Body Image and Your Scale: Does it Own You, or Do You Own It?

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Scary Scale [ Explored:) ] by Chelsea3883

Photo by Chelsea Panos

How much power have you given your scale?

Many people let the numbers dictate whether they have a good day or bad day.  They feel like it owns them, and they give it a lot of power in their lives.

Over the past several years counseling women, I’ve encountered many who give their scales that much power.   Other women have sadly expressed their mothers did this, and it had a profound effect on their growing up years. 

If their mothers weighed in at a lower number, they displayed more of a fun, upbeat side.  But if the cloud of weight gain (even a pound or two) hung in the air, the house felt tense and their moms acted depressed.

Eating disorder programs often recommend that patients get rid of their scales.  Specialists in the field realize that many of their clients have an obsession with weighing themselves, often stepping on their scale many times each day.

Experts believe people can tell whether they are gaining or losing weight by the way their clothes fit.  Besides, weight varies throughout the day, week, and month anyway.

How long will you continue to let your scale cause you to have bad days, weeks, and months?  Can you honestly say that you never let the number on the scale  – the magic number– influence how you treat people?

You may want to discuss this with safe people whom you trust to give you honest feedback.

If you don’t have the courage to put your scale away long-term, consider a therapeutic separation. That means taking a break, putting it on a cruise to Tahiti or the attic for a while.

My hope and prayer is that you re-think your relationship with your scale and begin asking the tough question:  Do you own it, or does it own you?

TRY THIS:  Write a letter to your scale.  Tell it how you’ve given it too much power in your life (i.e. letting it dictate on many days whether you have a good day or a bad day).  Describe in detail how you are tired of the feeling that it owns you.  You may even want to give it a name, and suggest that it go away for a period of time.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Body Image and Scales: It Loves Me – It Loves Me Not

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            Do you step on your scale in the morning, and let the magic number it displays influence whether you have a good or bad day?  Over the past several years counseling women, I have encountered many who give their scales that much power.   Other women have sadly expressed that their mothers did this, and it had a profound effect on their growing up years.  If their mothers weighed in at a lower number, they displayed more of a fun, upbeat side.  But if the cloud of weight gain (even a pound or two) hung in the air, the house felt tense and their moms acted depressed and/or bitchy.

Eating disorder programs usually recommend that their patients get rid of their scales.  They realize that many of their clients have an obsession with weighing themselves, often stepping on their scales many times per day.  Experts believe people can tell whether they are gaining or losing weight by the way their clothes fit.  Besides, weight varies throughout the day, week, and month (according to the menstrual cycle) normally anyway.

How long will you continue to let your scale cause you to have bad days, weeks, and months?  Can you honestly say that you never let the number on the scale  – the magic number- influence how you treat people?  You may want to discuss this with safe people who you trust to give you feedback.

If you don’t have the courage to put your scale away long-term, consider giving it a vacation.  Put it in your attic, or send it on a cruise to Fiji if you want.

Try This:  Write a letter to your scale.  Tell it how you have given it too much power in your life (i.e. letting it dictate on many days whether you have a good day or a bad day).  Describe in detail how it has influenced your life.  You may even want to give it a name, and suggest that it go away for a period of time.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Body Image Stories: My Body Image Story, Part 3

            I never did reach the “magic number” of 105.  But this is probably a good thing because even when I weigh 134 pounds, I have a body fat percentage of 17%.  That is quite low.  In fact, the models in Europe are now required to maintain a body fat percentage of 17% or more.

At different times, depending on my life circumstances, I have varied in body fat percentage.  Like almost all American women, I have felt better about my body when I am at a body fat percentage less than 24% (23-24% is considered the high end of healthy).  I wish I could tell you that this was not the case, but I have been strongly influenced by the tsunami of advertisements that have come across my eyes since the day I was born.  The good thing is that since I love to exercise so much, I have always been pretty fit, even when I have been my heaviest.

I can honestly say that I do not want to be ultra thin.  I don’t think that is beautiful, but see it as a sickness.  And yes, most of the top models, many actresses, and some popular singers are ultra-thin.  (I don’t want to give examples because I don’t want to slander.)  I have always preferred a more fit look, with a degree of muscle tone as opposed to the skinny, bony look.  We have to remember that if a person does not keep her weight at 80% of the ideal, she is anorexic (unless she has a medical condition which causes her low body weight).  But anorexic women almost always deny they are anorexic.  That is the nature of this eating disorder.

Like most of you, my body has varied in body fat percentage depending on many factors.  I am glad to realize that if I weighed 105, I would be anorexic and I have no desire whatsoever to be anorexic.  At various times in my life I have achieved a low body fat percentage, but due to my curvy figure, this brings me a lot of attention that I dislike.  I sincerely believe that I carry about ten to twenty extra pounds to protect myself from this unwanted attention.  But okay, I will also admit that I really enjoy food!  (Friends and family are seeking a 12-step program for my chocolate addiction at this very minute!)

After struggling for years with SLE lupus and ankylosing spondylitis, I have developed a great appreciation for my body.  I remember a whole month when I could not walk at all due to arthritis.  The whole month I spent on the couch.  To use the restroom, I had to roll off the couch and crawl on my knees.  I had steroid injections in my feet and went on methotrexate (a low dose of chemotherapy) so I could walk.  At one point, I moved to Phoenix due to my arthritis.  My heart cried many tears because I had been athletic since I was about seven.  For a while I could hardly use the bathroom myself.  I was 28 years old, didn’t drink much or use drugs, and always treated my body well.  At one point I was nutrition major and ate much better than most people.  So developing two chronic illnesses sent me into emotional shock.

