“Would we all be happier if we threw away our scales?” the BBC radio presenter asked me yesterday morning.
Yes. And we’d be healthier, too.
I threw away my scales in 2008, the same year I recovered from my eating disorder. I knew that my progress towards health would be significantly hampered if I had any concerns whatsoever about what was happening with my weight and I’d just rather not have known.
As I re-explored what it meant to be Natasha Devon- what her body was really like, how she dressed, what she ate, what activities she did, liberated from the constant and oppressive presence of bulimia nervosa, I yo-yoed madly between my a size 12 and a size 20. “This is insane” I thought “I simply cannot afford the clothing bills if I continue like this”.
Fortunately, about a year later I levelled out at a size 16 and there I have stayed ever since. I eat when I am hungry. I stop when I am full. If I overeat for a couple of weeks for whatever reason, I’m aware of, but not freaked out by it and cut out the empty calories until my body feels ‘right’ again. I inject as much variety into my diet as possible and make sure there’s always plenty of fresh fruit and veg to hand. I walk at least two miles every single day. And this is the body I’ve ended up with – a six foot tall “cello on chopsticks” with long, slender arms and legs and a ‘little bit fat in a pleasant way’ torso.
Recently, BodyGossipRuth posted an ancient picture of me on Facebook. She’s been snuffling around like a little truffle pig in her parents’ loft, it transpired and had happened upon some ancient documentation, with pictorial evidence, from days of yore. The picture was taken when I was 17 – a year before I developed my eating disorder. At the time, I remember feeling revoltingly huge. At about 6 inches taller than my class mates and at least 3 dress sizes larger, I always eschewed their invitations to join them on weekend shopping trips to Top Shop, knowing that nothing there would fit me. I had no concept of how to dress for my shape and stuck to a uniform of deeply unflattering baggy jumpers and Marks and Spencers bootleg elasticated slacks.
The Facebook photograph depicts me in one such fashion crime and, despite not being able to see my body shape terribly clearly, I can tell that I am the exact same size I am now. Back then, of course I put no real thought into what I was eating, I just went about my day eating when I was hungry, stopping when I was full and, as BodyGossipRuth recalls “CONSTANTLY marching – You were always stomping about between one engagement and the next”.
I must have a truly inappropriate sense of humour because I laughed – Laughed at the wasted years, the physical and mental torment, the sheer effort I put into trying to conform to a ‘perfect’ size 8 – only to land back at the same size I was as a teenager – and clearly the size nature intended for me.
Me then (Second from right - and that's BodyGossipRuth on the left!)
And now, during my recent lecture on body image at UAE back to my natural size 16 again!
......But the irony continues.
Recently I was poorly for the first time since moving to Our Nation’s Glorious Capital, rendering it necessary for me to register with a London doctor. They’re rather more rigorous than their country counterparts and insisted on conducting the most in-depth health assessment I have ever had the pleasure of being subjected to - part of which, of course, involved my being weighed.
“How much do you think you weigh?”. My Doctor asked.
“No idea”. I said “and neither do I want to know”.
(Explained whole aversion to scales and ceremonial throwing away of my own when conquering my eating disorder scenario.)
“Okay, hop on the scales and don’t look and I won’t tell you”. She said.
I’ve always assumed I’ve put on stones and stones since my recovery. You just do. Weight gain somehow makes itself more apparent than weight loss. I had reconciled myself to the idea that I was probably ‘obese’ by traditional BMI standards (after all, most people are).
“Excellent” my Doctor said “Your BMI is exactly where it should be for your height”.
“Errr. What?” I said, mouth hanging open, agog.
“Look at this chart” the Doctor commanded me. “this is underweight, this is normal, this is overweight, this is obese and this is morbidly obese. You are here”.
Right smack bang in the middle of “normal”.
I still have no idea what I weigh, but I have learned that I was right to trust my body and listen to my instincts.
We’re so caught up in statistics, weights and measurements, we’ve lost the ability to trust our bodies. Give it a try – Throw away your scales – I promise it will be the best decision you ever make.