Updated: Apr 21, 2020
"Mom, why are you always weighing your food?" I remember my son Dylan asking me several years ago in a tone that made it difficult for me to determine if he was angry or teasing. I was standing at the counter weighing the brussels sprouts I had planned on eating for dinner.
Oh shit, shit, shit shit, completely caught off guard, my mind was whirling over how to respond. I was shocked his self absorbed teenaged brain paid any attention to what I was doing. I was confident “I need to control every morsel of food that goes into my mouth so I don't cave and eat everything in sight”, although the truth, was not the answer I was going to give.
"I mean, if you are hungry, just eat," He continued, ignoring my panicked silence, as he grabbed a plate for the two greasy, cheesy, sandwiches he had just grilled, the sight of them making my mouth water and my stomach rumble.
"Well, I uh……" I stuttered, still trying to produce something that would make sense to a fourteen-year-old boy. Or a forty-seven-year-old woman.
"You are so skinny, you should eat five of these right now," He interrupted, holding up the plate so I could see as if I hadn't been mesmerized by them for the past five minutes.
"Dylan, you know I don't care for stuff like that," I said offhandedly, ensuring to use the words “care for” instead of “eat”, hoping he would let the subject drop.
"Dude, it is so F*%@ked up," he murmured as he walked away towards his room, leaving me so relieved I didn't even attempt to scold him for his questionable vocabulary. I’m going to have to be more careful from here on out.
He was right, of course. There I stood at five feet eight inches tall, weighing ninety-nine pounds and standing over a food scale, measuring out vegetables. It was so effed up.
Sense or not, I felt compelled to do it. For all my talk about wanting to gain weight, when restricted activity gave me a chance to do so, I did an about-face, again. Not ready to fight that battle, I retreated back into a safe space of food scales and measuring cups. A habit I did not practice as diligently when I was exercising, but with movement hindered by my still-healing leg, I returned to my trusty kitchen tools to keep from falling into the lazy, undisciplined pit that I believed accompanied a life without purposeful exercise. I was sure my strict food patrolling would keep my self-discipline in check, so when it came time to hit the gym again full speed, I would not find myself unable to put down the imagined brownies, milkshakes and cinnamon bears and get my poochy stomach and jiggly thighs off the couch.
And it worked. Eight weeks later, I was back at it, ready to prove I could still jump squat, burpee and leg press faster and heavier than ever. Like a wilted houseplant being given water, the burn of rigorous activity seeped through my body, making me feel alive again. And best of all, I could put away the food scales, and add back my exercise earned favorites like low-fat ice cream, mini bagels, and extra Tootsie rolls.
But I didn't.
I couldn’t bring myself to put the measuring devices aside, to ease up on the rigid restriction, even when my tired, sore, body and rumbling stomach begged me for more food. It turns out that food scales and wind sprints have a lot in common.