Co-Authored with Alexandria Marcus, HLC, EPC, Eating Psychology Coach
Recently, during a dinner party at my house, a friend emerged from the bathroom and told me, "Your scale doesn't work."
I was surprised that she had weighed herself during dinner. Inside, I chuckled. My scale was a wedding gift 10 years ago, and served more of a decorative purpose than a functional one. Yet, before I could respond, another friend chimed in: "Yeah, I noticed that, too. Your scale doesn't work. The battery must be dead."
Neither friend realized what their words revealed. As women, constantly evaluating, thinking, and talking about our weight has become such a cultural norm that it is viewed as everyday dinner conversation. Even worse, perpetual societal images of thin women reinforce the mistaken belief that our beauty lies solely in our appearance, and that we are never thin enough, pretty enough, or good enough.
My friends' comments during dinner revealed that they, too, have internalized these messages. When we externally reference how we feel about ourselves by attaching to a number on the scale, we diminish our ability to internally connect with how we really feel about ourselves. A concrete number on the bathroom scale yields no deeper information about how we can nurture and care for our bodies. For example, our scales don't indicate what types of foods nourish us, whether or not we are actually hungry, and what we are actually hungry for.
We can become more aware of how we feel about our bodies, and what our bodies need by reminding ourselves that hunger is not always about food. Food and emotions are deeply connected. We can ask ourselves a few simple questions to deepen our mind/body connections.
Alexandria Marcus, Certified Eating Psychology Coach, offers women these reminders:
•You can't shame your way into happiness.
Do you know anyone who ever steps onto a scale and feels euphoric afterwards? Measuring self-worth by how much we weigh negates the deeper work our bodies do to sustain our lives every day. Punishing ourselves by swimming in the myopic sea of concrete numbers (weight, calories, etc.) is often a one-way journey that is bound to disappoint. Ultimately we never reach our final destinations when we give so much power to our physical appearance. Our true journeys are emotional, not physical.
•Trade your bathroom scale and for the Hunger Scale.
Every time we eat, we may not be nourishing our physical body. Oftentimes, we are not eating to fill our body hunger, but we are eating to fulfill another hunger.
Physical hunger is felt in the body and can only be satisfied by food, but it can easily get mixed up with emotional hunger. Before you reach for a snack or a meal, ask yourself "Am I physically hungry in my body?" Awareness helps discern what we really need. You can use a simple Hunger Scale to identify if your hunger is coming from your stomach or somewhere else. Use a scale of 1-10, 1 indicates you are starving, 5 indicates you are satisfied but not full, and 10 indicates you are stuffed. Keep in mind you want to nourish your body when you are at a 3 or a 4 on the scale.
•Using your body as a map -- become an explorer!
Do you want to take a trip (without a passport) to a foreign land in the comfort of your own home? Begin to explore your body map! You are only given this one precious body, and one way to begin letting go of the scale is to become curious about what's happening below your neck. How familiar are you with your body when it comes to both your hunger and your feelings? See if you can identify all the sensations in your body associated with hunger and where they are located (head? mouth? stomach?).
If you find yourself reaching for food when you are aren't physically hungry, take a breath and sink into your body so you can identify the sensations and where you are feeling them. Just sitting with the feelings in your body can allow the cravings to pass.
Our body is always anchored in the present moment, but our minds often race off to the future or ruminate about the past. By learning the language of your body map, you can begin to discern the difference between what your mind and body wants, and discover a relationship with food based on what's happening in the present moment. In the end, your body can become your trusted companion on this journey if you begin learn its unique language and trust its wisdom.