When I was 26, I tossed my bathroom scale into a cardboard box and carted it off to the Salvation Army.
That was fifteen years and two kids ago when I weighed 105 pounds and measured two inches above five-feet tall. People often referred to me as the “tiny blond” and I loved it. The tips of my right and left pointer fingers touched when my hands rested on my hips, so I bore that stance regularly.
Those two words – tiny. blonde. – described next to nothing about me, yet I wore them as essential fabrics of my identity.
I owed my small frame to mostly nature not nurture. While I rarely consumed huge helpings of food, my diet mirrored that of a frat boy minus the booze and super-sized portions. Just to be safe that my metabolism kept its pace fast, I stepped on my bathroom scale often.
One morning I panicked when the arrow didn’t stop at its usual destination. It strolled pass 105 by three dots and landed on 108. I screeched and made sure the scale was properly adjusted. I tried again. 108.
I ate one apple that day and nothing more. I stepped on the scale before bedtime and smiled when the number was 107 instead of 108. I took extra precautions for the days that followed and by the end of the week my scaled showed the number I associated as mine: 105.
All was right again in my world again because my identity as I knew it was safe. Then, being the proactive gal I am, I wondered if it would be best if I took some safeguards to prevent that black arrow from creeping upward again. Why let 105 be my number when 100 was within my reach.
I had a new goal. And soon I had accomplished it and set another: 95 pounds. I thought I’d look adorable that size and decided that once I hit my new number, I would stop dieting.
The night I turned my ambition toward an even trimmer waistline, my husband and I went swing dancing. As l glanced in the mirror before leaving, I felt pretty. My hair and makeup looked perfect to me and so did my figure. But my outlook soured as soon as I entered the dance hall packed with women so gorgeous and glossy that they could have been mistaken for models in fashion magazines.
Many of the girls there were as thin as me but most were taller with sculpted arms and calves, fuller lips, wider eyes and brighter smiles. Suddenly I felt flabby, short and dull. I fought back tears and scowled each time I caught a hint of my reflection. The identity that once offered so much solace made me cringe. What did it matter if I was blonde when my smile was dingy and crooked. Who cared about being tiny when she harbored so many gaping flaws.
Shortly after that, I gave up my quest of shaving off five more pounds. My decision stemmed from two vastly conflicting places. One of self care and respect and the other of self hatred. Knowing myself and my past unhinged desire for controlling my body weight, it was obvious to me that my goal was putting me in great physical danger; because had the scale declared me 95 pounds, I would have went for 90 and had I nailed that weight, I’d pursue a lower number. A competitive nature combined with self-loathing concocts a vile potion that fogs the mind, chains the hearts, and weakens the body.
As for the reason based on self-hatred, it felt useless to continue to lose weight because I knew that regardless of my clothing size, my hair, face, skin tone, and every other molecule that made me look like me wouldn’t change. I’d never look like a movie star or a model. I felt defeated.
That scale staring me down in the bathroom pecked at my resolve enough for me to decide that I needed it out of my home. Otherwise I probably would have went for a number below 100 out of sheer spite for the part of myself that believed I was on the wrong track.
I wish I could say that shortly after I junked my scale I accepted my true value in Christ and didn’t spend another minute fretting about what I looked like. But reading that I am wonderfully made and believing it wholly was journey that spanned decades. And even now … during those moments when the world gets so loud with lies too easily believed I sometimes need reminded of whose I am. But I did step closer to the truth that day I stepped off my scale.
While I still have moments of self doubt, I have reached a place where I really do like how I look. I even have a bathroom scale again, but I don’t let it boss me around. In fact, I hardly ever step on it; and I only bought it after my kids’ former pediatrician rolled his eyes I had no clue what my children weighed.
My fingers will never again meet at my waist and Hollywood casting agents would call me plump and shudder at my physical flaws … But those and other imperfections rarely bother me anymore.
That’s the type of attitude I want my children to embrace as well. I want both of my kids (boys can have body image issues too) to look at themselves and know that God placed every hair, every freckle, every mole exactly where He wanted it in order to make them have their own special look. I can tell them that every single day, but my words won’t be enough if they aren’t backed by my actions.
So I grin big and toothy often.There’s a reason why God made my teeth too small for my gums and didn’t make my lips full enough to cover those gums when I smile … gawky smiles are genuine and inviting. And my squishy nose that looks like it belongs on a bunny rabbit? Well if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have all the great memories made from my kids and me purposefully smashing our schnozes together to see which is smooshier. And my toes … well I have no idea why those things look like they do, but I like them too. They’re mine … custom-made by the hand of God.