Monday, July 18, 2016

Weight loss diary -- using a scale and setting limits

My scale broke.

I'm not sure what to do with this turn of plot.

Toss it? Buy a new one? Only weigh in at the gym?

Or maybe...quit weighing myself for a bit.

I don't know exactly. But I am inclined to go with the final option.

On the one hand, how am I supposed to know if I'm achieving my goal, if I can't track my progress?

On the other, it could be the weighing in that is the most dangerous pitfall of all aboard this weight loss train.


I never used to be a scale person. I didn't own one, and I would only step on occasionally, out of curiosity, if I saw one hanging out in a friend's bathroom.

Sadly, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, I did this with a nose in the air. Privately, behind closed doors atop tiled floors, I would celebrate my number. Exactly where I wanted it to be. Sometimes even lower, leaving a little extra "play" room; room for some slices of cake, a few more beers. Forever snacking with flat tummy intact.

Sometime in the last year I was at the apartment of one of Alex's friends. It had rained, for once, in LA, and we were watching Clue in a swanky flat with the French patio doors open. I excused myself to use the restroom, and there it was, one of those tantalizing squares of temptation: a scale.

I stepped on.

Shocked and crestfallen, I threw no confetti in the air.

In a moment, I saw a number I had never seen before -- not one that had ever been tied 'round my waist.

I confessed my number to Alex during the drive home, with sadness in my voice.


I find it disgusting on some level that we have wasted hours of precious, God-given time on this earth counting the numbers that mark the amount of pounds in our body.


It's just weight.

I don't have the words right now, as I am left somewhat speechless at the fact that the amount we weigh means anything.

We care less about muscle tone, waist lines, measurements, than we do about that number.

We care less about how we look, even -- and we LOVE to care about how we look -- than we do about our number.

We care less about our humor, our satisfaction with daily life.

We care less about how much joy we might in fact be able to feel if we were completely unaware of our number.

Right? I just think if we didn't know weight, if we didn't understand it as a concept, had no reference point, knew neither our own nor anyone else's number -- then we'd be happier.

I really believe this.

And it's just sad to me that we're allowing something so banal, so scientific -- weight should be something you monitor in a chemistry lab, in grams -- to be ruling us so.


Part of me wants to write here: "That's it! I'm not going to use a scale anymore!"

But half a second following that thought, I reel.

What if my number goes up, and I don't know it? Wouldn't it be better to know, so that I could correct my actions, to make the number go back down? I ask myself in fidgety discomfort, feeling control spin from my hand like a top on a string.

In reality, my number could be going up this very moment. I haven't weighed myself on a working scale in several days. I spent the weekend drinking beer, eating Oreos, and also hiking an insanely steep trail.

Did my number go up? Did it go down? Did the dial's needle waver at all?

No way to know.

As a previous non-user of scales, and as a current owner of a broken scale (who had gotten in the very recent habit of weighing herself nearly every day), I can't say I know what I want -- to know my number or make it once again a mystery.


I can tell you this: I am trying to save money, so I will, today anyway, likely not go buy a new scale.

I can tell you that I am glad that I haven't, yet, become obsessed with my scale. I don't feel like a junkie right now, as if I must go to Target immediately following work to buy a new scale.

And I can tell you that, just like all of us, I am having my up moments and my moments of frustration.

I went on a hike this weekend, and halfway up I turned around and went back down, sending two of my friends ahead to finish the feat.

I told my other friend, as we were descending the switchbacks, that I think it's almost more difficult to make the decision not to finish than it would have been to power through and climb all the way to the top.

I said this because I knew I would have regrets about my decision, even if it was a healthy one to make. Today, two days later, I am somewhat upset I didn't complete the hike. I am second guessing myself -- would I have been able to reach the summit? Should I have gone for it?

I told Alex that I didn't finish, and even in his encouragement, in saying he knows I could have powered through to complete the task, I didn't feel better. In fact, I felt worse. I considered not telling him at all, because I knew his words of, "You could have done it" wouldn't feel like a compliment.

It's incredibly hard to set your own limits.

It's hard to forge forward, to put in so much of what you have, and to meanwhile save some of your reserves. I just don't know that I've ever bought into the American mantra of "Give it your ALL."

I'll give it my all in writing, maybe, but when it comes to physical fitness, I'm not sure I can get behind this. I don't need to run a marathon, to complete an Iron Man competition. I just want to be healthy, and happy with my looks.

I don't even really feel like I have helpful words here, and I think a lot of you would actually disagree with me, saying that for fantastic views of nature's vistas, I should have forged ahead on that hike.

But in the moment, my friend and I were exhausted, short on water, on the verge of sunburn.

"I feel so defeated," my friend said.

We trudged a little further up and saw some people coming down, who had made it to the top. They told us we were only just halfway up. You're only beginning, they said. When you pass the tree line, it's sweltering, they told us.

We weren't feeling encouraged. We didn't feel strong. We didn't feel able.

I don't know if we made the right decision or not.

But I do know that life is too short to worry about it. I don't feel the truth of that sentiment in every moment, but most days I do believe that life is too short to count calories, add up pounds, feel like less of a person because I didn't tread every step of the trail.


My friends and I met a couple yesterday who recently lost their son to suicide. He was 20 years old. I think I speak for us all when I say that we felt so blessed to be able to sit with this husband and wife for an hour. "We are shattered but not broken," the boy's mother told us.

Before we got in our car to head back to our Airbnb, the parents of this young man prayed for us. I don't think any of us will ever forget them. It is gut wrenching and terrible that he had to leave earth so soon, but his life touched ours, through his parents and their kindness.

His name was David.

Life IS short.

I'm hoping that I can live in a way that the scale is not my ruler. Not as a tool for measuring my worth nor as a heartless dictator in a superficial throne.

The portion of the hike that I did this weekend had some gorgeous views.

I burned a billion calories.

I did something tough.

As I came down, I got to talk to a friend who I rarely see. A friend who has been extremely special to me for many years.

We shared chips and salsa and drank beers, cheering ourselves for a job well done.

This weekend was full of gifts, and I was able to count them, one by one. I don't want to lose the pile of gifts for spending time with the one, feeling like it's incomplete. It was just a hike.

To you all: well done. Whether you're losing weight, going after an artistic project, or maybe you're just sitting on the couch eating popcorn, I don't know.

Let me tell you what the mother who lost her son said to us yesterday: You are worth something.

Go after things. Don't waste this life. But try not to let a number determine your happiness. Enjoy the beautiful views you have, without lamenting the ones you don't get to see.

Much love,

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