Home > Uncategorized > Biking and swimming and throwing away my scale

Biking and swimming and throwing away my scale

August 19, 2017

Hello, friends! I’m here to give you an update on my recovery from bariatric surgery.

Swimming and biking

I’ve been cleared to swim and bike and take baths, and I’ve been swimming and biking – mostly biking and taking baths – every day since I got the news, which was on Tuesday. A small bummer: I’m really out of shape compared to where I once was, and it’s hard work. It doesn’t help that the weather, except for Wednesday, has been insanely moist and humid, exaggerating my sweatiness and making my gasping helplessly for breath all the more sad and pathetic.

Fuck it though, I’ll do it anyway! I feel very grateful for having the freedom and energy to do this stuff at all, and it will only get better as long as I keep at it.

Scales

I got deeply depressed yesterday morning. Partly it was the awful horrible weather, partly the political situation of the country, but partly it was something that made me feel awful that I did to myself: I weighed myself.

Now, and I know many of you will relate, I haven’t weighed myself regularly for maybe 23 years, and for good reason: it didn’t matter, it made me crazy, and my mental health was better without it. That’s not to say I didn’t get weighed every now and then; I did, especially when I was pregnant, and it was fine because it was a medical requirement and didn’t seem to bother me, probably because somebody else did it to me.

But, and here’s the naive part of the story, I convinced myself and my husband that I might be able to weigh myself once a week to sort of understand the effects of the bariatric surgery on my body. I had somehow framed it to myself as a scientific lark, ignoring the heaps of evidence that I had accumulated 23 years before that it was a really terrible idea. I thought I was mature enough to handle it now.

Long story short, I weighed myself once a week starting a few weeks ago. At least I was smart enough not to weigh myself every day.

As an aside, my husband loves weighing himself and does so 5 times a day or more. He doesn’t mind when it goes up. He’s endlessly fascinated by how he weighs 4 pounds more at certain times than at others. He’s most assuredly in a different relationship to scales than I am, or probably than any woman I know. Even my friends who are skinny have problems with scales, for various reasons. AmIright?

And it was fine! It really seemed fine. One day last week I decided to nerd out for a bit, so I built a predictive curve of my weight loss based on the information I’d been told by the doctor and my research, plotting out what I could expect to lose each week for a year, and getting to almost exactly the expected overall weight loss I’d been told was appropriate for my height and beginning weight.

And then, yesterday morning, Friday, I weighed myself. And I came in 1 pound more than “expected” based on this totally made up, unscientific graph I had built from nothing. And at some level I was like, 1 pound is the difference between a poop and not a poop, so whatever, I didn’t poop yet today. But at another level I turned immediately into my 14-year-old self, blaming and shaming myself for behaving badly (even though I’d done nothing wrong). It was fucking crazy.

To calm myself down, I made the next fatal error, which was to go onto the chat boards (mostly old) about weight loss after bariatric surgery. For whatever reason – mostly selection bias – these chat boards are populated exclusively by people who are actually insane.

Either someone’s saying they eat 500 calories a day, exercise constantly, but still weigh 300 pounds, and asking if there’s another surgery that will cure them, or it’s someone saying they “jumpstarted” a loss of yet another 10 pounds with the simple trick of drinking only protein shakes for two weeks, or it’s someone asking how to “jumpstart” their weight loss once again, and on and on and on. If you removed the words “bariatric” from these chats, they’d be indistinguishable from those famous websites that exchange tricks on anorexia.

Then, my friends, something shook me out of my stupor, and it was that Steve Bannon was fired. It was the energy I needed. I stood up from my seat, walked over to my scale, and threw it the fuck away.

After all, I didn’t have this surgery to lose weight, I had this surgery to be healthy. And that’s not something you can measure on a scale, or even once a week. It’s a long term thing, and the scale was seriously getting in my way. And shit, I’ll know I’ve lost weight when my pants fall off.

One more thing. I’m an idiot for letting myself get sucked into this weight loss perspective, but it’s really not my fault. In my defense, the people at the surgeon’s office are obsessed with my weight loss, and are constantly trying to get me to name a “goal weight” as if that will help me achieve something. It won’t.

We live in a fucked up world, people. There are lots of things that we have no control over and that suck. Then there are things that we do have control over and that suck. My new motto is, if it’s something in the latter category, throw it the fuck away.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. JPA
    August 19, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Hello Cathy,

    Thanks for being so open about the internal struggles you are dealing with (successfully I might add). The power that numbers have on our psyche is really amazing. Its the number on a scale for a lot of people. For others is cholesterol, or blood pressure, or clothing size… These have all become surrogates for health, but we respond to small changes in the numbers that have no relationship to changes in health.

