the HAES® files: My Scale is NOT the Boss of Me

by Health At Every Size® Blog

by Deah Schwartz, Ed.D, CTRS, CCC

no scaleI was 8 months pregnant and had gained 55 pounds so far. Then I went for my check up and my doctor said to me,

“Deah Schwartz, WE don’t have 50 pound weight gains in THIS practice.”

I looked at him, half defiantly, half ashamed and said,

“YOU do now Doc.”

When I gave birth to my son on January 24, 1992, I had gained just under 65 pounds during my pregnancy … notice how I didn’t say just over 63. I was trained by my weight obsessed mom that when talking about weight to emphasize the “lower than, or under than, or less than” reference as being the more preferable comparison.

My son weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces, no over or under there, exact weight known and used.

My Aunt said to me,

“Deah, you gained all that weight and your baby is only 6 pounds 9 ounces?”

I looked at her (over the phone, she was in New York), stunned. Here I was with a redheaded baby boy all happy and healthy and her only comment was about my weight in comparison to his. I said to her, half defiantly and half ashamed,

“It was a helluva placenta Auntie.”

Fast forward the tape to 2011. My 18 year old son had just moved cross country to college, I was smack dab in the middle of menopause and loss was a huge issue for me. I was losing everything; my keys, my glasses, my rapid word retrieval, my eyesight, my fertility, and to some extent, my child. What I was not losing, was weight.

I went to my new Ob/Gyn. (My doctor of the 65 pound weight gain practice retired.) She examined me and asked me how I was? I started to cry, not unusual in those days. I told her I cried all the time, and felt uber hormonal. I felt apologetic. Here I was meeting this doctor for the first time and she is seeing this woman balled up in an already soggy paper gown crying over NOTHING!! She asked me if I had gained weight, and I confessed that I’d gained about 12 and ½ pounds in the past few years, since I turned 50. We both looked at each other, knowingly. There was no “about” about it. It was exactly 12 and ½ pounds.

I had all of the affect of someone who knew EXACTLY how much she weighed at EVERY point in her life.

She looked at me and with great efficiency and said,

“Some of it is genetic.”

This was not news. I grew up knowing this. My first cousin was Mama Cass. Literally, that is not an analogy. The rest of us, less famous members of the family came in varying degrees of fatness, but when left to our natural habits and inclinations we were a genetic load of fat.

I nodded at the doctor, wiping the tears from eyes with the paper gown that was barely covering my belly.

She added,

“And some of it is your age, this just happens.”

I nodded again, but looked carefully at this petite, strong, wiry doctor and added half defiantly and half ashamed,

“But you are older than I am and you are thin, does genetics make THAT much of a difference?”

The doctor took off her glasses, looked at me with the wisdom of having probably had this conversation with hundreds of menopausal women struggling with self-acceptance based on the scale’s accusations of failure and paradoxically said quite kindly,

“And you have to be a little mean.”

I exhaled as I slid down on the exam table. I got it immediately. I needed to be a little mean; mean to myself. Deprive myself, denigrate myself, and hate myself until or unless I weighed a certain amount. Never mind that I walked the 3.2 mile trail around Lake Merritt EVERY DAY. Never mind that I had a thriving 18 year old son kicking ass in college and my blood pressure was perfect. My eyes welled up with tears and I replied,

“I don’t have a mean bone in my body.”

She put her glasses on and half defiantly and half ashamed, shrugged her shoulders and said,

“There it is then.”

In that moment I realized that I had just learned more about who I was than when I had first walked into my new doctor’s office. I realized that I was NOT willing to be mean to myself. It is not in my nature. I left the office that day knowing that I am kind, I am completely defiant, unashamed, and to this day my scale is NOT the boss of me!!!

Note: A version of this blog post was originally posted in 2011 in Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels.

