How I Feel When I Get Weighed In ED Recovery
I'm not surprised to hear that most people don't like stepping on a scale. Whether at the doctor's office or under the sink in your bathroom, the little piece of machinery that basically labels you with a "number" can be enough to make even the "strongest" of us a little uneasy.
Growing up, I was never someone who really weighed myself. I would get weighed at my annual medical physical, but since there were never any health issues, those doctor's visits were more or less the only times I used a scale.
That all changed as I developed my eating disorder.
Like most people who become "obsessed" with food, weight, and shape, I consistently began to measure my weight until it was a daily behaviour. Then, the frequency increased to multiple times per day, until I would spend large amounts of time stepping on and off the scale, willfully wishing for the number to go down every couple of seconds.
This drive to see the number get lower and lower eventually led me to cut down on my food intake until I was eating barely anything. I stopped drinking fluids because even zero-calorie drinks would make me "weigh more" should I step on the scale afterwards. I weighed myself before eating, after eating, first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, and incessantly throughout my day.
This "I need to know the number" obsession was completely out of hand. I looked for scales everywhere I went. At home, at the gym, at relatives' homes, in hotels, and even at the homes of friends of friends. Of course, this was all done secretly.
It became difficult, too, because I had to carefully choose what to wear. Would I be able to weigh myself naked? (The best option). Or, would I be in leggings and a t-shirt? What would happen should I be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt? How many pounds would I need to subtract to take into account the weight of the fabric of my clothing?
Being in inpatient treatment for an eating disorder involved multiple, multiple weigh-ins. At first, you get weighed daily. Every morning, 6:30am. Sometimes in hospital gowns, and sometimes in just underwear, depending on the treatment centre. The beginning of treatment is always incredibly rough because you are, on a daily basis, faced with stepping on the scale and seeing the number go up - something you have been trying to avoid for so long.
Eventually, the "shock factor" wears off a bit as you progress through your inpatient stay. It is never easy, but after some time your mind starts to become a little more accustomed to stepping on that scale, especially when weight gain can result in an increase in privileges. In both treatment centres I was at, we did non-blind weigh-ins, which basically means I would see my weight (and sign off on it) every time. There are pros and cons when it comes to getting weighed blind vs. not doing so, and I won't get into those here. I have gone through periods in my eating disorder where as an outpatient, I have asked to not see my weight. But, as a general guideline for myself, I know it is important for me to face this issue head on.
So, what inspired me to write this blog post this week?
I was at therapy a couple of days ago and my therapist, as per usual, weighed me. This weigh-in, though, was particularly difficult. For starters, I was at a new clinic (same therapist, new clinic), which meant I would be weighed on a different scale. Next, I was wearing clothes, in contrast to my "preferred" method of weighing myself, which is when I wear as little as possible so that the weight that shows up is as "accurate" as possible. And thirdly, I was weighed at 5:30pm. After a full day of eating and drinking both coffee and water, I had to step on the scale. This alone drove me a little mad.
How does it feel to get weighed in eating disorder recovery? Not only do I have to see my number, I have to have my therapist see my number as well. For me, there is a lot of shame in having someone know my weight. My therapists have always been neutral in their reactions after I get on the scale; they treat it as a "matter of fact" task that has to be done, void of any emotion. I never get a "Well done! You gained some weight back this week!" or a "That's not good, it seems your weight has dropped since last time". This neutral reaction is done purposely as to avoid influencing any emotions that we, the patients, are feeling (which is actually okay with me).
Again, how does it feel to get weighed? It f**king sucks.
When my weight drops, my eating disorder brain is "triggered", and it tells me that my weight must go lower. This "low" is not low enough. Eat less. Move more. When my weight drops, the healthy side of my brain is kind of like: "Oh shoot. That's not good" - but my ED brain overtakes all rational thinking.
When my weight goes up, there really is no healthy side of my brain that comes through. It's all ED screaming "NO NO NO! You pig. How DARE YOU gain weight!". I am not only faced with a number I don't want to see, but I am also extremely conscious that my therapist is standing beside me and has "witnessed" the weight gain, too.
It is an extremely shameful process for me. I know my thoughts aren't rational, but I feel like when I gain weight, others are judging me. Others are criticizing me with the same hurtful voice as ED. In those moments, I feel ashamed to be standing beside my therapist. What is she thinking? She probably thinks that I am a pig, too. She probably calls me names in her head and laughs at the fact that I gained weight.
I vocalized all of this to my therapist this week. I told her what it is like to be taunted by all the weigh-in rules like clothing, food and water intake, and time of day. I told her that I hate gaining weight (even though I need it) and part of the reason for this is how UNCOMFORTABLE it makes me when she witnesses the weight gain. We talked about how she purposefully maintains a neutral reaction but she reassured me that when I gain weight, there is no judgment on her part. (Rather, she told me that she is HAPPY when I gain weight!).
Regardless, I know I am being irrational with all of these weigh-in rituals and fears. Yet somehow, ten years later, I haven't been able to move on from them just yet. I guess the fact that I even got on the scale last Wednesday at 5:30pm was step one in breaking down my strict rules. But letting go of the idea that others are judging me? That others think I am a pig, too? That's still a work in progress.
Like with any irrational thought, repeated practice is needed to "disprove" its validity.
So, here we go. (What's another challenge at this point?!).
Sending all of you going through the weight gain process tons and tons of love. Whatever fears you may have - I've (probably) been there, and it's not easy. I'm here with you every step of the way - so don't hesitate to reach out!