Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Set Point: Do You Even Know What Your Body WANTS to Weigh?

As you may recall, I have not owned a scale for many years due to the fact that it was an object of extreme obsession. I would weigh myself multiple times a day, including after exercise and after tinkling. I was ruled by that thing for all of my teen years and quite a few of my adult years.

Other numbers, of course, can take the place of a scale, and I have since learned not to cave into counting calories or believing in the arbitrary and very bad (practically NO) science of the overused (as in "should never be used") BMI.

In the two and half years since I have returned to dance and my body has shown its thanks and relief by being healthier, stronger, and more creative than ever in my life, it is impossible not to notice the number that is the size of my clothing as it shrinks. I do not have any clue how to stop being somewhat mesmerized by that, but I have come so far and expecting perfection of any kind is the basis of the problem to begin with.

So this past weekend, Marcy and I visited a house with a scale in the bathroom, and I, thinking I have come so far, stepped on it "out of pure curiosity."

There is nothing PURE about that particular curiosity. It is pure bullshit. I wanted to see if my number was "small enough," if I could be as happy as I feel.  Pure and simple self judgment, that.

The number on the scale, big surprise, was not what I wanted it to be. It was downright disappointing. It was the number I used to get stuck at in high school.

It is that sort of number that most of us refer to as "the Wall."

It was the number that I would be feeling kinda healthy at and someone in my family (or more than one someone) would say, "you could really stand to lose ten or fifteen pounds..."

Every time. And I would drop into my cycle of starve and binge and starve and exercise, and stave and self hate, and starve and...  You know all about it, I'm sure.

Sometimes I would dip down to the number those people thought was more ideal (and at one point, I went far below it but that is another story) and I would stay there for a wee bit but I was always hungry, always thinking about food, always trying not to think about food.

That number?  That number is not a Wall; that number is called my Set Point, people, and it is what my body wants to weigh. It is what she likes to weigh.

And my body knows better than me and yours knows better than you, because this set point is determined by more chemicals and genes and circumstances than you can even imagine. (Read this book if you are wanting more.)

Here's the really ridiculous thing: if you saw me, if you hugged me, you would only notice how small I am, but I was raised to believe that small is only small when it is almost gone.

The other thing? If you saw me dance, you would only notice how graceful, strong, and flexible I am.

So I am learning, right now, to deal with the Beautiful Reality of Set Point Weight.

Think about the Body Wisdom that this Set Point demonstrates!

And think about how we denigrate and deny and destroy that wisdom every time we give in to all the hateful energy of the media, every time we let someone (including the medical community) judge us based on how we look, every time we step on that scale and a litany of curses rolls off our tongues as we lash ourselves to tiny, bloody, broken bits.


Jennifer Hayes Hugon said...

Yes, yes and YES! Oh do I know about that scale and the havoc it plays. Many years ago my husband forbade us having a scale in our home because of my obsession with it and with the numbers. I've been so much happier ever since.

Now that I HAVE to be weighed in every couple of weeks, and that number grows, I'm OK with it... because that number represents the little joy growing inside me.

However, I also know what awaits me after she's born, and I'm grateful that over the last 15 years I've learned to be accepting of what my body WANTS and NEEDS to weigh at a given time and there's no scale in sight to tempt me!!

Thank you for sharing Christine! This is too common an experience...


Ellie Di said...

Yeeeessssss! And I've noticed, as I've gotten older, that my Set Point changes. It used to be about 10lbs less than it is now. It took my ex-disorder brain a while to get used to that, but I'm pretty happy with it now. I don't own a scale, and I'm glad I don't go to a gym where there's one in the locker room anymore. Our bodies have their own wisdom, and it's nigh criminal to ignore them.

Anonymous said...

I love how you turn all your wounds into wisdom.

Leela said...

yes! yes. Pleasure, follow the pleasure and it all unfurls from there. You are living in your body in its happy way, and bing! There is your set point. Where it belongs.

svasti said...

What a wonderful learning! Most of us with some sort of body dysmorphia never see ourselves clearly.

But now that you're happy and comfortable and feel good about yourself, there you are, learning that the weight that you and others once told you was "bad" is actually healthy and beautiful.

This is brilliant!

JL @ Stop Chasing Skinny said...

No, I don't know what my body wants, but I know it doesn't want to be skinny anymore!

I loved his post -- and agree with Ellie-- my size/weight expectation has changed as I know on the door of 46 years old.

I've kicked the scale to the curb (versus daily weighing) and I have found it terrifying and liberating at the same time!

Gemma said...

I love this post!!

You are an inspiration. :)

Kathy said...

As a former gymnast in college and being told my freshman year to lose 30 pounds in six weeks (and certainly did not need to, but gymnasts in the early 80's were teeny tiny and I was muscular) I endured years of body image issues. I threw out my scale in 1987 after the birth of my second child. Now, after being a yoga and Nia teacher for years, I no longer feel connected to numbers. Now I appreciate my strength, grace and mind. I would still be tempted, like you were, if a scale presented itself though. That seed of "am I good enough" is still planted in there.