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Last summer, tired of the way I was feeling, I rejoined Weight Watchers. All went well, as usual (I love Weight Watchers!). I lost 35 pounds fairly quickly. But as the stress in my life continued to climb, my progress slowed a bit. In November my dog died, and that, followed by the normal level of holiday indulgence, ground things to a halt. By then, I had run out of money for Weight Watchers and whatever progress I had made up until then started to slowly reverse. It’s been difficult, to say the least.

I know I’ve gained, but I’ve carefully avoided the specifics. It’s very, very easy for me to avoid stepping on a scale. Numbers have always messed with my head. Yes, I know my weight has gone up, but that’s vague, and there’s comfort (and probably some denial) in that. Yes, my clothes are snug, but they still mostly fit, which puts a theoretical limit on how bad the damage is. If I’d gained 20 pounds, the clothes wouldn’t go on at all. Right? RIGHT?!? Then I think about the level of lycra in my favorite jeans, and I get nervous. Just how much weight could I gain and still wear them?

So a friend suggested tracking my food and exercise on a free weight loss website, which sounded great. Then I went through the sign-up process, which naturally asks for your current weight. Fuck. I am so not ready to face that particular number. I can know I’ve gained. I can look at my face or my arms or my stomach in the mirror and I can see where the damage has been done. It makes me feel crappy, but I can more or less handle it. On the other hand, there’s the scale. For whatever reason, scales have always terrified me. The number on the scale is so much worse than my clothes not fitting, or even than my somewhat rounder image in the mirror. As I told my friend, once I have seen the number on the scale it feels like that number has been tattoed on my brain. And really, the tattoo isn’t a number any longer… it morphs into words, words that hurt:

You are hideous.

It’s interesting that the image in my mind says “you” rather than “I.” Who is doing the talking? Regardless (although that’s probably something I should take a little time to figure out), the words have power. The number has power. I understand the usefulness of the number in terms of figuring out how many calories I should be eating or how much exercise I should be getting in order to lose weight. It’s obvious and logical. But my reaction to the number has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with fear. I am convinced that if I know the actual number my feelings about my backslide will turn from disappointment into self-loathing. It’s not hard for me to get there… it’s an all-too-familar route. I just don’t know how to avoid it. “Don’t look at things that way” is perfectly logical, but fails to help. My reaction is visceral and automatic, and I don’t know how to keep it from happening. I know I’m not actually hideous, but I am capable of feeling that way in spite of that. Been there, swimming in the Sea of Self-Loathing. The water is not fine.

I’ve been happy with my recent progress. I am exercising more and making better choices, food-wise. When I look in the mirror, I feel like I see improvement. Whether or not there has been visible change yet is irrelevant. The mind is a powerful thing, and I feel like I see change. If I step onto that scale, it’s possible that number will become all I see. I don’t want that. It scares me, and I don’t know what to do now.

Comments welcome. Seriously. I’m not sure how to move past this particular mental roadblock.