Photo-Deah1-211x300Deah Schwartz, Ed.D, CTRS, CCC, Educator, Activist, and Clinician with a private practice in Oakland CA, has more than 30 years of experience in using Expressive Arts Therapies to treat Eating Disorders and Body Image issues. Deah is the co-author of Leftovers, The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater DVD/Workbook Set, a resource for Eating Disorders, and author of the Size Acceptance syndicated blog, Tasty Morsels. To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work visit her website at www.drdeah.com.

23 Comments to “the HAES® files: My Scale is NOT the Boss of Me”

  1. Thank you so much for your story, Deah. As we all know, many of us have doctor/weight stories that left us feeling much less positive. I’ve never heard your doctor’s twist on it, but I like it!

    • Thanks Marsha, judging ourselves by our weight is another way we distance ourselves from embracing our full value as meaningful people. (Sorry, I had to get the word mean in there) 🙂

  2. People who obsess about the readings on a scale are often not aware of how inaccurate most scales are. If you have 10 scales, including many in healthcare settings, you will get 10 readings. Modern digital scales are just as bad. They often show weights to .2 pounds (that’s 1/5 of a pound), yet their absolute accuracy is often no better than the old-fashioned spring scales.

    That said, author Deah is absolutely right to say that you should not judge yourself by any number on a scale. What a sad thing, that so many people (and not just larger people) think about pounds so much of the time.

  3. I had an experience with a new Ob/Gyn. When she first walked into the room for a “well” visit, she initially asked me what my cholesterol level was – 260. She then proceeded to inform me that I would feel better if I lost weight (160 lbs.). I told her that I never complained about not feeling well, and that at any rate I was going for the “hat trick”. I wanted my weight, cholesterol level and bowling scores all to be the same at 260! That backed her up a bit. And I never went back.

    • And you are a hockey fan as well!! Great story! Thanks for writing Kim!

    • I love the numbers game you pretend to play. I think you’d rather go higher with bowling. Anyway, one of the most delightful responses I’ve ever encountered to medical nastiness.

      • Susan Dahlink! I am so glad you enjoyed the post!!! And I have to say that it’s feedback like the kind I am receiving that makes it feel safe enough to be this disclosing!!

  4. Has anyone ever considered that postmenopausal women gain weight for a reason? Heavier women generally do not get osteoporosis, a major killer of older women. Yes, killer, I am not exaggerating. That petite doctor might be far more vulnerable to osteoporosis than you or I.

    I really like this post; it is heartfelt and SANE. Why should we be mean to ourselves? Isn’t the world mean enough? I am so sick of bullying, and self-bullying should be stopped, today, right now, this minute.

    • Elizabeth, thanks so much for mentioning that thee may actually be benefits…GASP!! to a natural progression!! Wonderful reminder to trust Mama Nature!

  5. I dont have scales, and I dont get on scales now unless it is for an anaesthetist or a radiologist doing an MRI scan. The story about the pregnancy amused me – for some reason I lose weight when I am pregnant; so at my 36 week check with the ob/gyn I was 14lbs lighter than I was when I went at 12 weeks. She went ballistic because I had lost weight, how dare I diet when pregnant, when she had suggested I try not to put on more than 20lbs during pregnancy she didn’t mean dieting. blah blah blah. DH and I tried really hard to explain that I hadnt eaten any differently, or exercised any differently, and it had happened with previous pregnancy. But she did not like it!

    Ddint go back when daughter was 6 months old to tell her I had regained all the weight; no dont she wouldnt have been happy then either!

    • Liz, another great example of how ridiculous it is to try and squeeeeeze all women into one teeny tiny mold of what is the right weight. And good for you to know enough not to go back there just to be lectured about being wrong! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective.

    • Many women of size gain very little or even lose a little in pregnancy. And some don’t. We have a wide range of responses in pregnancy.

      But your doc’s comment is why women of size are damned if they do and damned if they don’t (gain wt in pregnancy). Some docs these days would be absolutely thrilled with your loss in pregnancy, while others will accuse you of trying to diet and starve your baby. To be fair, there can be concerns with very large gains and with very low gains/losses, but it also can be within the range of normal.

