When (and how) to scream

I adopted the term “scream weight” into my personal vocabulary within seconds after reading it in Dr. Barbara Berkeley’s book “Refuse to Regain.” It’s just so intuitively perfect, because everyone has a number that they really, really don’t want to see on the scale, a weight that makes them want to scream. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my “normal people” interviews, it’s that people who manage to stay within or close to a normal weight range have some kind of a warning system that activates a response — a “scream weight” or a belt notch or a pair of jeans they refuse to outgrow.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if there isn’t a problem with that term. Because while a person of normal weight (a NOW, or never overweight person, in Berkeley-speak) might respond to that number with a purposeful scream — like the kind you might issue before delivering a karate chop — a previously overweight person (POW) like myself is more likely to respond with a scream of terror. The kind you hear in horror movies and nightmares.

The people who emit those kind of screams tend not to escape the neighborhood ax murderer. They either freeze in their tracks, or do something counterproductive that seals their fate. Faced with a terrifying number on the scale, their response is to eat more — maybe even go on a binge.

I purposefully set my scream weight just one pound above my official Weight Watchers goal range. Which means it’s probably not so much a scream weight as a warning weight, because it’s still within what insurance companies call the “healthy weight range.” When I see that number, I know to take various evasive maneuvers if I don‘t want to wind up reliving nightmares of my life as a POW.

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