(Photo: Photo Courtesy of Cate Stern)
(Photo: Photo Courtesy of Cate Stern)

The photo is courtesy of the author.

My 2-year-old screamed when she saw the nurse who had given her shots months before. The nurse wanted my daughter to step on a scale. She graduated from the infant scale, which required full disrobing and reclining in a cold, awkward receptacle, to the standard kind used by adults.

Despite the simple request, my little girl refused, wailing until she was almost purple in the face, the memory of her last round of vaccinations still imprinted.

I tried to calm her down by holding her in my hands. She told me to step on the scale with her.

It was a simple request, but I didn't want to wail like my daughter. I stepped on the scale with no fear. I retreated from the platform and handed my girl, who was now screaming louder, to the nurse as I prepared myself for the solo return. I had never seen a 65-pound 2-year-old.

After the appointment, I called my husband from the car to ask how it happened to me. I said something. If you want to lose weight, I'll do it with you, he said.

You might think I was upset about the number, or that I didn't explain to the nurse why I wouldn't step on the scale, but my daughter was healthy and we could always come back.

I was wondering how a number on the scale could shatter me at 38 years old and after three children.

The world taught me about the female body when I was 7 or 8. Joey pointed to our pale legs and said, "Why are your legs so much bigger than mine?"

His mother turned from the front seat and said that they don't talk about people's bodies like that. We do, Joey's mother. Yes, we do.

One of my cousins told me I was fat after I ate spaghetti and meatballs with my cousins. I insist that I ran the third- grade mile test in under eight minutes. I felt the need to explain my size to others.

I was embarrassed when they would pair off with the boys and swing dance because I was the biggest of their friends.

I played field hockey and lacrosse in high school. One of my coaches used to say that I should put the biscuit in the basket regardless of my weight or appearance.

I lost 20 pounds after stopping playing college sports. The world seemed to open up in a new way. I didn't feel out of place in the room, the boys paid more attention to me, and I tried on clothes without being stressed. When I went to my family's doctor, she told me to be careful with my weight, even though she knew that my family was obese.

When I was a young woman, I restricted my diet and ran a lot if I reached a 5- to 10-pound buffer zone. All of that was thrown out the window by pregnant women.

I felt like I was out of control of my body during most of the time I was pregnant. My body grew in fits and starts and leaps, in line with the suggested steady pace and neat stop.

I cried in the doctor's office when she told me I needed to be careful with my weight. I could not do anything to stop it from going up and down.

After nursing my third child over the course of a year, I realized that I was not one of those women who had their bodies melt off during breastfeeding. It seemed to hold on tighter than mine.

I stopped weighing myself about a year ago. Staying active, incorporating healthier foods into my diet, cutting back on alcohol consumption and getting some good rest were some of the things I planned to do. After watching a video of a friend lifting weights, I wanted to be like him.

When I took my daughter to her appointment, I had been lifting with a trainer for over a month and had gained the confidence to add more plates to the bar.

I felt taller and stronger in less than a minute. Lifting and staying off the scale gave me a renewed sense of security. I set new goals for strength and health instead of looking back at previous goals. There was space for a different version of me to exist.

The only number that mattered when I stepped on the scale was the one on the screen. This was the proof that I had failed.

I watched my 7-year-old pull up her rash guard and examine her stomach before she sucked it back in, a small downward curl on her lips.

Did she talk to Joey? Someone is an uncouth cousin. She already felt the burden of noncompliance with impossible standards. I knew I wouldn't be able to find one offending messenger.

It would be easy to undoing decades of indoctrination if I said, "I accept and love my body as it is" I am afraid that the amount I weigh will always be important to me.

I am staying off the scale because I want to concentrate on different numbers, such as the amount of time it takes me to run a three-mile route, and the amount of medicine I take for back pain. When I show my videos of squatting 100 pounds to my girls, they shriek with joy.

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The article was first published on HuffPost.