      What they need to do instead is ask questions about your nutrition/exercise, how you are feeling, and see how baby seems to be growing. There’s a wide variety of “normal” wt gains in pregnancy in larger women; the more pertinent question is not what your gain is, but how well are you eating, are you getting exercise, how are you feeling, and is baby growing normally.

  6. Bravo Deah!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I have recently gained some weight (notice I said some…because the actual number doesn’t matter) due to a number of factors, one which does have to do with menopause. In the past, I would have beat myself up over the gain…but since taking your HAES course, I just “roll” with it. Ha! And I like you am kind :). Thanks for all you share with us.

  7. Deah, Dahlink, this is a really good post. I love how self-disclosing the best posts in the fat blogisphere are and this one is outstanding. Thanks.

  8. I loved your comment to your Aunt: “It was a helluva placenta, Auntie!” Great reply!

    • 😀 Glad you liked it! And yes, sometimes being a bit sassy helps! I loved YOUR comments below about how to redirect the doctor to stay on track with what is really important!

  9. I would love to know how you find a doctor who is in any way compassionate toward you about weight. Yes, I know there is a fat-friendly doctors list but unfortunately none of them work for the HMO that my employer provides in the name of health insurance. I cannot remember the last time I visited a health care provider (no matter what the reason) when the majority of the visit wasn’t taken up with some sort of attempt to try to convince me to turn myself into a smaller person (as though I could magically accomplish that if only I were sufficiently persuaded of its importance). When I try to explain that I’ve already devoted more than 4 decades of my life to trying to be a smaller person and I’m done fighting with my body, I just get reassured that I must not have been doing it “RIGHT” and if I just try this other “method” (whatever is the medical fad du jour — low carb, surgery, Weight Watchers, whatever) it really will work this time. When I resist I get yet another note in my chart describing me as “uncooperative” and “noncompliant” — which causes the next dr to be more “firm” with me and even less likely to treat me with any kind of empathy or even ordinary human respect.

    • rg, it is a quest. I know that there are some good resources via the HAES website and NAAFA website. Mostly though it is through word of mouth and being a strong self-advocate and “training” your health care provider how to “treat” you appropriately in a weight neutral way. The frustrating thing, of course, is that it is often when we are at our most vulnerable that we find ourselves in a doctor’s office, and that makes it more challenging to advocate for ourselves if we are already feeling sick and tired. I suggest you always go to appointments with friends who can help you stay strong and communicate the message to the practitioner that the best way to help you heal is to leave your weight out of it.

  10. Thanks so much for your story Deah. I gained 53 lbs during my first pregnancy and 23 in my second, both times getting to the exact same weight. My babies were small (5 lb. 5 oz. and 6 lb) and I knew that my body needed to be exactly the weight that it was when I gave birth! Gaining less might have resulted in preemie weight babies! Now, almost 27 years later (yep, it goes by fast), I know that my body has its own innate wisdom about what weight it wants to be. Post menopause things have definitely shifted around a bit (“where did that come from?” I asked the mirror one day), but compassion and acceptance of myself, my body, the changes (physical and mental) of getting older, all of these things help me be more at peace with myself. To me, that is the ultimate weapon against the war on obesity – self acceptance, righteous anger some of the time, compassion, kindness, and love.

    • I am so happy for you and as a 5’1″ woman, I can relate. If I had been told to just get taller it would’ve made as much sense as being told to just lose weight! Fighting against our bodies is just so contraindicated emotionally and physically. Your kids and your clients are lucky to have you! Thanks so much for writing.

  11. I was glad for your post also. I had recovered from my anorexia when I was pregnant but never weighed myself, a huge issue at the OBGYN’s office. I came to find out I gained 65lbs when my doctor told me I better be more careful. I am only 5′ 2″. It nearly pushed me over the edge. But I was now a therapist and going to be a mom and I had to bet through it! I had my son (gorgeous) and my body naturally lost all of the weight in 3 months. My OB nearly ate her words, I just went on living my new and wonderful life. I had been given a gift that I never in a million years though I would be able to have.
    4 years later I had another child with a more sensitive doctor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: