Monday, April 28, 2008

I've Got Mail

I love getting letters from my readers, especially when they look a little something like this (posted with persmission):

Hi Dr. Stacey,

You may think this is a little compulsive, and, sure, it represents the extreme end of things, but I have neither of the following things:
- a mirror in my bedroom
- a scale in my house

Consequently, I'm extremely happy, and whether or not I feel comfortable in my body has to do with just that - whether or not I feel comfortable in my own body.

Do we even need a scale to measure weight? There are an enormous number of things around us that do the weight-measuring for us, without the numbers. Everything from our own clothing sizes to other people's comments on any ups or downs in our weight serve to remind us of just where we fall on the spectrum. A scale seems, well, superfluous.

So then, why don't I have a mirror in my room? It's also superfluous. If I want to pluck my eyebrows or put on makeup, I'll go into the bathroom. That decision involves taking an active part in my self image - that is, seeing myself when I want to see myself, using the mirror for an activity with its own purpose rather as a tool to open myself up to the opportunity to self-criticize endlessly. What role could a mirror in the bedroom serve that a mirror in the bathroom could not? Looking to see if I have something in my teeth, washing my face, even trying on new earrings . . these are all things that could happen in the bathroom, with purposeful intent.

The radical part in me thinks we should abolish scales - except in doctor's offices and laboratories. I think it's extremely weird that they developed as a part of our hygiene habits. Shouldn't what we do in the bathroom be about taking care of our bodies instead of encouraging terrible self image? Bathing, toilet, brushing our teeth, combing our hair - this all makes sense. But the scale? Everyone should do themselves a favor and lose it.

Can't wait for your book to come out!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. :) When I became aware of fat acceptance, there were two things that gradually became unused/obsolete in the household: the mirror in the bedroom, and the scale.

When I moved I didn't take the scale with us. No one has missed it or asked for it since then.

Sometimes getting rid of the scale and the mirror can help lead to recovery. Sometimes, they're recovery's side-effects. :)

Palmtreechick said...

Interesting note. Good points. (The scale's staying though, even if I hate that thing!)

Aurora96 said...

I got rid of my scale years ago. The number on the scale was just that - a number. It said nothing about who I was as a person.

My mother was completely scandalized by the notion that I had no scale and insisted on buying one for my house - for the purpose of weighing my father who has visited once in the 2 years since she purchased it for me. (He's got congestive heart failure, kidney disease and they need to weigh him daily to make sure he isn't going into full blown CHF.) I thanked her and put it right back into the box after they left. I can pull it out again if he has the opportunity to visit me again.

Jessica said...

Thanks for passing this along to us! I was going to say that I didn't have these things, either, but I realized that I do have a small mirror on a stand that is stashed in the closet in my bedroom, and that my roommate does own a bathroom scale that I ignore except when it gets in the way of opening the door all the way.

I don't know why we need these things, either.

Twistie said...

I haven't owned a scale in all the years since I left my parents' house. I've never missed it.

I would like to have a full-length mirror in the bedroom though. No, I don't want it to criticize my body; I want it so I can double check the full effect of my kickass clothes and that all my hems are straight, etc. before I leave the room.

Sometimes it's nice to appreciate how good you look, too.

But I absolutely support anyone who chooses to live life sans a bedroom mirror.

Megan said...

Great letter.

Scale Junkie said...

As a reformed Scale Junkie who would weigh in up to 12 times a day, I have to say that the scale needs to be put in its place. Its just one tool to measure your progress. I honestly believe that taking your measurements is a better guide for weight loss progress. Besides, we all know that hunk of metal and glass lies!!

Anonymous said...

When I moved out of my parents house. I did not have a scale or desire for one for years. Recently, I moved into my grandmother's to care for her. She not only has a scale in the bathroom, but 3 large mirrors in the bedroom I am staying in. I have defiantly noticed that this has changed and negatively effected me. I "weigh in" everyday for the first time in 11 years. This really sets me up for the day. Then into my room to face the mirrors.

Jen said...

I'm like anonymous; once I moved out of my parents I didn't have a scale anywhere or a full length mirror. I used my bathroom mirror for hair, teeth and very occasional makeup. I'd like to think its' been a good thing because now that I have a full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door again I'm looking at myself sideways from time to time going "Ugh!" >_<

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic! I'm doing Overcoming Overeating techniques, which involve both getting rid of the scale and doing what is called "mirror work". With mirror work, a person who avoids *truly* looking at herself (especially in a full length mirror, due to shame and self-hatred) will start doing this, but in a very specific way:
It is meant to increase feelings of self-acceptance and self-love - no matter what your size/shape is. I think numbers too often dominate us. If the scale says the "right number" we feel happy - for a while. If not, we are completely bummed out. If losing weight on a diet, the scale becomes a sort of weird, addictive drug, almost. There is a need to get a "fix" constantly, with weigh-ins. This gives the scale way too much power. I know people are worried about gaining weight, but weight fluctuates to some degree, anyway, and this is completely normal. The scale kind of sickens me, at this point. I won't be weighed at a doctor's office unless I feel like it, and then I don't want to even hear the number. It truly tells me *nothing* about my health. In the documentary "Thin", (by Lauren Greenfield) - a huge scale is shown in the bathroom of a bulimic. It's right in front of her toilet, like a shrine. She can't even take a pee w/o tripping over this thing.

Karen said...

