Several years ago, I threw out my scale. The contraption had come to rule my life, with every weigh-in feeling like spinning a wheel in a game show – What did she win, Bob? – except the needle never landed on the jackpot. Tossing my scale into the dumpster was equal parts terrifying and liberating, and for years, I had no idea what I weighed.
But this past year, my mind started to play tricks on me. The mirror has never been dependable for me, as the image I see rarely matches reality. The old paranoia started to creep in; I was convinced I was gaining weight, even though my clothes still fit and my diet hadn’t changed. And while I kept a good poker face about it and didn’t mention this insecurity to almost anyone, inside, I was falling apart.
So in January, I decided to once again embrace the scale. In the midst of the mind-games that were yanking me around, I needed an objective number to ground me in reality. And no one is more surprised than me, but these days, I have to admit that knowing my weight is almost a comfort – an unbiased, unemotional truth in a manic world.
On Saturday morning at the gym, I stepped on the scale – the mechanical kind they have at the doctor’s office where the little weights are moved to the right or left until everything is balanced. I automatically set everything to the number I had been last week, but then was horrified to have to keep moving it up, up, up – over 10 pounds higher than it had been a week before.
Panic started to rise in my throat, threatening to strangle me. THIS CANNOT BE, I despaired. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?? NOOOOOOOO!
And then I heard a snicker behind me.
I whipped around to find a man much too old for pranks standing behind me with his foot on the corner of the scale, pressing down, laughing at his own trick. “I got you!” he crowed.
Fine, it’s kind of funny to retell it now – but in the moment? I was not amused. I was not a good sport. After calling him a dipshit in my mind and a terrorist to his face, I said, “That’s one of the meanest things you could do to a woman.” A sudden fury was rising, as were my eyebrows. He must have sensed my intensity, because he took a step back. I turned to face him square on. “Are you going to leave and let me weigh myself? I’LL WAIT.”
He slunk away, I stepped back on the scale and got the number I was expecting, and then spent the rest of the day thinking about body image, weight, beauty, and how they’ve all become so inextricably fused.
I recently saw an interview with Mindy Kaling. When asked, “What’s the biggest compliment someone could pay you?” without skipping a beat she replied, “That I’m beautiful.” No apology. No pretending that her answer was “wise” or “generous” or “compassionate” in the name of respectability. She wanted to be known as beautiful.
And it was so refreshing.
Because ladies, isn’t that it? Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ll go ahead and own it: I want beauty to be the truest thing about me. Granted, the definition of beauty has been twisted by our culture to the point where it’s difficult to even be able to define it – but we know the real thing when we see it. We want to be associated with it. We were designed to want to be noticed, seen, and enjoyed.
Beauty is beyond the physical, of course – if you say differently, I’ll fight you. But because we live in this very physical world, it includes our bodies, our features, our faces. This is why we make attempts to foster our beauty – not to manufacture it, not to attain it, but to release what is already there. We want our outsides to match our insides, respecting and cherishing the bodies we’ve been given.
Of course, that’s the ideal world. Reality is much more warped.
I manage the Instagram account for my work, and a recent hashtag search accidentally led me to the accounts of young girls struggling with eating disorders. One of them had posted a picture of our product, a 200-calorie snack bar made of nothing but dates, peanuts and sea salt, with the caption, “I feel so guilty about eating this. I don’t deserve food.”
It broke my heart. And while I’ve never struggled with a full-blown eating disorder, I know guilt. I know deprivation. I know workouts as punishment, ubiquitous insecurity, and self-hatred – yes, hatred.
If I were a “tie a bow on it” type of Christian, this would be the time to say that God thinks we’re beautiful (even if the world doesn’t), that our hearts are all that matter (so stop being so vain), and just wait until that glorious day when there will be no more insecurity (the struggles of this life don’t mean a thing). But I’m not that kind of Christian.
I believe that “Thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven” means that the physical here-and-now matters. I believe that our desires are important, because they point us toward something True. I believe that we come into this world packed to the core with beauty, and that part of the work of this life is to let some of that loveliness out, restoring us to what we were originally imagined to be. I believe that we get to play a part in making this sad place beautiful again.
And that’s something worth putting my weight on.