that don’t help but instead hurt. The time has come to set aside our dependence on “Paint by Numbers” approaches to life and instead throw our paint on our canvases. The time has come to begin living as we were meant to…with richly colored stories not limited to the constraints of numbers.