For a while now, I haven’t been shy about broadcasting my weight here for all to see (I’m 229.0 pounds this morning, if you’re curious). And, if I’m being totally honest, there has been some backlash over the years about me being so open with my weight. I’ve been told I’m a bad example because I’m scale-obsessed. I’ve been told I need to focus instead on the measuring tape. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t care what my weight is.
Well, the truth is, I don’t care what the number is. Care is an emotion, and there are no emotions tied to what pops up on the scale for me anymore. That number is just another measurement of my body (like my height–5’9″—or my shoe size–11–or my ring size–6 1/2). But what I don’t get is why other people care so much about that specific number of mine. What is it about being so open and honest about my weight (and maybe wanting to change it) that makes a few folks get all up in a tizzy?
Yesterday, when I was all pretzel-like while doing Bikram, I had a breakthrough. I think I figured it out. The reason our weight—the specific number—is so controversial is because we let it be! We give that number emotional power over us—both positive and, more often than not, negative. And more specifically, I think we give it power by being so secretive and protective of the actual number.
There are so many women out there (and men, too) who are so afraid to share their weight with the world. Listen, I totally get it. It can feel like it’s something to be ashamed of—especially if you feel like you’ve “let yourself go”. But I’m a big believer that shame is one of the least constructive emotions on the planet. And by letting ourselves be ashamed of our number, we’re letting our weight have the upper hand. We’re treating those three numbers (or more, or less, or with decimal points, whatever!) like our collective dirty little secret. If we don’t tell someone what we weigh, maybe they’ll think we’re smaller than we are. Maybe we can shave off 10 pounds or so with these black pants. Maybe they can’t really “see” how fat or skinny or perfectly normal we are just as long as there isn’t a number to quantify our size.
But of course, that’s not how it actually works. You don’t have to tell someone you are overweight for them to know it. Just like you don’t have to tell someone you’re a brunette for them to know it. Quantifying it or not quantifying it does not change the fact that it is what it is. And, if anything, maybe you’re doing yourself a disservice. Maybe by not telling folks what you weigh, you are filling your own emotional bucket with denial and a touch of dependence on the scale. If you don’t talk about your weight, then that might make it okay, even if it really isn’t. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Before Wholefully, I used to hold my number really close to the vest, too. I lied on my driver’s license because I was afraid of what people would think of me who saw my I.D. with my “real” weight on it. I was afraid people would love and respect me less if they knew the truth of my weight—even the total stranger checking my I.D. at the liquor store. And that fear gave so much power to the number on the scale.
But a crazy thing happened. I decided to “come clean” here and, guess what, the people I love and respect and care for didn’t even bat an eyelash. They didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Knowing the number that quantified my bigness didn’t change how they felt about me. It wasn’t like they found out I was 200+ pounds and were suddenly like, “Wow, I never realized you were fat before, but now that you mention it…you are. YOU ARE TOTALLY FAT. I don’t like you anymore.” Nothing changed. My husband still loved me (although, he knew the number way before y’all did). My family still loved me. My co-workers still respected me. My readers kept reading (hi, guys!). The person at the liquor store didn’t even seem to mind that I was so chub-tastic.
While there were no changes with the folks I loved, it did create some changes within me. Releasing that number into the wild returned the balance of power solely into my hands. By broadcasting what I weighed to everyone, suddenly that number was just that—a number—and nothing more. My weight was no longer my dirty little secret. It was no longer something to be ashamed of. It was no longer an embarrassing trophy of my fall from grace. It was just what it is—a number that had little impact on my life, my relationships or my health. My weight was suddenly totally powerless in the battle to control my emotions. By letting everyone know what my number was, I simultaneously stripped away all the self-imposed negative and positive connotations of that number.
I know going public isn’t right for everyone. And I’m not saying you need to wear a t-shirt with your weight printed on it. But I do think everyone could use a dose of reflection to figure out why they are holding their number so tightly inside. True, it could be that you like to keep your weight to yourself just because you’re a private person. But then again, it could be something else. Is it because you are ashamed? Is it because you are embarrassed? Is it because you’re afraid someone will judge you? For me, all of those fears were erased the moment I published my weight for the world to see. And now, there is no fear when I step on the scale at the doctor’s office or show my driver’s license. Try it, you might like having a powerless number pop up on that scale in the morning.