by Elise Seyfried
I’m heading to my former home city, Atlanta, for a youth ministry conference in just a few weeks. It would be cool if I used the interim to read up on spiritual matters (or even to reacquaint myself with Atlanta’s scary expressway system, which I will have to traverse in a rental car). But no! I found myself intending to spend the time before my trip … losing five pounds. God forbid my old friends see me the slightest bit pudgy! They would disown me for sure! So: calorie-cutting and yoga and power-walking for me (and I hear lifting weights works wonders too!)
Embarrassing as it is to admit, I am addicted to the bathroom scale. I’ve never been overweight, really (though I ALWAYS think I am), so perhaps it is unnecessary for me to daily obsess about the magic number (118 = happy! 123 = miserable!) And yet I do. I cannot tell you about one single conversation that transpired at my wedding reception in 1977, but my wedding morning weight (110!) I will never forget. Priorities in order, right?
As a young teenager, I went through a stretch of consuming just one cup of chicken broth and one cup of ice cream daily. Before long, I dwindled away to practically nothing. I used to run out of school at dismissal time because the sound of the final bell echoing down the corridors triggered a sick-making hunger headache. When I was sad or worried, I stopped eating.
When I was ecstatic/in love, I stopped eating. I don’t think one of my dates ever actually saw me consume a bite of food. As my parents Joanie and Tom dwelled in La La Land, no one ever thought to put the brakes on my self-destructive behavior. And so I proceeded into married life, nibbling when I’d have loved to gobble.
During my five pregnancies, I dutifully consumed my fish and veggies and milk, and packed on the suggested pounds. As soon as the babies were delivered, I cut myself off from most food and exercised like a madwoman until I was once again in optimum weight range.
Menopause was a challenge, as my never-robust metabolism slowed to a crawl. But wait! I got a lucky break! A few years back, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (It’s lucky! Stick with me!) and was prescribed the antidepressant Wellbutrin. It stabilized my mood, and it had an awesome side effect. Within days, the scale numbers started to plummet. 112! 107! Numbers I hadn’t seen in 30 years appeared on the dial. For the first time in memory, I was buying size zero clothing items. (Think about it. What is size zero? Are you invisible?) Alas, at a certain point my wonder drug betrayed me, and the crazy weight loss ceased, which was probably good because at the rate I was going, I would have ended up a stylish skeleton.
Nowadays, I am trying hard not to be a prisoner of the scale. I am gradually making my peace with my 58-year-old body after a long and hard-fought war. It is such a woman thing, this self-flagellation with a Ramen noodle. Guys can walk around with a paunch like a kangaroo with twins, and they’ll think they’re A-OK. But we women kill ourselves to be super-svelte, to be size zeroes instead of perfectly acceptable size 12s.
Tonight, as I eagerly anticipate (and am humbly thankful for) a delicious meal cooked by my lovely daughter-in-law, I encourage us all: stop the madness! Eat something, for heaven’s sake! It is obscene to starve ourselves in a world where so many are starving, period. Let’s be grateful. Let’s stay balanced.
OK, it’s settled. The city of Atlanta will see me just as I am, and I imagine, somehow, life there will continue. Tomorrow I will not weigh myself. I will weigh instead my kindness, my compassion, my humanity. I will calculate the numbers that truly matter and try to let the rest go.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She can be contacted through www.eliseseyfried.com.