April 08, 2006
What's in a number? Well, when that number represents our weight, it can be tremendously significant. I often write about Starting Over, the daytime reality show about six women who, with the help of two life coaches and a consulting psychologist, work out the kinks in their life and start over.
One of the current housemates, Jodi, is a plus-size woman who is strong, independent, and who has a successful career. She's uncomfortable with her weight, and has memories of being put on a scale and on a diet when she spent time with her father during her childhood summers. On one hand, Jodi is scale-averse, and on the other she wants to lose weight. Jodi's life coach has sent her to a nutritionist, who has put her on a weight loss eating plan.
Jodi was very vocal about not wanting to step on the scale. She initially refused, and discussed the reasons why with Dr. Stan, the consulting psychologist. After all, she said, it's only a number. Dr. Stan probed further, and implied that she was being resistant. Ultimately, on her trip to the nutritionist, Jodi consented to being weighed, but refused to look at the number herself. The next day, back at the house, Jodi weighed herself and looked at the number.
The argument for Jodi being weighed was that she needed to know from where she was starting so that she could measure her progress. She brought up a good point, which was that there were a number of ways to assess progress - such as body measurements - that didn't involve a scale. Eventually, though, she capitulated, and admitted to being resistant to the number.
This ongoing saga has led me to think about the scale. If anyone is scale-averse, it's me - but for different reasons. I'm not afraid of the number, and in fact do weigh myself a couple times a year. I strenuously object, though, to being weighed when it's not necessary. I routinely refuse to be weighed at the doctor's office, for example. In my mind, unless it's medically necessary, it just gives medical professionals one more reason to use weight as a smokescreen instead of treating my presenting symptoms.
I consented to being weighed when I was pregnant with my son (almost eleven years ago), though I'm convinced that didn't give them any usable information. As I recall, I gained 17 or 18 pounds during my pregnancy. Although they knew how much I weighed, it didn't seem to help my doctors prescribe proper amounts of antibiotics for a wound infection after my son was born - but that's another story.
The next time I was weighed in a medical setting was about a year ago, when I needed a CT scan and the scanner had a weight limit. It seemed reasonable to me that the doctor weigh me in order to see if she had to refer me to another facility (she didn't).
Like many plus-size women, I have childhood horror stories of being dragged onto the scale by my mother, and of being weighed at the doctor's office by a sadistic pediatrician who delighted in making a fat little girl feel like pond scum. So, I understand all about being scale-averse.
But I also understand about self-acceptance. Part of accepting oneself as a beautiful, powerful, plus-size woman is acknowledging the number and accepting it. That doesn't mean you're defined by that number, or that you should define yourself by that number. It also doesn't give anyone else license to demand that you step on a scale, unless there's a medically compelling reason to do so.
The bottom line is that, whatever the scale reads, it's just a number.
Posted by conradb212 at April 8, 2006 04:21 PM