NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
To weigh or not to weigh, that is the question. Sure, it’s not as substantial an issue as Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” but it is a question I’ve been pondering in recent days.
A bit of background is in order. Until around a month ago, I hadn’t weighed myself in two and a half years. I decided to break that streak because I felt my hesitation to step on the scale was grounded in fear, as opposed to being a triumphant and empowering choice. I had reached the conclusion that it would be more courageous for me to weigh myself than to continue to fear an inanimate metal object. I wrote about this process in a post titled “Facing Our Fears” on my sister blog, The Healing Project. At that time of that post, I was feeling quite liberated by having faced my scale phobia after such a long period of trepidation.
Moments of Truth…
Fast forward two weeks… I have since weighed myself two more times. As my initial weight did not meet with my approval, I vowed to weigh myself weekly until I had lost at least five (and preferably closer to ten) pounds. My second scale experience of 2010 went well, as the number had migrated two pounds in the right direction. I felt exalted and successful; the scale had proclaimed my acceptability and I could proceed in my life without criticism or self-flagellation. I only briefly considered the inherent stupidity in allowing one mere measure of my entire being to make a statement on my worthiness. After all, I was feeling good, so why question it?
My third 2010 scale experience was not so positive. On the contrary, it was horrendous. Somehow, the number had managed to inch back up two pounds and was dangerously close to what I considered a completely unacceptable milestone. I struggled to understand the reason for this weight gain, as I had continued to be careful with my eating, partly through willpower and partially by necessity. I am still grappling with a throat condition which I wrote about a month ago in a post titled “It’s Always Something.” This condition has been preventing me from eating much at any given time and has caused me to eat much more slowly and deliberately (not a bad thing).
Back to the scale… I allowed a three-digit number that I viewed for mere seconds to ruin not only that one day, but several of the following days as well. Although I would try to block it out, the number would taunt me in my quiet moments, screaming in my head its damning refrain, “You fat, disgusting pig!” At times, I would be able to rationalize my way out of such madness, but I wasn’t always successful in this endeavor.
I was supposed to weigh myself again today, but I just couldn’t do it. This has been a much better week than last week and I didn’t want to ruin it. I am left now with a dilemma. Do I try to fight past the “meaning-making machine” inside my head, which evokes deep meaning from a simple number? Or do I cease the self-flagellation that weighing myself enacts by once again avoiding the scale altogether? Which is the strong and empowered decision?
Where is the Balance?
For many years, I weighed myself obsessively and allowed the resulting number to affect my state of mind. After an epiphany, I vowed to stop the insanity by avoiding the number completely. For a long time, I felt that I was doing the right thing by not weighing myself. However, I eventually became so fearful of scales that I even started to avoid doctor’s appointments so as not to be asked to mount the dreaded weighing device.
Where is the happy medium? Why can’t I weigh myself occasionally and just let my weight be one simple data point, much like my height or my shoe size? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I know that after all these years and all that I’ve learned, I still assign an over-inflated significance to my weight. The $64,000 question of the day is… can I ever get past this? Will I ever be able to weigh myself and not allow the number to proclaim my worth or lack thereof? I sincerely hope the answer is yes. After all, I never wanted to accept the assertion that, as a recovering anorexic, I would always struggle with food and weight. The prevailing wisdom is that anorexics never fully recover, but I never wanted to believe that. Yet here I am on the threshold of my 44th birthday and I am still deathly afraid of a stupid scale!
There is Hope…
But I still have hope. My struggle with body image is the last vestige of my decades-long battle with eating disorders. If I can heal this, I can be free – at last. I have to continue to believe that I can buck the trend and become a recovered, not just recovering, anorexic. I have tears in my eyes as I type this, tears that represent my many years of pain. My sincere wish is that by year’s end, my tears will be triumphant tears. This war can be won!