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What I Know About Weight

I’ve spent the past 10 years immersed in the study of how we, as women, relate to our hungers, food, bodies, and yes, weight. I’ve looked at these topics academically, professionally, personally, spiritually, and just about every which way you can…here is what I know:

I know it’s entirely useless to know what you weigh.

I also know that most people will disagree with me on that point. I know that I’m okay with that.

I know that giving up knowing your weight is one the most liberating and radical acts of self-care we can do. (Imagine living the rest of your life not knowing your weight, could you do it?)

I know weight fluctuates our whole lives and throughout each day.

I know you can find a healthy person at nearly every weight. I know you can find an unhealthy person at nearly every size. I know size is not a predictor of health.

I know beauty really does have nothing to do with size. If one doesn’t see beauty when looking at a human body the only thing that needs changing is the eyes of the beholder.

I know that too many use weight to measure their okayness, lovability, and success at controlling a world that was never and will never be in their control.

“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels.” Geneen Roth

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I know that the happiest I’ve ever been did not coincide with the thinnest I’ve ever been. Not even close. In fact, my happiness doesn’t depend on my size. Fancy that.

I know each of us has a set-point happy-place weight, determined by an unknowable mix of genetics and lifestyle. No amount of exercise and starvation will necessarily change this. Nor do we need it to. I know that for many their body’s happy place weight is well-above what our society deems okay.

I know sizeism is one of the last forms of socially acceptable prejudice. I know we must change this.

I know we are living in a world that is crying out for women to shift their energy and attention from weight-loss and weight shame to engaged, compassionate, embodied, and awake living.

Will you join me?

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Comments

  1. Craige October 1, 2012

    What resonated? All of it! I know I am guilty of judging people based on their size, including myself. And I hate myself for doing that just as much as I hate what I weigh. Ugh! Everything you wrote in this entry rings so true and yet I still feel like I have no idea how to make the shift. Keep working at acceptance, I guess.

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Hi Craige. Thanks for sharing here. The most important thing is that we don’t judge our judgement. That gets us no where. Right? You clearly have awareness and that’s beautiful. Keep noticing, allowing what is to be, and accepting yourself and others as they are. xo, R

  2. teryll October 1, 2012

    Loved this quote: “I know we are living in a world that is crying out for women to shift their energy and attention from weight-loss and weight shame to engaged, compassionate, embodied, and awake living.”

    I know you know this is where my soul work resides right now so I’m probably not telling you something *new*, but…….over the past month, I’ve never felt so much *sweet relief*. Not weighing myself is a radical gift of grace. I’m re-reading Women, Food and God right now and so much is *clicking* this time around.

    Craige – I hear ya when it comes to JUDGMENT. I’ve noticed just how critical I am of others in relationship to how much I have judged myself. You are so NOT alone on this one. When looking at others right now, I’m trying to focus on one thing that is BEAUTIFUL about them and I’m hoping others will do the same when they look at me. :)

    Great post Rach!

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Teryll! I love hearing about the shifts you’re making and SWEET RELIEF! Wahoo. The scale is a prison and we have the power to free ourselves. Yes yes yes. xo, R

  3. Jeanne October 1, 2012

    Yes! My entire family focuses their conversations on weight and uses the “f” word (fat) on a regular basis. They very rarely talk about empowering women, raising aware girls or being healthier people on this planet. It is stressful to sometimes spend time with them. My body weight is heavier than I prefer for health and comfort reasons and I have noticed being treated differently as I have put on the weight. It is interesting to watch. Thank you for this post.

