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Olympic Gymnast Tackles the Age-Old Battle of Woman Vs. Scale (Plus Giveaway!)

Posted Nov 17 2008 9:19pm

Did you know that some women lead perfectly happy and healthy lives without ever stepping on a scale? There are women out there who don't even know what they weigh! If you are one of those women, as I'm sure some of you are, then you will spend the rest of this post shaking your head in bewilderment. See, I am not one of those women. I have had a long tumultuous history with that little number, my weight. About six months ago I was weighing myself multiple times a day and driving myself crazy with the implications, ie. "That was the biggest poop ever! How did I not lose any weight?!" I was even one of those nuts who would waste precious alone time in the bathroom recalibrating, checking, and even relocating my scale in case the gravity was more favorable on the other end of the room. (Note: this doesn't work. You'd have to relocate to the moon to see a noticeable effect on your weight.)

I am not proud to say how much that number meant to me. A high number spelled doom for the rest of the day. A low number was good but made me panicky to figure out what I had done to get it. I obsessed about that number, worried about that number, and finally broke down and had one of those gut-wrenching cries that leaves you so puffy eyed that you're embarrassed to go in public, all over that stupid number. As I sobbed to my husband I had a realization: I've got to get over this number.

My therapist and I came to an agreement: the end goal, which seemed too scary to approach at the moment, was to give up my dependence on the scale. In the meantime, however, I would limit myself to just one weigh-in a day. Unlike some of the things my therapist has asked me to do, I surprised myself by being able to do this one and stick to it right away. It was a relief, actually, to not be such a slave to my scale. But I still had my once-a-day ritual to keep the anxiety at bay. Because after all, everyone knows that one of the proven ways to keep from regaining lost weight is to weigh yourself every day. The number still drove me crazy but it was a more controlled crazy.

And then a week ago, my scale disappeared. In a house with three tiny tots things are often relocated on irrational whims. (Salad dressing in the piano bench? Crayons in the heater vent? My eyelash curler in the toilet? Why not!) This time, however, I strongly suspected my husband. Despite several days of whining, cajoling and begging none of the males in my house 'fessed up nor relenquished my scale.

Fine, I thought angrily as the anxiety mounted - there was Halloween candy in the house, people! - I'll show them. I'll just get another scale. And so, being a cheapskate, to the thrift store I headed. Long story short: the same place that sells lead paint (right next to the baby spoons) and 8-track players and half of a sandwich maker, doesn't sell scales.

"It's a sign," my husband commented dryly. "The universe doesn't care how much you weigh." The thought was overwhelming. I just wasn't ready yet! And then the universe intervened on my behalf courtesy of Mary Lou Retton, of '80s Wheaties fame.

It turns out that even gold-medal Olympic gymnasts have weight problems. Mary Lou writes on her website about how after training intensely for so many years, once she retired from competitive gymnastics she went on a free-for-all with food. And she had four daughters. The combination of pregnancy, junk food and a reduced workout regimine piled the pounds on. Being the positive sprite that we all remember from our childhood, she wanted a healthy, sane way to monitor her weight loss and provide encouragement.

So she invented Mary Lou's Weigh. This "platform" is a weight scale. Except that the very first thing you will notice about it is that there is no window or display in which to show a number. In fact, other than a couple of colored lights, there's nothing on the scale at all. I was dubious but I popped the batteries in and turned it on anyhow.

"Please step on the platform!" it chirped. Yes, this is the Nightrider of scales. I warily complied. "Starting weight recorded!" I stepped off, took off my sweatshirt, peed and then got back on it. Applause and cheering reverberated through my bathroom. "You are 1.5 pounds below your starting weight! Way to go! This is a new low weight for you!" (Yeah, I peed a lot.) The scale, via a bubbly Mary Lou's voice, then proceeded to give me a healthy living tip to keep up my positive momentum.

I can guarantee you no one has ever cheered before when I stepped on a scale. Not even me. I kinda liked it. It made me smile.

And that's how Mary Lou's Weigh works. The machine - which surprisingly has a decent sense of humor (question: "How about if I take diet pills?" retort: "How about if you don't?") - never tells you what you weigh. It only tells you whether you have lost weight or gained, with no judgement for the latter and gives you an all out celebration for every 10 pounds you lose. For those of us that are good at math, one would think what's the point, I'll just do the math in my head. Except that for some reason I don't. And the positive emphasis of the healthy living tips actually leaves me feeling a little better than before I stepped on it. I could never say that about my old scale. I suppose over time you could get irritated with the chirpiness of it all - I've only had it for a few days so it's still new to me - but Mary Lou sells replacement cartridges that you can put in the back of the scale that apparently contain all new tips and accolades so it doesn't get old. (In the booklet that comes with the platform, one of the questions is, "What if I get irritated with Mary Lou and shoot the scale?" The answer: "Mary Lou understands how emotional weight can be and encourages you to let your emotions out. However, if you shoot the scale it won't work anymore.")

I have to say I'm excited to have found this. It seems like a good intermediary step to weaning myself from the scale. I still only do it once a day but this time I have my own cheering section. Now, if I can just keep my kids away from it...

What do you guys think? Do you weigh yourselves? Are you fully emancipated from the scale? Interested in getting your own Mary Lou's Weigh? Go check out the free helpful weight-loss tools on her site and then come back here and let me know what your fave tip is to enter the contest. You guys have until Monday! Happy not-weighing!

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