Weigh Free May starts tomorrow. Are you in?
It’s not about what size you are; but how much weighing yourself daily – even several times a day – can harm your emotional health.
According to one British study, the average woman has 36 negative thoughts about her body per day. That’s 252 bad body thoughts a week and over one thousand body-loathing thoughts per month.
Not only is it a waste of brain power, it’s also pointless. If hating our body over 1 million times in our lifetime isn’t enough to get us to our “goal weight” and finally be “good enough” then perhaps it’s time we tried something different.
Grace Ritter, a student from Perth, is proposing just that.
Ritter, who is in the early stages of recovery from an eating disorder and is disturbed by the number of friends, colleagues, and family who engage in fat-chat and body hatred, is challenging people to ditch the scales — and the body insecurity that accompanies it — for one month.
Welcome to “Weigh Free May”.
“We know that weigh-ins and BMIs are an unreliable indicator of someone’s overall health,” writes Ritter on her website. “We also know that focus on dieting and fat-shaming often have an extremely negative impact on our psychological health. But we’re still all obsessed with dropping weight.”
“What if all that negative, self-hating energy was turned towards something positive? What if, instead of trying to lose weight — which so many of us don’t even need to do — , we all put energy into chasing the dreams that will make us happier, more well-rounded individuals?”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But will we adopt this weigh-free lifestyle — even on a temporary basis?
When I tell friends that I refuse to weigh myself many express barely-disguised horror, certain that they could never do the same. The thought of putting their scales away for 31 days in a row is almost inconceivable.
Psychologist and director of BodyMatters Australasia Sarah McMahon says that many people are hooked on the bathroom scales. The daily ritual of weighing themselves makes people feel like they’re in control. But the sense of security can be fleeting because it creates a cycle of constantly seeking further reassurance.
“We experience relief knowing what the number is, and a sense of control. Even if the outcome is not what we hope for, we will vow to ‘do something about it’,” says McMahon.
“However, it is just a matter of time before we start to feel anxious about our weight again and experience increased distress if we don’t weigh our self.”
Rather than building us up, each weigh-in session instead undermines the trust we have in our bodies. After all, if we have to constantly defer to the great Scale God in the bathroom, then how much control do we really have?
“It sets up a relationship where we don’t trust parts of our body functioning, particularly our appetite and our metabolism, to do the very job they were designed to perform,” says McMahon.
“Rather than listening to our bodies, we exist on how we think things should be.”
And before all the Concern Trolls out there fire off emails telling me that I’m promoting obesity or that I’m driving people to an early grave, just remember that all the efforts to shame people into thinness hasn’t worked. Ever.
That’s the overwhelming lesson from 50 miserable years of failed government-funded fat shaming campaigns. This should come as no surprise. After all, nothing good can grow out of a bedrock of self-loathing.
Our bodies are always with us; there is simply no getting away from them. To hate our constant companion because we believe it to be the wrong size, to feel that we can’t trust our body, and that we must exist in a constant state of war with ourselves, is a tragedy.
There are many factors aside from weighing habits that contribute to a person’s body hatred and shame. The beauty, weight loss and cosmetic surgery industries rely on us believing we are flawed and in urgent need of fixing.
But refusing to worship at the foot of the scales, and making your life a fat-chat free zone is something that we can all do right now to improve our body acceptance. If you can muster the courage to put your scales away for the month of May you may never want to get them out again.
“There is tremendous liberation that comes from not weighing ourselves,” says McMahon. “I am yet to find someone who chooses to continue to weigh themselves once they have experienced the freedom from opting out of this consuming behaviour.”
If you do sign up to Weigh Free May, enjoy a 31-day reprieve from your own body policing. And may those 1000 thoughts that would otherwise be spent on body hatred, be wonderful.
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