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Wouldn’t we all love to have the power to change our families?! But since we can’t, we can relish in the power we have over our own choices, the examples we show others as to how to treat us, and how we want to be in the world. Sounds like you want to be in your own skin more…which starts with being in and loving the body you have now. Thanks so much for sharing and I hope you’ll stay in touch. xo, R

  4. Kerilyn October 1, 2012

    With elegance and grace you have, yet again, located and have your finger on the root, the TRUTH. (Similar to your self centered post) You are touching a belief that, I believe, lies deepest within all of us, yet is surrounded by years of overgrown and foundation shifting weeds, which causes MOST of us to react, by either our defensiveness or our shedding a tear, in our vulnerability. Without judgement you give us the ability to look through to the core, to sit and observe, like one would a painting, without having to DO anything. That’s the hardest part, I believe… to even LOOK at what causes us to stir in our hungers. Grateful to you, m’lady.

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Kerilyn. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me. Means so much to know these words resonated. Yes. xoxo, R

  5. teryll October 1, 2012

    Kerilyn, I like that imagery about overgrown and foundation shifting weeds – so vivid and true. :)

  6. Marsha October 1, 2012

    LOVE. THIS. Everything in me is singing with joy at this post. The part I most resonated with? This: “I know that the happiest I’ve ever been did not coincide with the thinnest I’ve ever been. Not even close. In fact, my happiness doesn’t depend on my size. Fancy that.”

    I’ve been my happiest at my heaviest weight. Which used to confuse me until I remembered that I had the key to being happy no matter what weight I was.

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Happiness is where it’s at. Surprising for many that doesn’t = losing weight or gaining weight. They just aren’t related. Love your words here and so glad you’re singing with joy. xo, R

  7. marina October 2, 2012

    thank you Rachel, your words resonate so much with me. all of them, and especially these “success at controlling a world that was never and will never be in their control”. still difficult to accept. thank you for all you share here, it does mean a lot to me.

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      If we could control our world by controlling our appetites and body sizes…we’ll that’s be an alternate universe. The one we live in…much more satisfying to let go and embrace ourselves as we are. Thanks so much for your comment. xo, R

  8. Lana Angel October 2, 2012

    Wow…just wow. I’ve just discovered you through the lovely Teresa Deak and I am so glad. I resonated with the entire article, but especially: “I know that too many use weight to measure their okayness, lovability…” Thank you, so meaningful and powerful. I’m banishing the scale – NOW!

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Take out with the trash! I’ve never looked back. xo, R

  9. Karen October 2, 2012

    Rachel, I loved this! I totally get that my overeating/poor eating is a means of filling a void that needs something else, but in the absence of that knowledge, filling and numbing with food continues! I wiil continue to follow you and your words of wisdom :)

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Hi Karen. If you have access to a meditation group (or Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project) you might try that. Insight Meditation was what helped me with my void…not fill it really…but see it for what it is, learn to be with it, etc. So glad you found me. Stay in touch. xo, R

  10. Ruth October 2, 2012

    All of it resonated! I have done terrible damage to my body and soul over 50+ years of obsession with weight as a measure of worth. Over the past two years, I’ve worked to mend my ways, learning to eat healthfully, to reject the useless tyranny of the scales, to exercise with joy, and to appreciate what my body has done and can do. It’s a long journey, and I’m not “there” yet.

    For me, the greatest difficulty has to do with my health care provider. My insurance is with an HMO, and the doc I’m assigned to is determined that all the myths about weight and fat people are true. I avoid seeing her, because every time I leave her office in tears. I feel trapped, but so far, haven’t been able to get another doc, and she seems utterly unwilling to learn anything new. (A young woman, too! it’s such a shame.)

    Delighted to discover your blog, and I look forward to learning from you.

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Hi Ruth. I’m so sorry to hear of the problems you’ve had with your doctor. The medical establishment is maybe the worst when it comes to size prejudice and body shaming…and they do so under the guise of “health.” If you can switch doctors I highly recommend it. It’s so important you have a supportive and kind health care provider. Sending you lots of love and courage. xo,R

  11. Ruth October 3, 2012

    Wow! So timely! I decided that for the month of October I would stop weighing myself and see what happened. I have weighed myself nearly every day since I was 10 years old – that’s over 11,000 weigh ins; 11,000 ways I’ve judged myself. Liberating myself from this habit of judgment may be just what I need to find that self-love. Thank you for this post!