I had a scale at one point; I got it while I was pregnant. I was interested in seeing what my body did with the pregnancy. I also had a tape measure. Mostly the scale lived under the sink. I've never really weighed myself often, I don't consider +/- 1% an actual difference in weight. At some point it broke, got thrown out and for five years I've never cared enough to replace it. Even now that I'm pregnant again I'll wonder what I weigh then dismiss it with "Meh, I'll be at the doctor's again in two weeks, I'll wait." It just doesn't really matter enough to remember anymore.

WeightingGame said...

I haven't weighed myself since last year and it has been so incredibly freeing. Sometimes I see women on the scale in my gym's locker room and I get a little itch, like - should I just get on? But then I realize, "I'm having a great day, I'm in a good mood, and I don't need/want to risk ruining it just because the scale shows some number that pisses me off." It truly feels so, so good. Thanks for sharing the letter and thatnks to your reader who wrote it.

himawari said...

Hey, I just realized that I don't have a mirror in my bedroom or a scale in my apartment, either! It doesn't stop me from standing in front of the full-length mirror on my bathroom door and scrutinizing myself ruthlessly, but I'm a lot better about than I used to be.

I've recently gotten to a point where the scale isn't SO bad, and I decided to weigh myself again, using the scale at the gym. It's amazing how when you start thinking about weight as just a number indicating the the sum of the stuff in your body instead of as a moral issue, it can actually become really interesting. I sometimes check to see how much water weight I've "lost" after an especially hard workout (partially to remind myself to drink more afterward!). Also, I'm tapering for a marathon at the moment, and it's interesting to see what the numbers on the scale are doing in relation to the decreased physical activity.

I spent YEARS afraid of the scale, and stepping on it again was terrifying, but I decided I needed to do so to remove the fear worked. I still wouldn't buy a scale for my apartment, though; it seems superfluous, and I don't want to get obsessive.

Anonymous said...

I have such mixed feelings about scales (I definitely need a full length mirror for the reasons twistie said, and to make sure my skirt isn't caught inside the legs of my underwear or something). In my life I've gone through years of never weighing, weighing daily, weighing occasionally, never weighing, daily weighing.... And none of it matters except that when I "never" weight, I will invariably start to do so again once I KNOW I've had a real gain (about 5 pounds or more is a "real" gain to me), and I will invariably stop when I get sick of thinking about it and then I'll be actually afraid to start again because I don't want to be thinking about it.

Right now I weigh myself occasionally at home and NEVER at the gym (what would I do if there were a 2 lb. discrepancy? worry? berate myself? disbelieve one scale or the other? I don't want to set myself up that way). I am not at all interested in discussing weight or related issues, and simply do not respond when someone mentions that they've gained or lost weight because I want to stop the conversation before it gets started. I wish more women would do that, so it would discourage the boring conversations about "how I lost 1.4 lbs".

Tiffabee said...

At Eat A Cheeseburger we feel the EXACT same way about the scale. In fact, it is our Cheeseburger Rule #6.

It doesn't define who we are so why do we need it?! Throw it out the window girls, when you feel better about yourself a few days later, you'll know why!

Tori said...

From someone who consistently cancels doctor's appointments due to the fact that I am going to have to get weighed, I applaud the writer's suggestion to lose the scales in doctor's offices. Seriously, do they really need to weigh me when I have an ear ache?

Also- I broke a 6 year weigh myself everyday habit. It was the best thing I could've have done for myself. There is nothing better than getting out of bed in the morning and NOT stepping on the scale.

himawari said...

Seriously, do they really need to weigh me when I have an ear ache?

No, and I want to add something further to this. Several months ago, before I was yet comfortable with the scale, I had the stomach flu (kind of funny, considering the title of today's new post) and it was bad enough that I found myself in urgent care. I couldn't even keep down the sips of water I was drinking to rehydrate myself after repeated involuntary vomiting. When I refused to step on the scale when the triage nurse evaluated me, she started to argue. This was the same woman who had seen me throw up a combination of water and stomach acid half an hour earlier, and she cared more about getting my weight than the actual symptoms. Furthermore, she wrote down "extreme anxiety" as one of the reasons I came in because of my refusal to step on the scale. My anxiety wasn't the issue -- the stomach flu was. My weight was totally irrelevant. Fortunately, the doctor was really cool, and when he asked about the "anxiety," he accepted my explanation and didn't try to get more out of my severely nauseous self.

Roo said...

I keep telling my friends I can't be the only one. I intentionally have no scales or full-length mirrors. I don't have mirrors hanging on my walls, even though I'd appreciate the extra light, because I find myself criticizing my looks constantly. Some of my friends think it's a great idea, and yet few of them can bring themselves to get rid of them. I really do wonder how a bathroom scale became a basic household necessity?

When I visit friends' homes, I have a really hard time not weighing myself. Sometimes I manage to not do it, but sometimes I can't help myself and then for days after I obsess about my weight, even though I know the scales probably aren't even accurate. And it's really hard not to see my reflection in some people's homes. It's bad enough when I'm alone and feeling "ugly", but when I'm with other people it makes me horribly self conscious to see how I look every time I turn around.

I'm also an insomniac - it drives people crazy when they look around my place and can't find a clock to look at :)

avi said...

I like having my bedroom mirrors (YES! I have two!) because I like looking at myself. I appreciate my body, and I like to look at it.

I also like my scale - it's a useful tool to keep myself informed about my body, just like tape measure. The units on a scale (pounds) and tape measure (inches) don't change, but clothes-sizing does -as in vanity-sizing- and you can't trust 'em, those companies: they just want you to buy the clothes. Sorry that was totally a tangent.