I went to a doctor the other day. This isn’t a big deal for most people, because having a GP & getting check-ups aren’t formerly traumatic experiences that they had come to dread and fear. I have been a frequent drop-in at local urgent cares for pressing concerns & illnesses, but I have been avoiding working with a GP for years.
I haven’t had a great time with doctors, from my childhood pediatrician to gynecologists to my attempts at finding a GP. I don’t often feel heard or understood during appointments. That has to do with my stuff, but my weight and size often dominate the conversation in unhelpful ways. There has often been a blanket assumption that I am dangerously unhealthy, despite test results and physical assessments that say otherwise, and recommendations for eating and fitness have been very unsatisfying (skim milk, cardio 5x a week, stop eating by 6 pm – all actual things doctors have told me to do (not that I’ve listened)). As soon as it was up to me to make my own appointments, I started avoiding check-ups and only going to doctors when I was sick enough to miss work. Even then, it was pretty disheartening to drag my shivering, aching, flu-ridden body to a doctor only to get an antiquated diet lecture that my delirious brain could barely process.
Also, I knew there would be a scale for me to step on, and I hadn’t weighed myself in over a year. I had gotten rid of my bathroom scale after hiding it from myself until my obsessive habits of tracking my weight, multiple times a day, subsided. The scale, I realized, was not a healthy tool for me to use, and the way I was using it did not support the goals I have – getting stronger and improving my relationship with my body. So, out it went. I have other obsessive behaviors that are gradually becoming less obsessive, and I keep track of my progress through other measurements; I honestly hadn’t thought about the actual number of pounds in a long time. I wasn’t terrified of that scale waiting for me, but I could definitely think of some things I’d rather be doing than stepping on it.
But it had to be done. As casually as I could, what with being naked under a paper gown designed for a giant Gingerbread Man, I stepped on the scale and read the number out to the nurse taking notes for my file.
And she said, “Thanks.”
And that was it.
I pretty much stopped thinking about it after a moment. The nurse asked me a few questions, then the doctor came in to ask me more questions and marvel at my leg strength when she had me push against her hand, and I had a bunch of questions and also needed to provide, like, seven vials of blood. It was a busy day. It wasn’t until I was nearly home that I even remembered the number I had read to the nurse (I actually do not remember it now, though). And when I thought about, I was kind of just…fine.
Every now and then, I see this meme circulating on my social media feeds, about how your weight on the scale is about gravity, not about your value or your worth, but your relationship to Earth’s gravity. You know, this one:
This is true. This number is not my worth as a person. But I think most of us have some attachment to numbers; we collect them and compare them and use them as data for decision-making. Maybe we rely on them too heavily. And definitely, we fixate on some numbers that don’t matter as much as we think they do. That’s what I’m thinking about scale weight. That’s a number that we fixate on, obsess over, that simply isn’t as important as we have been led to believe.
The number on the scale, for instance, is not the number of push-ups I can do.
It is not the number of pounds I can press overhead, move around in a Turkish Get-Up, deadlift on one leg, or swing and snatch.
It is not the number of students I have taught, books I have read, or laughs I have shared.
It is not the number of times I have picked myself up off the ground, dusted off my hands, and tried again.
It is not the number of people I love, who hold space for me in their hearts and lives, who lend me shoulders on which to lean when I need them.
It is not the number of minutes or feet or steps I can walk without feeling pain or limitation.
It is not the number of days I have known my loving and supportive boyfriend.
It is not the number of things that I have learned to do, that I never thought I could.
It is not a prediction of or a limit on the experiences I will have and the life I will lead.
In short, the number on the scale is not even close to representing what it means to have a fit, happy, full life. It is simply not big enough to be allowed to take up so much space in my consciousness and self-image. We are just so much more.
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