“Step on the scale,” she said. “I need to see how much you weigh.”
I hadn’t any time to sit in the waiting room to wring my hands while staring at the closed door. That was usually the case when I previously breezed into a clinic for a check-up. I would clutch a book in my hand and nervously try to read with my mind elsewhere. I would imagine the condemnation of not liking the number I saw flash on the digital screen, followed by the noose-like grip that the blood pressure cuff would take on my arm, causing that uncomfortable feeling of my pulse ripping through my bicep.
Then there was the question and answer round regarding my lifestyle, such as did I take supplements. How was I feeling? Am I independently wealthy, and do I cut coupons before I grocery shop? It always feels like a pop quiz where I hope I get the answer right about myself. I expect a loud buzzer to go off while I am ushered out with a tongue depressor as a parting gift.
No, there wasn’t any time to adjust to my surroundings before she called my name. I was headed for the section C seats not to watch a sporting event or have a baby delivered but to start my ritual of pre-check-up overthinking. But I was summoned before I could pick out my spot as far away as possible.
Immediately after being allowed through the door where all the magic happens, she gave me the order to get on the scale.
“Already?” I said. I had no time to do a couple extra push-ups or wall squats to take off a few extra inches. It was like being on The Biggest Loser in the middle of the hallway where any passerby could see my weight and gasp.
Where had this complex come from? Why had I hated the weigh-in process so much? Maybe it had something to do with a required class from long ago.
In 7th grade, we began a journey into the world of placing ourselves before the prying eyes of someone who might share a desk next to us in math, home economics, or English. How does this reflect an authentic life experience? Wasn’t school supposed to prepare us for the real world? No office setting would ever require its employees to strip down to their underwear and bare their acne, scars, and moles to their coworkers.
We had to do it no matter how self-conscious we felt or not graduate six years later. That was always the threat. Conform or be left behind.
Some of us gathered our clothes and ran for the bathroom stalls or the protective barrier of the showers. Elementary school never held our feet to the fire like this. We were told to cover our coughs, don’t push your neighbor, and be on your best behavior.
At the height of body changes, we had to take it all off and not bat an eyelash.
Having learned how to skirt being unclothed in front of the people I would sit next to at my high school graduation, I then had to endure the ultimate of humiliation.
The Presidential Fitness Test.
By the looks of our government leaders and officials, they skipped gym class during this unit of study.
But the rest of us had to participate or be subjected to a firing squad in detention. I had been through this before, but they added an element that was downright deplorable. We stood in a line, and they rolled in a scale from the nurse’s office where no one had set foot on it. The rattling sound sent a shockwave of horror for those who were too self-aware of our weight.
From the time I was born, my mom always made this announcement,
“I have always weighed 110 pounds. No more and no less.”
It was like a broken record and usually stated right around the time of my physical exams as she would take note of my number, which was at least twenty more and climbing as I grew.
My frame easily made muscle from the slightest form of exercise. This increased my result on the scale, but that was an undisclosed health secret back then.
In addition to her weight, she said,
“My foot has always been a size 5.”
Not only was I three sizes larger, but I had to wear wide.
“I hate my feet,” I told her before bed one night.
With a shocked expression, she said,
“They are too big. Yours are smaller than mine.”
The frown indicated she was seeing the error of her ways.
“Some people don’t have feet or legs, Chris. So be thankful for what you have. You can walk and run.”
It didn’t make much of a dent in my view of myself because by the time I expressed those feelings, I was at the height of self-hatred. She had planted the seeds for years, and the crop grew out of control with wild abandon.
I figured I would keep my weight and shoe size hidden as much as possible. Putting something into a far dark corner always solves it, right? It was the only form of self-preservation I had in my arsenal at that age.
It was one thing to have to undress in front of others, but now I was being set up for more ridicule by my peers. The year before, I had suffered under the bullying of a boy who sat inches from me, and at home, I had an older brother who made sure I knew every day that I was fat and ugly.
With all of these factors, is it any wonder why a simple invention that measures my pounds would bother me so much?
