A certain number, said aloud, carries weight

Coming to terms with a doctor's office scale, and its shocking revelation, proves enlightening


Real Life


To the nurse at my doctor's office who completely disregarded my instructions and sang out my weight for all to hear:

Thank you.

Like many women, I was living in fear of The Number. After bearing two children in three years, I stopped weighing myself. My body, too long a host vehicle, felt like it belonged to somebody else. The time it would take to exercise and rein it in now was easily consumed by other demands.

I embraced the dictum of an old friend (and of certain women's magazines): When you visit the doctor, tell the person who weighs you not to announce the results. (You can do that? I remember asking.) Live not by the scale, but by how your clothes fit, by how you feel.

Except that everybody's scrambling to deceive us about how large we're getting. When we go shopping, the 10s become the 8s as we go the opposite direction. We sail on (we needed new pants anyway), unaware that anything is amiss.

The restaurant and "fast casual" food we eat grows in portion size and calories, the virtuous veggies cosseted in stealth butter.

When our toddlers eat two bites of the macaroni and cheese and three of the chicken nuggets, we wolf the rest down. As we keep the kid food from going to waste, it goes to waist.

We deceive ourselves. Do we really know how we feel in an age when even emotions are multitasked?

So it was more than convenient to ignore the scale. It was comforting. I would exercise when I could and try to eat right, but enjoy myself and not worry about the small stuff.

Except the small stuff added up to a lot.

I must have sensed this deep down, because I know I was clear when I went for my checkup. As I stepped on the scale, I told the nurse I didn't want to know, that I wasn't going to look. Then I closed my eyes.

And I heard it.

She sounded almost happy.

To my ears, The Number was unbelievable; one I had never associated with my 5-foot-2 frame when not pregnant. This time, there was no baby to blame.

I left rationalizing that my shoes and clothes were on (and must have weighed at least six pounds), that it was just after breakfast, that every scale is different and many are notoriously inaccurate.

But in the morning, I couldn't help checking at home. The Number was the same there, too.

After the shock wore off, though, a funny thing happened. Just thinking about The Number - and checking it every few days - caused it to slowly shrink. To recognize when I was full, when I was eating out of habit instead of hunger, and whether a splurge was worth it, I didn't follow a diet. I considered The Number, and more often took a walk instead of a bite to clear my head.

So when I went to another doctor's office recently - one where the staff respected my wish for scale secrecy - I peeked.

I really had lost five pounds.

I still don't like the new Number, but I am learning its value. Everybody's different, but for me, knowledge seems to be power.

I know what you're wondering. In the interest of journalistic completeness, you want to know: Just what was The Number?

You think, when I have trouble telling myself, that I'm going to tell you?


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.