Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by our lovely friend, Liz Garster.
“I wonder how much shoes weigh? It’s got to be at least 5 pounds, right? And then the jeans have to be what, 3 pounds? And my bra is padded enough that I should at LEAST get a pound out of that. Why have I never weight my clothes before? I should have weighed my clothes before I came…”
While my 14-year old brain was racing with these questions and calculations, my body reluctantly plodded towards the doctor’s scale at the end of the hallway. I stepped up with closed eyes, my hands and neck becoming clammy. The scale slider clinked and clanked as it moved further and further to the right; I cracked open my eye to take a peek.
“Ugh. Shoes can’t weigh THAT much.”
After years of believing my value could be found in the “healthy” section of the BMI chart, I was convinced nothing would ever make me feel the level of shame that stepping on a scale caused… until I started budgeting.
Just like when I tried on a pair of jeans, I’d feel a flutter of panic as I checked my account balance or reviewed my spreadsheet to see what bill was coming out when. Where in years past I had told myself that not being stick skinny made me worthless, I transitioned to telling myself that carrying a credit card balance, having student loan debt, or saving inconsistently made me a failure. And just like shame had led me to restrictive eating followed by a binge, it eventually caused me to create unrealistic budgets (I’m not eating out the entire month!) followed by overspending. I always had enough to cover what I needed, but no matter what I did, my loan balances never seemed to go down and my savings never seemed to go up.
The relationships we have with our bodies and our money are uniquely difficult because they’re measurable, and what’s measurable can be compared.
We can look at our clothing size, compare it to someone else’s, and say to ourselves, “I’m further from today’s standard of beauty than you are. I must be worse than you.” Or in the case of money, “You can afford all of these things like a new house, a new car, and designer clothes and I can’t. I must be worth less than you.” We know our personal numbers, and society tells us how we should interpret them: eat less, spend less, the problem is that you have no willpower. We rarely see the story behind the numbers of others – a lifetime of disordered eating, or a life financed on credit cards and overdraft protection.
Over time, my eyes have (slowly!) been opened through coaching and the support of family and friends as to just how subjective numbers can be. Not only have clothing sizes drastically – and weirdly – evolved over time, they are completely different from store to store. Ask 100 financial professionals how much you should have saved in an emergency fund, the best strategy to pay off debt, or how much home you can afford and you’ll get 100 different answers. Just like one person’s goal weight might be another person’s trigger to start hitting the gym, one person’s rainy day fund might be someone else’s panic to begin saving more.
The overwhelming anxiety caused by these arbitrary numbers has hurt our minds, bodies, and souls. It’s tricked us into waiting to take risks until we “look the part” or “can afford it.”
The truth is, we have inherent worth just by existing on this planet; nothing – not weight or money – gives us more or less worth than anyone else. In giving numbers too much meaning, we allow ourselves to be defined by them. The path to freedom within our bodies and our budgets starts from a place of neutrality and non-judgment. Our current weight is just that… current. It will ebb and flow, just like an account balance, from day to day or month to month. And neither says anything about who we are as people, what our capacities are, or how we can change the world.
I know from experience that the early stages of healing these relationships can feel impossible; what does it look like to transition from a place of self-loathing to a life of self-love? A beautiful blend of the past and present is a great place to start.
Take some time to reflect on where you were years ago with food and/or finances, and the narratives that led you there. Give yourself some grace for what brought you to that season in your life, and let go of any missteps made as a result. Since you’re a human and not a robot, you’ll make mistakes in the future. So will everyone else. But by being mindful of when old thoughts and stories reappear in the present, you can approach them with the same love and forgiveness you showed your past self, and find a healthier relationship in these two areas moving forward.
A financial services marketer by day, Liz side hustles as a Holistic Financial Coach, helping women ditch restrictive money practices for a healthier, more empowered relationship with their finances. She lives for snuggles with her pup, Netflix documentaries, and car karaoke sessions. You can find her co-hosting the Finding Your Shine and InspHERation
What about you? Have you ever noticed a similarity in your food and money stories and habits? Leave a note in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!