The teacher parked the contraption in the middle of the room. My formal name, first, middle, and last, was called out just like my mom did when I was in trouble, so psychological trigger number three reared its ugly head.
My footsteps echoed off all the walls as I moved toward what seemed like a guillotine, with no sound coming from anybody. I stepped on the black platform, and the entire measuring mechanism slid to the far right with a loud metal grating sound.
With clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other, she squinted and slid the marker back and forth and one final time back until she landed on a number that seemed fitting. Not having an ounce of a social filter, she loudly announced my number as she wrote it on her sheet.
Body shaming was not considered illegal back then but a right of passage through puberty. I distinctly heard the slight giggles of those who didn’t have triple digits next to their names. They were the ones who had mastered hair flips, the art of applying lip gloss, and had on designer gaucho boots.
Once we were properly disgraced, it was on to physical agility. How many sit-ups and pull-ups could we do with the stopwatch ticking away? There was a standard to achieve, and if you fell short, you were considered an outcast.
Those more athletic were usually the males who walked around like gorillas thumping their chests and lording it over the rest of us losers. Many of the girls were instantly checked off as failures, especially the malnourished ones.
Out of all the drills we had to perform, the ropes that hung from ceiling to the ground were the most ominous because I was afraid of heights. Climbing a step stool mere inches off the floor caused a swirly feeling in my stomach.
We were expected to jump on those ropes like monkeys and climb our way up and back, all under the watch of the clock. It didn’t matter what direction I was going. A rope burn would occur on some part of me. It wasn’t a maybe. It was a certainty.
Going up wasn’t bad, and I’m sure my time would have made the record books. The way down chewed up the clock because backward and up high are not a nice combination.
We left exhausted, and a part of our soul had died. The next day, we were back on the scale, and my weight was up an ounce.
When I saw the number at the clinic, it was the first time I felt peace and didn’t care. It’s interesting when you have lost weight, and you know you were about twenty pounds heavier last time, that you aren’t so bad off.
As soon as that hurdle is cleared, they present you with your BMI that screams you are in the overweight category, just in case you start to feel overconfident.
This is when you begin to see how your value should not be attached to a range of numbers on paper. It should be a guide but not a live or die proclamation.
Our society glorifies and promotes “the perfect” who have flaws but mask them. The public school system conditions us early to consider ourselves a number, whether on a scale or a test score. It becomes our identity that spills over into a bank account, a wage that determines what we do for employment and our age.
What has God numbered? Matthew 10:30 says,
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (AMP)
What happens when those become gray?
Proverbs 16:31: Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
It is challenging to separate who we are from what we believe. God doesn’t look at us in the way that the world does. We are carriers of a highly crafted divine spirit that gets little to no recognition in public. It’s usually ignored.
I did not go to the doctor and discuss how many prayers I had seen answered, how many people I had shown compassion to or helped when I didn’t have to. Where’s that scorecard? There isn’t one because God doesn’t keep track of that, either.
You are on earth to learn, figure out your purpose, and live it to the fullest. This comes by direct communication to the One who sent you. You listen to what is spoken and let all the distractions fall away.
Jeremiah 29:11 says:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)
Until I examined the factors contributing to why I detested being weighed, it didn’t make sense to me. My reaction was to feel ashamed, and it had become an automatic response. Much like Pavlov’s dogs hearing a bell ring to start drooling, mine was to feel guilt at the thought of my weight, no matter what it was.
Where are these people I allowed to create an unhealthy stronghold in my mind? My mom is in heaven, and my peers are long gone, so their voices should have been silenced long ago.
A “bad” number can motivate a person to do better, but what if you are doing your best, and no matter the result, you still beat yourself up? That’s where you figure out the why, and in that puzzle-solving experience, you see where the errors in your thinking have been so you can correct them.
While maintaining a healthy life, you don’t make it an obsession. You bless your body and be grateful for its hard work. This is a great accomplishment toward balancing the scale.
I read in a book recently that if you put your fruit on the counter instead of in the refrigerator, you will be more likely to eat it. So, I put these on top of my container of brownies.