It’s a scene that plays out in women’s homes across America every single morning: We wake up, we have our coffee — or if we have kids, we attempt to have our coffee — and at some point, we find our way to the bathroom where we begrudgingly step on the scale and hold our breath.
We do it before we shower, because wet hair definitely adds a few tenths of a pound.
It has to be before breakfast, too, because no WAY do we want that extra bloat factoring in.
We take off our clothes. We take off our wedding rings. We take off our glasses. And then we pray.
Because for those of us who struggle with weight and/or body image, the number the scale inevitably spits back at us could make or break our day. That number tells us whether or not we’re worthy today; whether or not to be hard on ourselves. And it’s sadly a feeling that New York mom Kim Zapata knows all too well.
The Babble contributor and writer behind the mental health blog Sunshine Spoils Milk has had a complicated relationship with the scale for years, between battling an eating disorder and struggling with body dysmorphia in her teens and early twenties.
“During that time I would restrict my calories to 800 a day, or less,” she tells Babble. “I would work out for an hour, or more, and I would weigh in after every drink, every meal, and every bowel movement. Ridiculous, I know, but that’s what happens when you are sick.”
And while she’s been in recovery for nearly a decade, there’s still one thing Zapata refuses to do every day: Step on the scale.
Until today, that is.
In a Facebook post shared July 12, Zapata admitted that she broke her own rule for the first time in years. She “took a deep breath” before looking down, and was “shocked” by the number she saw.
“It was upsetting, it was discouraging, and it was disheartening,” she writes. “I was sad. But the number didn’t upset me for reasons you may think. The number didn’t bother me because it was ‘too big’ or ‘too small.’ The problem with the number was I was looking at it. The problem with the number was that I decided to ‘weigh in’ at all.”
As Zapata rightly points out, we’ve become a society obsessed with numbers, in more ways than one. And in doing so, we’ve lost sight of what truly matters.
“We live in a numerical world: a world where our worth is defined by digits and figures,” she continues. “Think about it. Your beauty is defined by your waistband, and by the tag on your bra. Your value is defined by the size of your paycheck, by the clothes you wear and the car you drive. And your worth — the strength of your relationships and your sense of self — is defined by the number of likes your Facebook statuses garner, or by the number of ‘friends’ you have.”
Yep, yep, and YEP.
Zapata says she’s known for some time that it’s all, in her words, “BS.” Still, the second she stepped on that scale again, she let herself slip back into that negative place — the one she promised she’d never go to again:
“I vowed years ago to just be me: to embrace all aspects of me,” she writes. “Yet here I was on the scale. Here I was getting upset. Here I was passing judgment, on my body and myself. The same body which rebounded — quickly and completely — from spinal surgery 16 years ago. The same body which birthed a beautiful and healthy baby girl three years ago. And the same body, the same ‘thick thighs,’ which have carried me thousands of miles and across dozens of 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon finish lines.”
And that right there is the problem, she says — that in an effort to fit some elusive ideal of “perfection,” we so easily forget what our bodies have done for us. We look right past their beauty and only see that damn number.
“I know I cannot change our culture with a status update,” she continues, “but I hope to change the mind of one girl, one young lady, or one woman who hates themselves because of a number: because of the tag on their pants or a few digits on a scale. I am hoping to change the mind of one person who avoids social situations to avoid eating. To avoid getting dressed. To avoid judgment and shame.
I am hoping to change myself.”
Speaking with Babble, Zapata reiterates that she hopes her words inspire others to be kinder to themselves.
“I hope that women read my post and realize that is doesn’t matter if your skin is ‘flawed,’ your stomach is ’round,’ your backside is ‘thick,’ or your weight isn’t what you want it to be — if it isn’t the number you hoped it to be. Because beauty isn’t defined by your bra size, your pant size, the shape of your hips, or whatever you see on the scale, it is defined within.”
And that’s precisely why she ends her post with a message — not to herself, but to us all:
“YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL …
Even when you aren’t ‘at your best.’
Even when you are covered in spit up and sour milk.
Even when you are unshowered, sweaty, and – yes — a little stinky.
And even when you are rocking a ripped pair of yoga pants. Even when you are an exhausted and disheveled mess.
So wear your weight, your tattered and ill-fitting pants, and that sour milk stain as a badge of honor.
Wear them as badges of courage. Because you are amazing. You are beautiful. You are ‘perfect.’ You are enough.”