One of the symptoms of an eating disorder, or even disordered habits, is an obsession with the bathroom scale.
Almost like a drug, I craved weighing myself everyday, multiple times a day. I would weigh myself in the buff, first thing in the morning; I would weigh again in the middle of the day (often to my horror weighing more because of gravity and wearing clothing); sometimes I would weigh myself at night to confirm whether or not I had restricted enough. If my weight was up, then I made a firm decision to exercise and restrict calories even more the next day.
I had to weigh myself. I had to make sure I was keeping in control. That my weight was either staying the same or dropping lower. If I couldn’t weigh myself, I would wring my hands with anxiety, swearing up and down that I was gaining weight by the minute, until I could step on the scale again. It was only when I saw the numbers that I could quasi-relax. Even if the number was up, I knew what I could do to control the number back to where I wanted it.
Right before I went into anorexia recovery, my husband removed my scale from the house. I was pissed. I went through anxious withdrawals, tears, cravings, and a lot of anger. It was two months before my anxiety about weighing myself began to fade. In recovery, my therapy team took “blind weight” measurement (they saw the number, I didn’t) to track my progress away from death and back into healthy range. Once I was out of danger, they stopped weighing me.
It’s been nearly two years since I’ve seen my weight, and I don’t plan on ever knowing how much I weigh. My doctor knows, and she is the only person who needs to know.
Recently my friend Anne and I had a long conversation about body image, weight, Weight Watchers, food struggles, and scales. At the mention of getting rid of my scale, Anne immediately declared she could never get rid of hers. As we dug deeper into the conversation, her anxiety about not being able to track her weight revealed a lack of trust in her own body–a fear that if she couldn’t weigh herself then surely her body would would creep up in pounds.
Anne’s fear mirrored my own past fears. It’s a fear our culture struggles with as a whole: if we don’t keep track of our weight, then we’ll get fat and that is bad. Shameful. Unhealthy. Terrible.
Thing is, the scale doesn’t make us fat or keep us thin. It’s simply a combination of metal and plastic and glass and numbers. The scale has no real power, but we tend to give it the power to destroy our body trust, sense of beauty, and self-confidence. We hear all the time, “the number on the scale doesn’t define you.” Yet we cling to the scale, allowing our feelings and belief in ourselves go up and down with the numbers.
No one needs a scale. If you have a health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that depends on you maintaining certain body weight, I have three points:
- Your doctor can weigh you.
- You can measure blood pressure and blood sugar without a scale.
- Your body talks to you. You don’t need a scale to tell you that you don’t feel good or that you feel amazing. The way your clothes fit will let you know whether or not your body shape is changing. You don’t need a scale to tell you that your pants don’t fit or that your shirt looks fabulous.
You can trust your body, friend.
Anne and I didn’t want the scale to have power over our bodies or minds anymore. So we destroyed our scales. (Turned out my husband had hidden our scale in the deep recesses of our garage, so thankfully I had one to smash to smithereens!) Anne and I reclaimed power, confidence, beauty, and trust back within our selves by turning the rubble of metal, glass and plastic into art.
It was an empowering, freeing, and cathartic morning. I highly recommend that everyone do it! People have been smashing their scales around the country in an effort to raise awareness about eating disorders and negative body image for a while. In fact, check out this story behind the Southern Smash, which is a non-profit organization annual event.