A surprise weigh-in at the pediatrician’s office broke me. Here is what I learned.

My 2 year old son third baby girl in the family, cried out at the sight of the nurse who had given her vaccinations months earlier. But all the nurse asked today was for my daughter to step on a scale. She had gone from the infant scale – which required stripping completely naked and lying down in a cold, uncomfortable receptacle – to the standard that adults use.

Despite the simple request, my little girl refused, moaning until she was almost purple in her face, the memory of her last round of vaccinations still firmly imprinted.

I hugged her, trying unsuccessfully to calm her down. The nurse looked me in the eye. “Step on the scale with her,” she said.

Again, it was a simple request, but I wanted to refuse and moan like my daughter. With bated breath, I stepped on the scale anyway. I pulled myself off the platform and handed my daughter, who was now screaming louder, to the nurse as I prepared for the solo ride back to complete the arithmetic: I knew that would be a plus a lot more than I had hoped and possibly the heaviest I’ve ever been as a non-pregnant adult. After all, I hadn’t seen many 65-pound 2-year-olds.

I saved my moans for after the date, when I called my husband from the car, “How did this happen to me?” I screamed. He said all the good things a spouse is supposed to say – you’re beautiful; it fits you well; if you want to lose weight, I will do it with you.

You might think I was upset with the actual number – and partly I was – or that I lamented that I didn’t politely explain to the nurse why I wasn’t stepping on the scale – my daughter was in good health, she had never deviated greatly from the growth curve, and we could always come back when she felt less upset.

But I was actually wondering this: how, at 38 and after three kids, could a number on the scale upset me?

From around 7 or 8 years old, the world taught me about the female body – what was acceptable and what was not. In the back of my neighbor Joey’s parents’ car, Joey pointed to our pale legs exposed from our shorts and squashed on the bench seat: “Why are your legs so much bigger than mine?” ” He asked.

His mother turned away from the front seat in dismay. “We don’t talk about people’s bodies like that, Joey!” Oh, yes, Joey’s mother. We do.

As I was excitedly eating a spaghetti and meatball dinner with my cousins ​​after a fun day at the beach, a cousin told me I was chubby. I can still feel the outrage as I insisted I ran the third-grade mile test in under eight minutes. Even then, I felt the need for explanation, to condition my height to my athletic abilities.

I was the biggest friend of mine in high school, and I backed off when they paired up with the boys and swing dancing (a genre that saw a resurgence during the heyday of ska in the 90s), embarrassed the boys might not be able to throw me over their shoulders like they did with the other girls.

Sports saved me for a while: I played on the varsity field hockey and lacrosse teams for all four years of high school. It didn’t matter how much I weighed or how I looked, as long as I could “put the cookie in the basket”, as one of my coaches said.

When I stopped playing in college I started running a lot and within a few months I lost 20 pounds. It really felt like the world was opening up in a new way. I never felt out of place in a room, trying on clothes wasn’t stressful, and the boys paid a lot more attention to me. Yet despite all of this, when I went to see my family doctor, she told me to be careful about maintaining my weight: She knew obesity ran in my family.

As a young woman, I kept this warning handy and was pretty cautious: I ran a lot and restricted my diet if I started to cross a 5-10 pound buffer zone. But then pregnancy threw it all out the window.

Like many women, I felt completely out of control of my physical being for most of my gestation. My body expanded in jerks, leaps and bounds, contradicting the suggested steady pace and the dead stop at 25 pounds gained.

During the third trimester of my first pregnancy, I cried in a doctor’s office after she told me I needed to be careful with my weight – “watch it”. All I could do was watch it go up and up, disregarding my daily walks and attempts at diet regulation.

As I breastfed my third child within a year, I sank into disappointment realizing that I was simply not “one of those women” whose bodies melted from the baby’s weight while breastfeeding. Mine, it seemed, held tighter.

Then, about a year ago, I decided to stop weighing myself: I didn’t need to be obsessed with the scale. I had planned to focus on staying active, incorporating healthier foods into my diet, reducing my alcohol intake, and getting plenty of rest. And after seeing a video of a friend lifting heavy weights at a local gym, something clicked inside me: I wanted to be strong too.

When I took my daughter to her appointment, I had been weight training with a trainer for over a month, learning proper form and gaining the confidence to add more plates to the bar.

In that short time, I already felt bigger and stronger. And perhaps most importantly, lifting and staying off the ladder grounded me more firmly in the present. I set myself new strength and health goals instead of looking back on a number from the past. This shift in perspective allowed another version of me to exist, without shame or remorse.

But even though I steadily increased the number of deadlifts, squats, and bench presses, the only number that mattered the day I stepped on that scale was the one on the digital screen. Here’s the proof that I hadn’t been carefulthat I had failed.

Preparing for a day at the pool I watched my 7 year old daughter pull up her rashguard and examine her belly – she filled it with air and it expanded like a balloon before sucking it back in, a small curl down on her lips.

Had she talked to a Joey? A rude cousin? Has she ever felt this weight of expectation and the weight of not respecting impossible standards? I knew I couldn’t identify an offensive messenger with so much expectation behind the scenes.

I wish undoing decades of indoctrination was as simple as saying, “I accept and love my body as it is. The weight I weigh will always have some kind of meaning, for me and for others, I’m afraid.

But I’m staying off the scale, for now, and instead focusing on different numbers: how much I can squeeze, curl, and push; the time it takes me to complete my three-mile route; the decreasing amount of Tylenol I take for lower back pain. And best of all: the number of times my daughters squeal with delight when I show them videos of me squatting at 100 pounds.

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