A few weeks ago, I was doing a little fall cleaning, and I threw my scale out. It wasn’t a conscious decision, and I didn’t think about it very hard. It had been living in my closet, and it was just a way to make space. It wasn’t until the day after—after the sweeping, dusting, and dragging of garbage bags out the door—that it occurred to me how big of a deal this was.
Had I tossed the scale five years ago, when I started making a serious and concerted effort not to weigh myself (or weigh myself often), this would have been a very conscious decision. In the years since I started to enforce that habit—which I did for obvious reasons, as a part of my continued ED recovery—I’ve just gotten used to not weighing myself. For a while, I had to shun it all together to stick with it: it was like the first few years after quitting smoking, when you cannot so much as be around a lit cigarette. I’d ask my doctor not to tell me the number, and I never ever weighed myself, ever. Nowadays, being weighed isn’t a fraught thing for me: when I do get weighed at my physician’s office, I don’t blink. My weight has been stable for a good long time, so I don’t feel the need to check out the number, but if I did have to, I wouldn’t greet it with dread.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. I used to weigh myself every morning, and sometimes in the afternoon as well, though I preferred to do it early in the day because the number would be lowest. What I saw on the scale quite literally set the tone of my day. If I was up a pound or two, no matter how positive I was that it was salt, or hormones, or water, I’d be grumpy and morose for the rest of the day. If I was lighter, I’d be confident and upbeat. Gaining a pound meant spending the day feeling sure that I looked “big” in the mirror, wearing baggy clothing, and shunning my boyfriend’s touch. It meant analyzing what I’d eaten (or not eaten) the day before in meticulous detail to see where I’d gone wrong.
Interestingly, I didn’t weigh myself a lot when my eating disorder was at its worst. At that point, I was so disconnected from my body that I didn’t even care what the scale said anymore. Weighing myself obsessively was a dreadful part of my recovery (or recoveries, since I’ve had a few). I knew it would have been easier if I didn’t look at the changing number, but I couldn’t look away, either. Over time, I resolved that I couldn’t allow that number to dictate my moods anymore, and I quit the weighing habit just like I would ultimately quit smoking: I cut back to every other day, then every week, then once every two. Throughout all of this, my very supportive therapist encouraged me to focus on how I felt, to connect with my body’s sensations, and not on how much I weighed. And that’s what I’ve done ever since. I suppose it’s easy not to weigh myself, now that my weight is stable and has been for a long time. But being so ambivalent about my weight that I can just throw the scale out is a new accomplishment for me in the realm of body acceptance.
Now, don’t get me wrong: what I’m talking about here is a step forward, not a declaration of wholesale “success.” I often find that these “how I threw out the scale and learned to love my body” posts paint a picture that’s almost too good to be true, so let me be clear: my life is not devoid of body struggles. I still have bad days, still wake up sometimes uncomfortable in my own skin, and I do still occasionally struggle to be at peace with my shape. But these moments are few and far between, and I know how to make sense of them and move on. What strikes me about tossing my scale out so nonchalantly the other week is that I no longer have any impulse to monitor or measure my body. And that is a big, big deal.
One of the themes in my emotional life is my need to quantify self worth, in grades, pounds, and accomplishments. This is a common enough impulse, of course, but I have a tendency to take it so far that it occludes my capacity to see myself clearly. As a post-bacc, I’ve struggled to feel professional and personal pride because my grades are often below average; as a woman, I work every day to value and appreciate my body in ways that don’t involve squeezing it into numbers. That I could throw my scale out without blinking is a sign of progress, and I’m happy to say I haven’t missed it at all.
How do you feel about weighing/weight? I’m curious to hear! Of course, the scale is not always disposable: it can be a very important tool for weight loss (in situations where weight loss is healthful/necessary), and for those who have a very neutral and harmless relationship with it, it’s fine to have around. But I think we all define our relationships with this object individually, and I’m really eager to hear from the individuals who read CR!
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