I stated in an earlier post that I weigh myself regularly as part of my personal Anorexia recovery plan. I imagine that some readers physically recoiled in horror when they read that, so I’ll explain why here. Before I get into that, this: What works for me might not work for you! And that’s okay—it’s important to find out what exactly works for you, but learning about what works for others and why might help you get there.
Pre-Recovery Scales Relationship
Nasty. Nasty. Nasty. I weighed myself multiple times a day. I’d get on the scales, and feel both accomplished and heartbroken at the same time. The feeling was like what I imagine it must be like to find out that you scored top marks in a test, but that those good marks meant that you would be assigned to work as a sniper or something even more short lived and dangerous.
When looked at how much I weighed, my heart would cry. Horrible feeling. It was as if that part of my body knew that I was killing myself and had no ability to alter the course. The other part, the Anorexia in my brain, would rejoice, and then tell me that I needed to lose more weight. One thing about Anorexia is that it is never satisfied, and it always demands more.
Early-Recovery Scales Relationship
I cold-turkeyed the scales and threw them out. I never allowed myself to weigh myself. At the doctors office I would look the other way if weighed. I think that this was the right way for me to get over that weighing obsession, and I needed to do this for at least the first year of my recovery. I know that many sufferers find it really hard not to weigh, but I found it to be a huge relief. So much so, that I was initially resistant to begin weighing myself again.
Late-Recovery Scales Relationship
I’ve explained how Anorexia is a genetically-based brain disorder. This is why, for me, there is no final-final stage of recovery. Recovery is a life-long plan—the plan being to never allow Anorexia to be triggered again. For me, what triggers Anorexia is losing weight, so I need to be very careful that I do not lose weight. What I have discovered, is that I have a very specific weight and body-fat percentage that I cannot go below—I call this my lower-threshold weight. I am not going to disclose numbers here just because eating disorders are very competitive and I don’t want any readers to start down that rabbit hole on my blog.
Let’s just say that I look good and feel good at this weight, but if I go under it despite the change being tiny and not one that anyone other than my husband would notice, bad things start to happen. Ideally, I am at least 5lbs above my lower threshold weight at all times so that I have a buffer. Because, if my weight or body fat falls below a certain point, the following things start to happen:
- I start to have trouble sleeping. I think this is because my body feels under stress, but for whatever reason, if I lose even a lb under my lower threshold, I’ll not sleep well. This means I get tired, and we all know that when one is tired one doesn’t think as clearly and is more prone to make bad decisions.
- I start to want to exercise more. My old and ever-present demon: the urge to over-exercise.
- My diet begins to get progressively more “eating disordered.” The foods I eat narrow in variety. I fret over what I am eating and when. I don’t want to eat anything that wasn’t pre-planned, etc.
- I progressively eat less fat. It doesn’t happen immediately. Slowly, like one mealtime I’ll just skip on the cheese … .
- I get defensive, irritable, and bitchy. Probably because my body is stressed.
Basically, my eating disorder begins to stir if I go lower than my lower-threshold weight.
How did I come to the realization that I needed to weigh myself?
I didn’t. My wonderful, long-suffering husband did.
It had happened—I’d lost a tiny bit of weight over the summer, and Matt had noticed. He confronted my about it (kindly) one evening when we were having a couple of drinks. I was devastated, because as soon as he said it I knew that it was true—but until then I had not noticed. I had been completely oblivious. Sure, I knew I had been more stressed than normal, but I had put that down to work pressures and other things. The weight loss can be so marginal, and happen so slowly, that I felt lost at how to keep myself on top of it.
I understood by then that I had a lower-threshold weight that is was very important I not go below, but without weighing myself, it was very hard to notice weight fluctuations over time that might take me closer to it.
Matt suggested that I weigh myself to make sure that I don’t lose weight. I was resistant at first, due to the relationship I’d had with the scales during Anorexia. Then, I understood that I don’t have that motivation now, in fact, my motivations for weighing were the complete opposite.
We got this swanky set of scales that measure my bone density, body fat percentage and a whole heap of other things. They also track it all in an app and give me graphs so that I can see how and if my weight fluctuates over time. This is good for seeing seasonal and monthly patterns. Since I began weighing myself each week, I have stayed well above my target weight.
So yes, weighing myself was a game changer for me. But it had to come at the right time, which for me was years into recovery. I’d be hesitant to tell another sufferer to do the same unless I knew that they were far enough into recovery not to use the information presented by the scales in a negative way.
I love my scales. No really!
Every time I get on my scales I get to say “fuck you” to my eating disorder. Every time I weigh myself and feel happy about the number that blinks back at me I get to so “fuck you” to my eating disorder. I’ve probably got a healthier relationship with the scales now than 90 percent of the population has because I use them to keep my weight stable rather than to shame myself into losing it.