The greatest gift.

When I was a sophomore in high school, bright-eyed and pimple-pocked, in a desperate attempt to finally cure my acne, my dermatologist decided to put me on Accutane, a prescription known for both its strength and its side effects, which include everything from severe birth defects to skin tenderness to deep depression. While the prescription took physical form in sensitive, tender skin, more importantly, it took emotional form in a gnarly bout with depression. Ultimately, I "failed" Accutane (the only thing I've ever officially failed) and was left with stubborn acne and about 10 pounds of depression weight.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I decided that enough was enough. I was done carrying around the depression weight. I had finally figured out my acne but was left with a constant reminder of my depression, literally carrying around the weight of the experience. So, with the support of family and friends, I joined Weight Watchers. Unlike most women my age, this was the first time that I had ever decided to "diet," and, to be totally honest, it was a great experience. I quickly shed the weight and finally learned the basics of what I was putting into my body. Granted, this is where my love for Diet Coke was born (the inevitable weaning just this past year was both challenging and life-giving), and I wasn't exposed to nutritional information beyond calories, fat and fiber, but I found the accountability comforting and the system easy.

Each week, when I would attend my Weight Watchers meetings, I would prepare myself to step on the scale. I had systematically worked out a way to attend the earliest meeting possible, skipping breakfast and making sure that I had gone to the bathroom right before the meeting, hoping to ensure a lower number on the scale. 

After ending my summer with Weight Watchers, my habitual relationship with the scale continued. I would look to it for reassurance and would craft my daily habits to ensure the lowest possible number. I'd take off another layer of clothing, tell myself that I had had a large meal the night before, or weigh myself multiple times, hoping that one of the numbers would be low enough to buoy my spirits. On the mornings that I would venture onto the scale, I felt the course of my day hang in the balance. If I saw a number I was happy with, well, I was basically a badass! But, if I saw a number that seemed too high, even just a few digits higher than before, my spirit was crushed. The image of myself as strong, thin, and... worthy... would shatter. I was no longer enough. Or maybe I was too much. 

While my dysfunctional relationship with the scale continued, I weaned myself off from a daily habit to a weekly habit, and from a weekly habit to a monthly habit. Distancing myself had an amazing effect on my body acceptance, allowing me to determine my progress without a number to validate me. But, every once in a while, I would step on that little box and see the image of myself reflected in the number. 

Finally, about seven months ago, as we began packing up our home in Flagstaff to move back to Seattle, weighing the importance of each packed item, it came time to pack the scale. I remember standing in front of it, looking down at this 10"x10" object that somehow had the power to define me.

In that moment, I decided to free myself. Enough was enough. No longer would I let a number define my value, no longer would I let an object determine my worth or how good I got to feel about myself that day. I picked up the scale and put it in the pile to donate, and, in that moment, I gave myself the greatest gift I could possibly give. 

In my work, I talk to women all over the country who are held captive by their weight and the image that they hold of themselves in their heads. I work with women who give their power over to a magazine or a tape measure or a scale, women who are taught that these external forces are the measure of their worth and value. I know this pain, because this pain was once mine, too.

The greatest gift I've ever given myself was... freedom. Freedom to determine my value on my own terms, freedom to separate my worth from my weight, freedom to choose being healthy over being thin -- a distinction that has actually given me greater health, mentally, physically and emotionally, than I have had in a very long time.

In kicking the scale to the curb, I reclaimed my power, my purpose and my worth. What do you need to kick to the curb? An object? A pattern of thought? A past experience? 

When I work with my clients whose goals include weight loss, I encourage them to weigh themselves only on the days that I meet with them, if that -- utilizing the scale as only one measure of our progress together. We replace this measurement with affirmation, gratitude, and learning how to listen to and know our bodies. As my clients lose weight, which they always do, they gain even more. Clarity, joy, and freedom.

Kate McCarthyComment