I am an accountable, honest, accuracy-obsessed individual in most aspects of my life. As a general rule, I don’t lie, I don’t cheat and I don’t steal, even when nobody is watching me. I’m a bit of a law-and-order buff. I take my integrity seriously.
But I’m here to tell you right now: When it comes to tracking what I eat every day, I am a sneaky little liar and I always have been as far back as I can remember first struggling with my weight (which has been since about fourth grade).
Even with the cool online eTools that Weight Watchers has to track food, activity, weight, and a variety of other metrics daily and weekly, I cannot seem to make myself record everything I actually eat in a day. That handful of Fritos in the afternoon? The bites and nibbles while cooking? Those Hershey’s kisses I keep in the freezer for after-dinner treats? None of that stuff ever sees the tracker. I record my “official” meals (more or less accurately), of course, but I get squirrely around the snacks and treats that I feel I “shouldn’t” be eating.
The fact is, Weight Watchers and I have a completely open relationship, so “cheating,” per se, is not possible. I can eat any food I want, in any quantity I want. The choices I make and the results I get from those choices are mine alone. Nobody sees my tracker, nobody knows what I eat or don’t eat. So why am I still lying to myself about the Fritos?
I’ve been really struggling with this for the past few weeks. I’ve also been struggling with my obsessive need to weigh myself multiple times a day, first thing when I hop out of bed in the morning and last thing before I hop into bed for the night with many, many stops in between “just to check.” I had to move my scale to the guest bathroom, then to a closet, then to the garage, and finally had to take the batteries out of it. Seriously, getting off the scale at home was like quitting crack cold-turkey.
I have asked my WW leader to stand between me and the official scale for the past couple of weigh-ins and not to say a word to me about my weight either way. She’s also holding onto my personal weight tracker for another week or two so that I don’t know how much I weigh right now or whether I’m losing, gaining or staying the same.
The point of this little exercise, I thought, was to remove the fear of the scale and my unfortunate tendency to let the number it shows determine whether my week (and by extension, I myself) was “good” or “bad.” It had become more of a stick than a carrot, so to speak, and I wanted to see if I could make good choices for the sake of making good choices and promoting my good health without the “punishment” or “reward” of the weigh-in. (I know, it sounds so dramatic, but every dieter knows how tweaky it can get with the scale and the games we play with it in real life and in our minds.)
What I realized after the first very difficult week with no weight feedback at all was that I didn’t need the scale to motivate me nor to validate that my efforts were “good” or “working.” I know what healthy choices are and I know when I am making them (as well as when I am not making them). What I really wanted it to tell me was whether I was getting away with my sneaky little subterfuges. That’s what it came down to: I wanted to know, can I “cheat” on my diet (i.e., make poor choices that I lie about or refuse to acknowledge) and still lose weight?
This prompted one of those dark nights of the soul in which I really had to examine my whole relationship with food, weight and dieting from the very beginning. It’s too long of a story to detail here, stretching back nearly 40 years now to a kid who went from being perfectly normal height and weight to suddenly rather pudgy at about age 10 for reasons that are lost in the sands of time. From that point on, I was always “stocky,” “sturdy,” “plump,” “curvy,” and eventually just plain fat. I first joined Weight Watchers with my mother in the ’70s, and have tried many other diets and programs since then, with short-lived results at best. My only substantial weight loss as an adult was before my cross-country bicycle trip in 2001. Otherwise, I’ve been stuck on that yo-yo swinging about 30 pounds from high to low every couple of years.
Everybody says it gets harder to lose weight as you get older, especially for women. So this might be my last chance to get my body down to a healthy weight before everything goes flooey with my hormones and whatnot. The potential rewards that motivated me to lose weight in my youth—hope of being more attractive to potential partners, wearing cute clothes—don’t interest me at all anymore. I have more pragmatic concerns now, such as avoiding diabetes and stroke. And the cold, hard fact is that nobody in the world cares whether I weigh 150 or 250, or if I wear a size 2 or a size 22. Nobody cares whether I smear butter on my toast or eat it dry. Nobody is watching me, judging me, criticizing me. There’s nobody here but me.
Which means that I am the only one who gets to decide what my worth in the world is. My scale can’t and won’t tell me that. My mirror won’t tell me that. My clothes won’t tell me that. Nobody in my life can tell me that, regardless of whether they love me or loathe me. So I need to stop lying to myself about that, too.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
~ Marianne Williamson