My Journey to Breaking Up with My Scale
I used to have a love-hate relationship with my bathroom scale. I loved it when the number was moving in the direction of my weight-loss goals, and I cursed at it when it didn’t.
My first memory of stepping on a scale was when I was in the fifth grade. The school nurse brought a scale into our classroom and weighed each of us in front of the other students. Each of the girls ahead of me were given a number that meant nothing to me at the time. In fact, even when the nurse told me I weighed 81 pounds that number had no context for me… until she followed that statement with “wow, you’re really chubby”.
Her comment made me feel shame and embarrassment. I was all too familiar with these feelings as I experienced them often at home. My father would point out that I needed to lose weight, but in the next moment take me out for ice cream and candy bars. He once callously called me a “fat cow” when I sat upon my childhood rocking horse and one of the springs broke. The words spoken by the nurse validated my father’s abusive name-calling, and that day I wanted to crawl under my desk and hide from the world forever.
Flash-forward to my teen years and I had discovered how to easily drop 15 pounds in three weeks simply by following a near-starvation diet. It didn’t matter that I had a constant burning feeling in my stomach… the scale said that I was getting closer to “normal” weight. I delighted in my friends telling me I looked thinner and that felt really good. A gastroenterologist told me that burning feeling in my stomach was due to ulcers I had developed from my eating habits and stress. I was only 16 years old and decided I was willing to endure the pain to be thin.
The remainder of my teen years I spent getting on the scale first thing in the morning. Afterall, how did I know what kind of day I would have until the scale told me my weight? I used that device like it was a magic eight ball. You know the toy that you shake and wait for an answer to your most important question?
I’d step on my scale, see the numbers whiz by, and wait until it would come to a resting point. And then I’d do it once again “for good measure”. I’d wonder “Will I be happy today scale?” Whizzz go the numbers… “Yes, you are down one pound today, go enjoy your life”, I would imagine it saying to me. But on another day I might as easily hear “You have gained a pound you fat girl (only substitute the word “girl” for any number of derogatory things), you better get your big butt to the park and walk five miles today”. I bowed down to the scale and I obeyed its commands.
In my twenties I had two children and my weight swung around wildly through pregnancies, breastfeeding, fad diets and exercise. My relationship with the scale became even more toxic. Somehow the scale was convincing me that I was either a “good” or “bad” mother to my children based on the number I received from this steel and plastic monster. If the number was down, I was “setting a good example” for my children. If the number was up, then I must be a horrible embarrassment to them. Often, whether or not we met for playgroups, parties, or family gatherings was entirely dependent upon what number I received that day from the scale.
As so much was riding on those digits, it became increasingly important to know my EXACT weight for the day. Without actually meaning to, I developed a plan to get an accurate measurement. I weighed myself three times a day, three times at each weigh-in and then found the average of all those numbers. Nine times a day I stepped on the scale. Nine times! It was exhausting.
In fact it became so tiring, one day I threw my scale into the trash dumpster outside my apartment. Finally, I was free of the Beast. I felt relieved for about five minutes until I was overwhelmed with breathtaking anxiety. Within the hour, I was literally climbing into that dumpster to retrieve the scale. I was more willing to face the embarrassment of dumpster-diving than to go to a friend’s house without knowing what I weighed that day. Returning to my apartment, I sat down and knew I had a serious problem and I needed help.
With the assistance of a therapist, I was able to see that my feelings of low self-worth and poor body image stemmed from the intense childhood abuse I had gone through as a child. It was painful to uncover those memories I had hidden away deep within. Yet the process of talking about the abuses I had suffered helped me to realize that no number on the scale was ever going to truly give me the self-love and acceptance I desperately needed.
I began the process of learning how to eat intuitively and truly love and appreciate my body. It didn’t happen overnight. At first I was still weighing myself, but telling myself it was “okay” if I only did it once a day, and eventually just once a month. I was so incredibly frightened that if I didn’t weigh myself I wouldn’t know if I was gaining weight.
In time, I came to a place in my healing and recovery that it no longer matters to me if I do gain weight. I don’t celebrate when I lose weight either. I have learned to accept all versions of myself, and I live a life that is free of body shaming and policing my food. Best of all, true freedom has come from not even owning scale anymore.
Today I don’t look to anything outside of myself to tell me if I am valuable, worthy, or good enough to deserve love, respect and acceptance. My weight may go up or down but it doesn’t dictate how I feel about myself. Intuitive eating practices have grown to include intuitive living practices and I truly have a life worth living!