There aren’t many things left in the world that trigger my eating disorder. There are plenty of things I recognize as hadbeen-triggers, but they no longer have power over me. However, there is one thing that continues to affect my behavior, and cliché as it is, that thing is a scale.
There was a time in my life I weighed myself before I had any inkling of an eating disorder. In fact, I tracked my weight basically my entire life. It’s just what we do. I remember when I finally weighed 44 pounds, and I was so excited because channel 44 on the TV was my favorite channel, Nickelodeon.
There were many years I weighed myself at a frequency I would call “socially acceptable” and where the results of the weighing were inconsequential. Truthfully, during that time I didn’t really know what a healthy weight was, nor did I ever intend to alter my diet or god forbid start exercising in order to achieve it. There was never much reason for measuring my weight besides tradition and routine.
There was a time I weighed myself every single time I went to a bathroom with a scale in it which, given how isolated I was, was often in my own bathroom where there was a scale every time I went. I would weigh myself before and after excretion. Before and after showering. And during this time, it too didn’t really matter what the result was, because regardless my goal was the same: restrict more. Lose more. Weigh less. No number was too low.
Now I haven’t owned a scale in five years. But something happens when I see one. Often, but not always, I step on it, and I look to see what it says. As always, there’s no real reason for doing this. I have no plans to alter my diet or exercise regiment because of what I see.
Maybe it’s something about knowing. Although my eating disorder is long gone, remnants of body dysmorphic thoughts still linger. While I don’t associate my value with my body, I often feel like I can’t really see myself. Like what I see in the mirror changes more quickly than is possible. Like I can’t trust my own eyes, can’t believe in my reflection. Maybe I just want something more concrete to get me to believe nothing has drastically changed. I tell myself I don’t care. I feel like it’s true. But when it comes down to it I still step on that scale.
I think when I see one it reminds me that others care. It reminds me of all the ordinary comments people make about their own and others’ bodies. One can only remove themselves so much from a culture that is teeming with body shame. When I’m alone in a bathroom presumably at the house of someone whose opinion I otherwise value, that little tiny voice pokes its head into my thoughts and teases, “Aren’t you curious?” And I guess I am.
And that’s where it ends. Curiosity. Now I know. Until next time.
There are things more damaging to our self-esteem than scales, and I know that owning one does have the ability to help people reach healthy goals in healthy ways. But I believe that is because it is a system of measurement which helps track progress and hold ourselves accountable to goals.
But those things which can be beneficial to some are the exact same things that are harmful to others, and I wonder if there’s a better way for everyone. The number on the scale can only tell us so much. Weight is just not a reliable measure of health. It is not all-encompassing, and it is often simply misleading.
I don’t want to say weight is a totally useless figure, but what if instead of using it just because it’s convenient we tracked something else? Like how much weight we can lift? Like how fast we can run around a track? Like how well we can breathe when we walk up stairs? And what if we paid as much attention to our mental health as we did our weight — what if every morning we measured our mood and went on a low-negativity diet when we realize we’re feeling heavy? What if we tracked how many minutes each day we spent content and cut back on minutes wasted? Or at the very least, what if we no longer took the number that reflects our weight as a standalone figure and instead juxtaposed it with other aspects of our wellbeing to determine how much our goals truly rely on this appraisal and how much of our fixation on it is just social conditioning?