I don’t know what’s more triggering…
A comment about how “healthy” I look, or walking into a house with a scale sitting on the floor in the guest bathroom.
In general, I don’t really understand the whole concept of having a scale in the guest bathroom. Scales are not necessarily welcoming or inviting. For many people, they can evoke feelings of feel and anxiety. For an individual in eating disorder recovery, it has the potential to make or break the day.
“Happy Thanksgiving, now come weigh yourself after eating what was probably one of your largest meals of the year!”
I mean seriously? No…That’s so awkward.
So why is the scale necessary? What benefit does it have to offer?
Whether it is your intention or not, having a scale in your guest bathroom communicates to your guests that you put a lot of worth in the number on that scale, and that’s not okay.
If you do put a lot of worth in that number, maybe you need to re-evaluate your own relationship with food and your body. If you don’t, I’m just telling you so that your friends and family don’t have to: Please, put away your scale.
In eating disorder recovery, weight is always a sensitive topic. For individuals who are recovering from a restrictive eating disorder, weight restoration is essential for restoring the body and mind. As you may imagine, there can be some anxiety that comes with intentionally gaining weight. Therefore, most treatment teams choose to do blind weigh-ins until the individual is in a good place psychologically, so that he or she would not be adversely affected by the number on the scale. In an ideal world, the individual with an eating disorder would not know his or her weight until they were in a good place psychologically; however, this doesn’t always happen.
Scales aren’t only found in the safety of our treatment center or doctor’s offices, as many of you already know. This is why I decided at the beginning of recovery to shatter my scale with a hammer (great stress relief, if you were wondering).
A few months ago I had a doctors appointment at Vanderbilt (with a doctor who is not apart of my recovery team). Although I had it recorded it in my chart not to tell me my weight, the nurse practitioner that day overlooked it. Despite the fact that my eyes were closed, she said the number out loud like it was nothing.
And it probably was nothing to her. The number didn’t indicate that I was overweight or that there was anything wrong with my health; however, ED has a way with words when it comes to the number on that scale.
“OMG can you believe it was that high?”
“Alright that’s it. No more bread, pasta, or rice. You’ve got to get this under control.”
“What in the world happened to you?”
“A year ago, you wouldn’t have let this happen.”
It caught me off guard, nonetheless. The entire doctors appointment I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I was angry that they disregarded my request, because I knew that it had the potential to set me back in recovery. What did I want to do after I saw the number?
I wanted to go on a run, or walk on the treadmill for hours. I wanted to skip dinner & map out a diet plan to “fix” the problem that was revealed to me that day. I wanted to throw something at my doctor when he said “What’s wrong? I couldn’t have done anything wrong the appointment just started.”
Did I go compulsively exercise after that doctors appointment? No.
Did I skip dinner? No.
Did I throw something at him?…. No.
But it did throw off my day. No matter how often I told myself that it didn’t matter, that my worth is not found on the number on the scale, that I am healthy and recovering in the way that my body knows best, I couldn’t shake off what I was feeling. I knew everything was going to be okay, but I still needed the night to sit down and cry and process everything that I was feeling and the reasoning behind that.
Many people in recovery don’t have enough “will-power” to say “no” to the scale when it’s set up right in front of them in a private room. And for many, knowing that number has the potential to throw off a day that is already more difficult than most when it comes to recovery.
So, do us all a favor and tuck that scale away into your back closet or slide it under your bed. Refrain from commenting on your diet, or your sister’s, or your neighbor’s. Make the conscious effort to not talk about weight at the dinner table. Even small comments like “I’m not going to need to eat for 3 days!” or “Yep, I’m going to have to work all of this off tomorrow” can be triggering (and honestly, just annoying). Ditch the diet conversations at the dinner table and focus on being present with friends and family. Enjoy the food with a grateful heart, but don’t make that the focal point of the day. Connect, engage, and be present with the people around you.