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      I challenge you to make it a whole year…or a lifetime. Do you really need to weigh in on November 1st? Stay free. xo, R

  12. Linda October 3, 2012

    All resonated with me, I am 65 and know better and have the tools to not let my weight define me , but i do, I am still not able to let go of those haunting thoughts of by body size, When I see large woman that are full of self joy I so want to be like that living life instead of living shame,,,

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      Those women are gifting you with validation that joy can be experienced at any size. Are you surrounding yourself with body loving people, media, information, images or body shaming? Take a look at where in your life you might be able to support yourself with reminders that you are beautiful and worthy of love just as you are. Stay in touch. Rachel

  13. Kelly October 3, 2012

    I love this and wanted to thank you for writing it!

    • rachel October 3, 2012

      I’m so glad Kelly! xo, R

  14. Chris Maddox October 4, 2012

    Rachel, I luff this, I lurve it. I couldn’t agree with you more. I threw out my scale 5 years ago, and my relationship to my body changed drastically. I began to check-in not with a scale and a number but rather my inner compass. Who I am can never be defined by mathematics. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this and chipping away at this damaging misperception. xoxo

    • rachel October 12, 2012

      Wahooo for throwing out the scale, right?! Useless. We should have some sort of public art project to put them to use. xo, R

  15. Hannah Marcotti October 5, 2012

    I am at my heaviest non-pregnant weight ever. And I feel sexy and glowing and gorgeous. A few years ago you could not have convinced me this would ever have been possible. Your light and your work Rachel are freaking beyond healing for women. Thank you!!!

    • rachel October 12, 2012

      So overjoyed to hear that’s how you feel, because you all those things: gorgeous, glowing, and sexy. Amazing that we ever thought thin = happy, right? xoxo, R

  16. Erika October 7, 2012

    I loved this too. I haven’t weighed myself in about 5 months but still occasionally struggle with it – I use the number to answer the question “am I OK” as you mention above. It’s so true! And the number may make me happy or sad, but either way, I have to get away from the fact that the number is NO reflection of me as a person. SO HARD!

    This issue has been rearing its head again for me because it’s time for my annual physical, where I always get weighed. The mere thought of it’s keeping me up at night and (ugh) making me want to eat!

    • rachel October 12, 2012

      Erika. Here’s my tip. Tell the nurse you don’t want to know your weight (you don’t need to explain why) and step on the scale backwards. You don’t have to hear it or see it. It’s useless, and only serves to temporarily boost or lower our view ourselves. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey. xo, R

  17. Marianne October 8, 2012

    How many people suffer, and how much, because of the deeply ingrained ideas about weight, size, health, beauty and acceptability that prevail in our culture? Too many, and too much. It is not this way everywhere. I know it’s possible to think differently about this because I’ve seen it in other cultures, that gives me hope. But we have to be rebels, we have to be willing to say a big loud HELL NO to all those messages telling us that our weight actually does determine our value. And we have to stick together, this kind of revolution requires good company.

    Love you and your work Rachel! xx

    • rachel October 12, 2012

      REBELS INDEED!! Love you and your work too Marianne. Honored to be have you as a colleague and friend. xo, R

  18. darrah parker October 8, 2012

    “Imagine living the rest of your life not knowing your weight, could you do it?” This question stuck with me. After all, what’s the point of knowing my weight if it only makes me feel bad about myself? I may just throw that sucker out! Where I am currently stuck has less to do with the number on the scale (although that is higher than I’m used to) and more to do with my post-baby shape. I wasn’t prepared for an entirely different body. Lumps and rolls in places that used to be tight. I am so grateful that my body was strong enough to carry a baby, but oh, how I miss my slimmer, trimmer self sometimes.

    • rachel October 12, 2012

      Hi Darrah.

