Improving My Body Image By Living Without A Mirror Or A Scale have a client right now who has an eating disorder.

After years of over-exercising and under-eating, she has extreme adrenal fatigue, and she’s now struggling with my assignments to eat more and exercise less. Don’t get me wrong: this girl is a determined bad-ass and so far she’s doing what I’ve suggested, but it’s hard for her.

She’s boxed herself into her body by her scale and the size of her clothes, and if either of those increases, her self-worth and happiness take a hit. However, she’s struggling with MAJOR fatigue right now, so she knows she needs to change. It’s a serious conundrum having to choose between your health and your “happiness”.

Corresponding with her is requiring me to think about my own body image issues.

It’s much easier to give advice when you’ve lived in someone’s shoes, and I’ve definitely felt a lot of the things she’s feeling right now, on her way up the scale: fearful, out of control, worried about what people would think if I gained weight, disappointment about “letting myself go”, and other irrational things.

I compare that to how I am now, which is much more accepting of my body as it is. I think as a result of being a part of an airbrushed society that has some seriously unrealistic expectations about women’s bodies, I’ll always have feelings of inadequacy. Let’s face it: compared with the photoshopped, anorexic models in Elle Magazine or even the Athleta catalogue, I AM inadequate. I could go into why that is, but why bother?

It’s too much of a pain in the ass for me to try to keep up with that anymore.

It’s too stressful weighing in every day and either being elated or destroyed upon seeing the number on the scale. It’s too uncomfortable NOT eating when I’m hungry. I hate being fatigued, and not eating enough is a recipe for being tired and grumpy. It’s just not worth it to torture myself to fit some fictional ideal.

Plus, living in the van now, I don’t have a scale, so I don’t even have the option of keeping tabs on myself like I used to.

No scale, and I only have a small hand-held mirror, so I have no idea what my body looks like or how much I weigh.

It’s a little disconcerting, but it’s mostly really freeing.

Gone are the days when I would scrutinize my ass on the way out of the bathroom, lamenting my lack of time to work out, or my overeating of tapioca crepes. Gone are the days when I’d step on the scale and wither a little inside.

But also, gone are the days when I’d look in the mirror and think, ‘Lookin’ GOOD today, Neely! Where’d those abs come from?!’

Which, really, is equally distracting to my ego.

Now, I look in the mirror only at my face and only on the days when I put on make-up, and that’s ONLY to make sure I don’t get eyeliner all over my cheeks (I was doing it without a mirror for a while – not a good idea). I judge my appearance by whether or not my husband tells me I look hot that day, and whether or not I can literally fit into my clothing.

Is this a good thing? A terrible thing? I think there’s a little of both in there.

On the one hand, I feel like right now my life is fuller and more exciting, so I don’t have as much time to think about my body. Nor do I care to as much, probably because I don’t have a constant reminder of what I look like in my “house”. On the other hand, I have some rock climbing goals this year, and I’d like to be lean, so I’m just hoping I don’t gain like 30 pounds and chalk it up to my clothes shrinking (I did that in college, so I wouldn’t put it past myself.)

Here’s the take home of all this. Just like I suggest for avid coffee drinkers… if you’re a tad bit overly attached to your scale and mirrors, maybe give yourself a break from them for a while. Give your scale to a friend for safe keeping, and cover up your big body-length mirror with a blanket for a week or two and see how you feel. You may be surprised to find that you feel a little freer.

I mean, you can pretty much tell yourself whatever you want to think about your body without the distraction of your mirror and scale. Like, for instance, “I look beautiful today.” :)


  1. Funny experience this week –

    For weeks I was feeling overweight due to inactivity from a recent back injury. Just when I started to regain consciousness without chronic pain, my body wanted to move, and play again. Walking into the rock gym, I felt lazy, weak, and HUGE.. I proceeded to climb for a bit (doing a lot better than I thought I would) and during a bathroom break decided to step on ‘the scale.’ It read 173. I was 185 at my first doctor’s consult about my injury 13 weeks prior. Insane. The sense of dread from weight gain was a result of failed attempts from the past. Where my ‘athletic’ high carb diet was once an aggregate for failure when training seized, a new paleo approach allowed me to get closer to my climbing goals even with 3 months of inactivity. I think I’m on the right path.

    Thanks for the article, Neely!

    – J.P.

  2. Great post. I just finished a great book on self worth and this post reinforces the need for us to love ourselves NOW, not after we lose X more pounds or after anything really. We are worth it and good enough now. So much healing on body image can start after those steps and after you love you. I love this post. Thank you so much for it!

  3. I will be 65 on Saturday, Paleo since January 2012. I was bulimic from the age of 19 to 31 and it was HELL. It took 4 hard years to get over that and begin to be “normal” as an eater. I remember the very moment and sensation in my body and brain when I KNEW I was full and had enough–eating chili at Wendy’s in Houston Texas in 1982.. I look back and believe that wheat and sugar affected my brain. Well, I NEVER weigh myself nor examine myself (body) closely in the mirror. It is not information I need nor want to know. If my clothes feel OK and I feel OK, then I’m OK with it. When I go to the doctor and they ALWAYS weigh me, I just tell them not to tell me what my weight is. I am much happier. The scale is a vicious, soulless monster (for me).

  4. Great post Neely. About 2 mths into my Paleo journey I read The Paleo Coach by Jason Siebl (?). After reading that book, I through out my scales. I realised that I was focusing more on the outside results than all the other great things that were happening. Since, I have taken pride and enjoyment out of everything not just weightloss. I will never have scales in my bathroom again!

  5. Thank you for your reminding me of my dependence on external validation….the mirror, the scale, the compliment, the comparison…….

    Someone close to me told me decades ago that I was fat…..but he only said it once, and that was ten or more kilos ago….but that is not the the problem. My problem is that I internalized it and I keep re-affirming it each time I look for that external validation. When I look at the old photos of me I wonder how it is that I believed, and still believe, that statement.

    I have questioned why, whenever I reach my goal weight I spring back to being overweight. I have questioned why I let the ‘experts’ deafen me to my own inner expert. I have questioned my resistance to removing the full length mirrors and the bathroom scales instead of using the measuring technique of the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat… keep a form fitting pair of pants or a skirt or dress or jeans and try them on once in a while as a gauge.

    I am….such powerful words and I know how negative my internal dialogue is. When I look in that mirror and say “I am beautiful” many thoughts and beliefs surface to negate it. I was told to overwrite it with ‘I am now willing’ to create positive energy to my statements until I can believe it….so for now it’s “I am willing to believe I am beautiful” and I am pleased to say those many negative beliefs and thoughts are quiet.

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