I was telling her about my issues with the scale and not being able to let go of it, and feeling stress over the scale and the numbers it would show me.
She nearly interrupted my pity party and abruptly asked me, "When you step on the scale, what does that number mean to you?"
I stopped, speechless. "I have absolutely no good answer for that," I thought.
Seeing that she'd elicited the reaction she'd expected (baffled silence), she continued, "That number on the scale, that number inside your jeans, that's not what matters. The fact that you're healthy matters. The numbers can change and come and go but in the end, being healthy is what's most important. That should be your goal."
I was taken aback a little bit. I'd never heard that concept described so perfectly before. Sure, I'd heard from people that the number on the scale doesn't matter, but I'd never heard the second part about how healthy is what matters. Healthy is what should be most important.
Who cares if I'm a size 4 or 6 or 8? I'm very active, I'm eating good foods, and I'm taking care of my mental health. Check, check, check. Why should a digital number on a scale or a number printed on a clothing tag define how I feel about my body? My health? My life?
I told her about how, among four cakes at work yesterday, I ate one small piece of cake and still felt guilty about it. "You're allowed to eat a piece of cake. There's nothing wrong with that." And you know what? There's not. There's still a huge difference between what I used to do and what I do now. Way back when, I might have had a small piece -- of all four cakes. Then I would have sat around, inactive all week.
It is OK for me to have one small slice of cake on a random Monday. I am active enough that I can afford the small splurges every now and then, and I shouldn't have to feel shame or guilt about doing it. I didn't overdo it. I had a taste and left it at that.
Instead, let's focus on the good numbers: for me, it might be my 44 resting heart rate or my body fat percentage that lands me within sneezing distance of the "fitness" range after just a year of running. It could even be something totally unrelated to health or fitness. For instance, I'm damn proud of my current 3.95 cumulative GPA in grad school at Northwestern, now over halfway through the program. That's a number to be proud of, not the number on a tag in my pants.
I was reminded of the new Special K campaign, "You're so much more than a number," that nearly brought me to tears when I saw it on TV recently (even re-watching it when I found the YouTube clip just now brought tears to my eyes again).
In the beginning of the commercial, women talk about how jeans shopping is stressful and depressing because, as we all know, trying things on in a particular size and then realizing they don't fit you can be a very disheartening experience. The women in the commercial instead are measured at size "Radiant," "Confident," "Strong." "Not seeing the number is so freeing," one woman says.
So I'm going to start living right now. As in the Special K commercial, I'm "rethinking what defines me." That is the first sober choice I make.