Nowadays I feel extremely blessed that I can move well and walk.  I can’t ski or hike or backpack much anymore, but I am so grateful that the Lord has given me the ability to swim, kayak, and take part in many other fun activities.  My latest passion is water aerobics.  If you thought it was for old ladies and sick people, think again.  Princeton researchers discovered that competent swimmers can burn 420-700 calories an hour doing water aerobic (25% more than land aerobics).  But the real deal is that water aerobics is so fun, I start to get giddy every time I think about it.  And that is what it’s really about, isn’t it?  Not so much the end result as the joy in the journey.

Water Aerobics Class

As the sun sets on my forties, I still struggle with body image bandit but often win the battles.  As far as “getting there,” I realize that will not happen until I go to heaven and live with Jesus because we live in a fallen world.  Part of this fallenness, in America, means that we are saturated with images that scream “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is everything.”  In the meantime, I invite you to join me in the war against the body image bandit, who is the father of lies and tries to get us to believe that we are ugly.  We can do many things to fight the bandit, and I will offer helpful suggestions along the way.  The first is to make a commitment to stop looking at beauty, fashion, and celebrity magazines which poison our minds with people that are so thin, they are actually sick.

I thank God that he has created us all in his image, and that we are all beautiful, unique works of art.  Let’s celebrate this and embrace the bodies the Lord has given us, and thank him for what our bodies can do.

“Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

I Samuel 16:7

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

My Body Image Story, Part 2: The Magic Number

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About two years after moving to Maui, my family moved back to the Mainland. But the bubbly, outgoing teen that landed back at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had changed forever. The new version had been ravaged by daily harassment until she grew into a shy, depressed young woman who had only a fraction of the confidence she had two years prior. Stepping out of the plane that blustery November day, we drove to Southcenter first to buy some warm coats. We no longer owned any. All we had were windbreakers, and the Pacific Northwest weather laughed at our flimsy attempts at warmth.

The first days of school are somewhat of a blur. All I wanted was to fit in. I was certain I would be able to find my place in the middle school, and greatly looked forward to belonging, just like in the days before moving to so-called “Paradise.” Belonging is something all people crave, but young teens crave more than other age groups. Our hearts long to be assured that we are connected and loved. I had always been very well-liked, and a leader. So I assumed I would pick up where I had left off.

But I had forgotten one important detail. That is, my skin now glowed with a deep golden bronze tan, and my hair had been painted white-blonde by the paintbrush of the Hawaiian sun. Just as I did not fit in living on Maui as a haole in a school with only a handful of white students, I now did not blend in because of my deep, dark tan and white-blonde hair. Since it was November and tanning salons had not been invented, most people were very pale – kind of like my legs right now, which almost glow in the dark! Also, my body had blossomed and now appeared athletic but full-figured. This sparked interest by the boys, and jealousy in the girls, even though I didn’t want a boyfriend. All I wanted was to fit in like I used to do so well, before we moved to Maui. Thankfully, another girl moved from southern California at about the same time, which took some of the pressure off.

Over time, the tan faded and my hair darkened until it reached “dish blonde” color. (That’s such a weird phrase. I think of after Thanksgiving, when the dish water looks grody and gross, with little food particles water-skiing on top of the muck!) Even so, my soul had been changed forever and now felt heavy and dark. But my entire Maui experience is another book for another time. I have several parts written, but for now it hangs out under my bed with the dust bunnies. Overall, I felt good about my body. I liked the fact that I was strong and able to swim and run. I didn’t worry too much about what to eat until I started looking at a lot of beauty and fashion magazines, such as Seventeen. How could I help but notice the tall, thin models? Not one of them had a curvy figure like mine, and not one was under 5’9. So I decided, for the first time, I needed to lose weight. I was fat, I thought, and baffled because I had never realized it.

I told my dad I was going to go “on a diet,” and he said he thought I didn’t need to. “If you want to lose 5 pounds or so, why don’t you just cut down a little each time you eat?” I could not believe how out-of-the loop he was. I looked at him as if he had three heads, and told him, ”Dad, I have to go on a diet. Nobody just cuts back a little – dieting is how everybody does it.” I sighed at his ignorance on the subject of beauty. He definitely needed to spend more time reading beauty and fashion magazines, and less time working, hunting, and fishing. I wondered if he would ever get a clue. How could he be in his late thirties and be ignorant to one of the best inventions of mankind – dieting?

I decided to start my diet on – drum roll please- Monday. Of course you already knew that, because after all, isn’t that the way the cookie always crumbles? I think there is an unwritten eleventh commandment, “You shall start all diets on Mondays.” But as soon as I began to even think about my first diet, I started to crave almost everything. Except Brussels sprouts. Food, food, food was on my mind what seemed like 24/7. I craved chocolate, chips, hamburgers, donuts, and even white cake. And the weird thing is that I had never really liked donuts or white cake much. So why was I craving it? Because as soon as I limited the foods and categorized them into “good” and “bad,” the cravings began. And that is how I started a cycle of going on and off diets, throwing my poor body into a tailspin. (Years later I realized that God doesn’t even categorize foods as good and bad. So if he doesn’t, why should I?)

During high school, my family moved once again (we moved about every two years, so I never had the chance to establish roots)and I became good friends with Diane. She had a lot of friends and had been elected ASB president. Diane was athletic and brilliant, but she continued to get gnawed on by the Body Image Bandit because her brother and sister were models. Not long after we met, she did some number crunching and informed me that I should weigh 105, based on a chart she had discovered in one of her beauty and fashion magazines. Because I had been brainwashed by the fashion and beauty magazines, I believed she was right. And so I hyper focused on food, fat, and my fanny. Day in and day out, I thought, read, and studied about food, calories, and how to look good. I started to believe that my value was mostly in my packaging, and based my value on whether or not I could weigh 105. I had a new formula for a perfect life- 105. The magic number.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.