“Fear of the name increases fear of the thing itself,” Dumbledore tells Harry Potter in “The Sorcerer’s Stone.” While the great wizard was referring to an evil autocrat, this wisdom could also be applied to our bodies: “Fear of the number on the scale increases fear of the body itself.”
How many people know how much you weigh?
Exactly two people know how much I weigh: my husband and my doctor. Every so often one of my good friends will whisper her weight in my ear in horrified tones, but only when we are very alone. I used to confide my weight in solidarity, but once my pounds surpassed that of my friends’, I stopped whispering back.
I wonder if this is healthy.
Recently our country has learned that when we’re silent about abuse, it allows abusers to thrive, and when we’re silent about our wages it allows inequality to fester, so, I ask you, what does it mean to be silent about our weight?
It seems that it’s only acceptable to speak openly about how much we used to weigh, before we gained much needed self-control, flattened our bellies and tightened our thighs.
Why all the secrecy?
Am I afraid that if I tell people how much I weigh they might think I have no self-control? If that’s it, I have news for myself: I have no self-control, and people can see my love of confections just by looking at me. No scale needed.
I was fortunate to be raised by a mother who didn’t talk about her body size. I never once heard her say, “This brownie is going straight to my hips,” or “That cream puff will ruin my diet.” She ate what was delicious, and she still does. In fact, I don’t know that she’s ever been on a diet.
When I became a mother, I vowed to do the same because I didn’t want my children to feel body shamed by association, and I mostly accomplished that goal. OK, there were a couple of fad diet failures. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Atkins and Whole30.)
At the same time, my children live in a country where millions of people are vocally obsessed with weight loss and silently ashamed of that number on the scale, so I’m not sure it’s helpful to ignore the issue.
What if, instead, I spoke openly — we all spoke openly — and lovingly about body weight.
I would tell you, for example, that I weigh 173 pounds, and while my doctor wants me to lose 23 pounds so that I will live a long time — and I want to live a long time — I’m beautiful right now. My weight does not make me any less beautiful.
Of everything I’ve written, that confession is one of the scariest, and I can’t say I believe it every day. I have moments of belief.
I wonder, though, if we could talk about how much we weigh like the normal thing that it is, in the same breath as how beautiful we are, if it was as easy as talking about what we had for dinner or the latest Starbucks concoction, would that number lose some of its terrifying power? And if it lost its power would we begin to believe we’re beautiful, always?
But is it impossible to talk about these things without first ditching the shame? And how do we begin to feel less shame if we don’t talk about these things?
Chicken, meet egg.
Or is it egg, meet chicken?
We could always try to fake it till we make it. That is, we could bear our weight and our self-love to the world, and keep on and keep on until we believe it, too. We could make our own hashtag: #BeartheWeight.
I’ll start: Hi, I’m Tricia. I’m 5 feet 6 inches tall, 173 pounds round, and I am beautiful. Every day. Just like this.
Tricia Caspers is an award-winning writer, writing instructor, librarian and maker space coach. She may be reached at email@example.com