For the past two weeks, my inbox has been inundated with emails from companies hawking New Year's resolution-themed weight loss pitches.
"Try our Cookie Diet for a slim and tasty new 2009!"
"Visualize yourself with our 30-pounds thinner camera!"
"New Year? NEW, THINNER YOU!"
Delete. Delete. Delete.
My resolutions will certainly not be including any sort of diet fiber cookie or Photoshopping. The deluge of letters has, however, got me thinking about ways to kick the year off in a creatively healthy way. For me, one thing that will include: No more weighing myself like a slab of meat on the scale.
From December of 2007 to May of 2008, I quite successfully quit the scale cold-turkey. My last call came when I weighed myself before embarking on a chip-filled Nueva Vallarta family vacation. I then decided to conduct a little experiment and see what would happen (most importantly to my mind, but also my body) if I kicked the scale to the curb.
It was wonderful. I would watch other women step up onto the horribly gigantic 6-foot-tall Toledo Scale in our gym locker room with looks of sadness or trepidation. They would kick off their flipflops and drop their towel and remove their watch to try and move the needle down a tad. I heard two prepubescent, 80-lb. girls arguing about who was the bigger "cow" and how disgusting their thighs were as they alternated jumping on the register.
Let me tell you, it did not take long for me to get extremely used to NOT weighing myself. It was, at the risk of sounding cliche, like breaking up with a friend who always pinched and poked and took potshots at me. I found it surprisingly easy to wipe my hands clean of the habit as I found how much freer I felt every single day. I recall almost skipping along State Street one day feeling like Mary Tyler Moore in her hat toss scene, thinking, "What if I just never weigh myself ever again?!" Not really feasible, I know, but not having to worry about that number just made everything better. Easier. Sure I was tempted a few times, like when my jeans started fitting a bit tighter in the waist and I quite consciously (but totally unrealistically) thought, "Oh no, maybe I'm gaining a ton of weight by not being vigilant with the scale." But then I just chalked it up to PMS and the Whoopie Pie I ate the night before and hopped along.
Then, after five months of relative bliss, I decided to go and mess it all up. The day was coming when I was going to weigh myself again - in fact, I'd even thought of down a six-month anniversary blog on it for iVillage with a quiz: "Should Leslie weigh herself?" But that day, before leaving for a bridal shower in the suburbs, I decided to just do it. There were no little girls around (one of my criteria for getting on a scale) and the coast was clear.
Guess what? (drumrollll.....)
I gained weight. Somewhere between four and seven pounds - it depends on what number I use as my "before." (Admittedly, in December 2007, I was artificially low - I think I had some sort of flu so it depends on if I use that "sickie" number or what I normally was, a few pounds higher.) But the number in December definitely wasn't what it was in May.
I dropped my wet towel and instantly felt like a fraud. The reading went down a pound.
So here's the thing: I drove home and was overcome by a huge flood of emotions. I felt angry at myself for getting on the scale. Then I felt angry for being angry about such a dumb thing. Then I felt like I might cry - remnants of my past creeping back up, when the number was the only thing that mattered. Then I felt elated because, in fact, I wasn't crying over a dumb number - surely this must be a fantastic sign of how good I'm doing, yes?
I know some people out there will think my scale experiment was a failure - that this is proof that if you aren't constantly getting on the scale to monitor your weight, you're doomed to get bigger. But let's get real: I'm not going to balloon up 30 pounds. I would notice major differences in my energy levels and clothing before that happened. By breaking the weigh-monitor my calories-weigh myself again cycle, I gave My Body a chance to regulate and get happy. Being a slave to the scale meant adjusting my food intake to keep the number at a certain place; without it, my body was now able to naturally settle into a healthy and happy set point. That is the place my body wanted to be. It doesn't want to me artificially thin. It wants to have a tad bit more meat on it so I can work out and write and do the things I want to do with energy and zest. Sometimes it wants deep dish pizza and cheesy artichoke dip and mounds of hummus and a steak and dirty martinis. Since I first stepped off that Toledo monstrosity, I'd been going by the way I felt and not the readout on the Evil Scale. I'd also started taking a Body Pump class, where we worked every muscle to fatigue. My arms grew more defined. My legs were stronger. And more importantly, I was more fun to be around.
Now, with the start and promise of a new year, one of my resolutions is to try and repeat the experiment. Definitely not weighing myself for the first month and maybe even hopefully longer. I made a deal with myself and wrote on my calendar on February 1st "Get on scale?" so now I'm tossing it out of my mind for the next three weeks, eating what I want, exercising when I want, and when February rolls around, I might hop on. I might forget about it. Care to join me in a month of abstaining? Or do you find that weighing yourself helps keep you on track? Or do you feel, in a way, addicted to it and simply can't get off?
One more way to kick off the new year in a fun, healthy way: Join the iVillage NeverSayDiet New Year's Community Challenge. It started Jan. 5 but it's not too late to join in on this six-week online plan to get your mind...and bod...in the best shape possible. Sign up and you'll get:
-Daily tips and assignments on healthy eating and exercise
-Weight-loss advice from your Challenge coaches, including renowned fitness trainer Kathy Smith and nutritionist Madelyn Fernstrom,
-A team of support from others in the same boat as you
-A chance to form a brand spanking new relationship with your body
As a sneak peak, here's was my own personal first Challenge assignment (I'm the Body Image Coach):
During Week 1, the name of the game is "Ditch the Diet Mentality." My assignment? Stop looking in the mirror. Seriously, just try it! Staring at yourself and obsessing over your butt is horrible for your body image....Body checking is essentially the over-evaluation of one's shape and weight via any number of methods...let's see if any of these ring a bell for you:
-Looking at yourself in the mirror (to obsess over a body part - not simple grooming)
-Hopping on the scale numerous times a day to track your weight
-Trying on a pair of jeans or other item of clothing to see if you "still fit" into it
-Pinching fat on your body
-Trying to fit your hands around your waist
-Worrying that your thighs are jiggling when you run
-Comparing yourself with other women, whether celebrities or the woman standing in front on you at the GAP.
I'm not telling you to leave the house without checking for spinach in your teeth, but every time you get the urge to check yourself out in a window or the office mirror, say "STOP!" (mentally or out loud even) and move on. Notice how freeing it feels. I have done this myself - I used to spend endless hours of my week craning my neck over my shoulder to catch my rear view in the mirror. It always looked the same, and I always thought it looked big. But I wasn't thinking clearly and the result was, it made me feel like crap. So one day, I stopped. When I got the urge, I told myself, "Do. Not. Turn. Around. You. Are. Being. Crazy." And after a while, it started to work! NOT looking in the mirror became more of an ingrained habit and I found myself just feeling happier. Of course, I still check myself out. In fact, just the other day my husband "caught" me standing on the toilet to get a full view of myself in a dress and boots. Totally busted. But you can't walk around just not knowing how you look! It's about finding a balance...and sometimes that means starting off at one end of the spectrum (hence this week's No Looking challenge) and working your way towards the happy middle area.
Now go sign up! And have a blast ushering in 2009!