I was nine years old the day I started dreading scales. At my Sunday gymnastics class, the instructor weighed all of us. Then she pulled me aside.
"You need to lose a little weight," she said.
I was shocked. And embarrassed. And wise enough to know that wasn't an appropriate thing to say to a kid.
"You're not so skinny yourself," I retorted, then went home haunted by her request. I didn't tell my parents.
I started stepping onto my mom's scale daily in high school, when the dieting began. There was the franks/beets/ice-cream diet. The Grapefruit Diet. The Atkins diet. I tried 'em all, meticulously recording my weight on a lined piece of paper I taped inside my nightstand.
I didn't bring a scale to college, so I did the deed whenever I got the chance —- at the school gym, in the bathroom of the home where I babysat and, once, in the bedding area of a department store. I may not have been weighing myself every single day, but I knew my numbers. I got that "scale high" when my weight dropped; when I gained, I'd freak and do something drastic like eat only chicken broth for days in a row.
After I had kids, I hardly ever hit the scale. I had no time -— or desire —- to obsess. Some days, I didn't even have 10 seconds to weigh myself. At my last physical, I purposefully avoided looking when I got weighed. The doctor told me I had to shed some pounds. I didn't need the scale to tell me that -— I knew from the tightened waistline of my pants. That and my little girl's lovely habit of poking my arm flab and saying, "Mommy's mushy!"
Then temptation arrived at my doorstep. Literally. I was sent a Quantum scale to check out. You may have seen the infomercial; this is the scale that never shows you how much you weigh. It secretly records your starting weight, then flashes the number of pounds you've lost (or gained) each time you step on it. It's a kinder, gentler scale.
After years of avoiding scales, I was hesitant to engage. But there it was, sitting on my living room floor, all Pandora-like. I got on. It blinked as it recorded my weight —- and it did not flash, "You shouldn't have eaten that tiramisu!"
A few days later, days filled with lots of salad and yogurt and mindful eating, I got on it again. It registered -3.4.
Only I didn't feel a rush. No little voice inside me screeched "Woo-hoo! You lost weight!" I didn't do a happy scale dance. All I could think was, IT'S A NUMBER.
To be sure, I have to drop some pounds -— I'm not at a healthy weight. But I know that if I get sucked back into that numbers game, I'll be on an emotional roller coaster, my body confidence contingent on whatever some flashing screen shows up.
I put the Quantum in the closet. I'll see it again ... but not so soon.
How about you? Ever get caught up in the numbers on the scale? How often do you weigh yourself?
More from health