      Oh how I know you are not alone. We are the hardest on women post-pregnancy. All those celebrities “slimming down in two weeks!”. Bullsh*t. I imagine you are being tasked with embracing yourself as you are, with seeing beauty where you might not at first glance, and showing your daughter that while our bodies will change as we live our lives and age…they are nevertheless beautiful. Which you are, ya know. ;) xoxo, R

  19. teryll October 10, 2012

    I keep going back to this post, Rach! Wisdom is oozing. Printing this one out! Hope you add it to your list of “favorites” when the time comes……

    • rachel October 12, 2012

      So good to hear this Teryll. I’m in awe of the chord it’s struck. I’ll definitely be doing more teaching on this subject. xoxo, R

  20. Anna-Lee October 11, 2012

    The note about our bodies having a set-point happy-place weight that doesn’t necessarily correspond with societal expectations really hit me. It gave me some food for thought, and I’ll probably have more to say about it later, but for now I need to mull it over a bit.

    • rachel October 12, 2012

      Mull away. Come back and share your thoughts. I’d love to talk more about this. Sending love. R

  21. Maria October 16, 2012

    Hi Rachel,
    This post brought tears to my eyes, it resonated on so many levels and teaches women to be more kinder to themselves, making themselves self aware, embracing who they are, it is simply about acceptance, living simply, eating well, exercising and doing it all with the intention that it is good for them, despite their size because it does not make a difference. Placing judgements on those who dont look right is a waste of time on a person’s mind and soul, it is simply a wasted thought. I’ve learnt these lessons along the way and some the hard way, in judging myself harshly…i ask myself of others, what has their life been like? What are they going through? Are they doing it tough? All in all, you do it with the intention of holding their hand along the way..with love and compassion.

  22. Ceanne October 17, 2012

    Thanks for writing this…I’m currently in an eating disorder group based on the Health at Every Size model. I thought I knew how to lose weight and that my health was based on my size/weight. I have a lot to learn: to trust my intuition, love my body, know that I’m am lovable at the size that I am, and that I need to spread this message too. I’ve bought into the messge that the size of a person determines their worth…I know this is not true now, but am still working on knowing that for MYSELF.

    This is truly a message that needs to be shared, and shared, and shared…infinity. I am 47 years old and have never felt good with my size because I was always (and will always be) taller than “normal”, larger than “normal”, etc. I spent my lifetime frustrated by how I looked in my clothing…I now am considered “obese” and struggle with self-esteem, and self-love issues. Like I said, I’m learning though…I’m just at the beginning of what will be, at least, a 1.5 year process through a local provincial Regional Health Authority/Women’s Health Clinic where each participant has access to both a counsellor and a dietician, groups with others in the same classification (restrictor/binger-purger or overeater/binge eater). It has already been hugely enlightening.

    Thanks again!

  23. Camille Schwartz October 19, 2012

    Brilliant post. I am doing a research paper on women and body image issues. Do you have any academic sources that you have found particularly helpful?

    • rachel October 20, 2012

      Hi Camille!

      I’m a fellow Wooster grad! Check out Linda Bacon’s work, http://lindabacon.org.

      xo, R

  24. Brenna Darazs September 25, 2013

    Rachel, this post really moved me. I am in recovery for an ED right now. I am hoping to attend your event in Alameda in November (I’m in Portland, OR) since I can’t do Soul Sisters next month. I am excited to peruse your website for resources and encouragement. Merci! xo

    • rachel September 25, 2013

      Hi Brenna,

      I’m so glad you stumbled upon me. Yes, do come in November. I’d love to meet you, plus it’s a great chance to visit the Bay Area and escape the Portland grays. :) Rachel

  25. Kristin Norton December 6, 2013

    I just read this post for the first time and the message arrived at the perfect time for me. Not only do your thoughts resonate for me but also for discussions that have started happening between my 14 year old daughter and me. Thank you for sharing.

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