Thursday, August 23, 2012

Scaling Back

I have a confession to make: I’ve secretly been in a highly dysfunctional relationship for years.

With … it pains me to admit it … my bathroom scale.

My relationship with food and my body has been so disordered for so long that I don’t know how “normal” people interact with a bathroom scale, or if they even HAVE bathroom scales. I  only know how I interact with mine.

People: It’s not good.

I weigh myself every day. EVERY DAY. Sometimes, multiple times a day. The number that comes up on the scale is how I know how to feel about myself. If the number is smaller today than it was yesterday, I am allowed to like me, to feel as though I have some worth. If for some reason it is higher than it was yesterday, I am clearly a miserable failure and should not be allowed out of the house.

I think it goes without saying that the number on the scale also dictates whether or not I am allowed to eat, and what I am allowed to eat.

If this sounds fucked up, it’s because it is. 

When I was actively anorexic, I remember feeling relief as I watched the numbers on the scale get smaller and smaller, but I also felt anxious because I knew that they could never get small enough. You can never weigh NOTHING, but the closer the number could get to zero was the closer I could get to success. I know that makes NO sense, but getting smaller was like winning – only the Charlie Sheen kind, which meant that I was very close to self-destruction.

I may no longer be anorexic, but my eating is still disordered. I don’t really know how to see my body through a lens of reality. I don’t like photographs of myself. I don’t own a full length mirror. I am learning to celebrate the things that my body can do – run! Swim! Hike! Play games! – but I have yet to figure out how to be able to view it objectively. I can manage it for small spaces of time – look at me, I’m a curvy, fun woman! Whee! – and then that time passes and I am reduced to being portions of a whole, thighs and arms and stomach, and they all seem to weigh 300 pounds each.

So, the bathroom scale, to tell me what I’m worth.

I hate living under the tyranny of the scale, because I know all of the things it doesn’t measure – it doesn’t measure kindness, or love, or humour, not that any of those things are felt in its presence. It doesn’t measure joy, not that I ever feel joy in the moments while it calculates who I get to be today. It doesn’t, in fact, measure any of the things I want to be recognized for. It only measures weight.

The problem, I realize, is not the scale. The problem is that I allow myself to live like this. I need to stop. However, the idea of stopping makes me feel unhinged. What will happen if I no longer have an anchor? What will I do if I don’t have my numbers to tell me my worth?

The simple answer – that I will have to find my worth in the things that the scale doesn’t measure – terrifies me. I don’t know if I know how to do that.  But oh, do I want to.

I took the scale out of my bathroom this morning. I weighed myself one last time, and then stuffed the scale under the couch. I wanted to toss it out, but I can’t. The idea of not having it at all is much too frightening right now. I need to have it just in case.  (Just in case what? I have to ask myself. Just in case I need to punish myself for eating a sandwich? Just in case I start to feel good about myself? OH THE HORROR!)

It’s not a clean break, but it’s a step. Maybe, if I take enough steps, I can eventually walk away. Fingers crossed.

***UPDATED*** Some loving but insistent prodding did actually lead me to throw away the scale. I am not tall enough for a photo of this, but it did make a resounding thud. Of course, that could also have been the sound of my heart threatening to beat out of my chest with fear, so there's that.

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