    I think this occurs because our state of health is uncertain. Our minds tend to be uneasy in the presence of uncertainty. So we will tend to be uneasy about our health. That uneasiness is worsened (deliberately) by all the fear-mongering about how poor our health is.

    When we assign a number to health, then if the number changes in the “right” direction that reduces our uncertainty and our uneasiness drops. So with weight we are uncertain about our health or some other non-measureable quality like attractiveness or likeability. The uncertainty causes unease. So our brain searches for a way to reduce the unease by reducing the uncertainty. We weigh ourselves. If the number goes down then the uneasiness drops quickly. This rapid drop in uneasiness is addicting. We start wanting it more and more.

    Or course our weight will not go down steadily and because we have reified the number on the scale then when it does not go down our uneasiness will increase. We work hard to make the number go down, we “jump-start” our weight-loss. And if that is successful then our uneasiness drops. But our brain knows that this will not last and so the relief in uneasiness is fleeting.

    We are now in a state of almost constant unease with brief respites when we see the number on the scale drop. This chronic uease causes neuroendocrine changes that can lead to anxiety and depression. Those neuroendocrine changes also make it harder to lose weight.This is a first-order approximation to hell.

    The mental process that got us into the trap was our desire to escape the uncertainty. If we can become comfortable with uncertainty, or at least tolerate the unease that uncertainty brings without using surrogate markers to reduce that uncertainty then we will be less likely to be caught.

    We can train ourselves to become less uneasy about uncertainty by practicing the sacred mantram “Duh?” (trans. “I don’t know”). When our mind starts harassing us with questions about weight or health or … we practice responding “Duh?” Our goal is to become comfortable with that. The more comfortable we are with uncertainty the more we will avoid getting trapped by numbers.

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  2. August 19, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Amen! Throw it the fuck away!

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  3. August 20, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Home scales are frequently quite inaccurate. Taking your weight successively, especially if you move the scale to another location, typically results in quite a bit of variance.

    I am in a constant battle to return to my not too slender weight from a year ago before my late wife’s final hospitalization. The scale helps me to stay on course. Of course losing weight is so much harder than gaining it. Eating a lot more salads and joining a kickboxing class help, but I constantly have to watch what I eat. No, I’m not a masochist, but I really feel a lot better without the extra weight.

    I hope you find the best method for you. You certainly are a hero and really brave for going through with the surgery. If the scale is an impediment, then certainly chuck it. But would you chuck a thermometer because it showed a (low grade) fever?

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  4. psteckler
    August 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    In October, I’m going on a group bike ride in Albania (really). I don’t think they have scales in Albania yet. You should join us!

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  5. August 21, 2017 at 8:19 am

    I applaud you, while sympathizing with your husbands position I would want to know how weight shifts occured and when. But I tuned into this to say you go girl sounds like you made a great decision for you.

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  6. calcroteaus
    August 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    My goal weight is zero…and it’s taking forever!

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  7. August 21, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Cathy, Thanks for sharing! You are truly a warrior!

    Here’s what works for me… I bought an Aria scale that syncs with my Fitbit app. I step on the scale when I get out of the shower, but I don’t look at the number…. When I want to see how I’m doing, I open the app and focus on the trend…. as long as it is going down, I’m happy 🤓…. After time, the number loses it’s power and what matters is the slope of the downward trend.

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  8. Guest2
    August 22, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    I actually have 2 scales, an old one that rounds to the pound, and a much newer one that rounds to one-tenth of a pound. Thing is, there is a 6 or 7 pound difference between them!

    The newer scale seems less impressed with before and after BMs, which makes no sense to me. I am at a loss for understanding daily variances, although I try to guess what my weight will be before I step on the scale(s).

    Is there an applicable ANSI standard for the variances?

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  9. karls
    August 24, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    There’s a scale in the men’s locker room at my local Y, and I see guys using it all the time. I avoid the thing. The only time I weigh myself is when I’m at the doctor’s, which happens as infrequently as possible. I know perfectly well that I’m gaining weight slowly, but my trousers say that it’s slow and manageable.

    I’ll definitely go with “whatever works for you” and “if it hurts, throw it the fuck away” (nice phrasing!)

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