If the first thing you do every morning is weigh yourself, I understand.
I used to be you.
From the age of 19 to around 25, I was a slave to the scales. For 18 months of that time, I was in full-on starvation mode, but even when I’d come through the other side of that and gave myself permission to put on weight, I continued to begin and end every single day with crossed fingers and two feet on what healthy eating and fitness guru Joe Wicks calls “the sad step.”
I couldn’t agree more. Standing on the scales didn’t make me happy, even when the numbers flashing up before my eyes were those I hoped to see. I knew I had tomorrow to come — and the next day and the next — and however much I tried to maintain control, the scales didn’t always play ball.
When I wasn’t starving myself, I was maintaining my (low) weight by obsessively counting calories, choosing cigarettes over food, and, of course, weighing myself morning and night. Consequently, my mood for the day was entirely dependent on whether I weighed the same, less or more than I did the night before. If I put on a single pound, I was devastated.
It was all-consuming, exhausting and depressing.
Now, I have no scales in my house. I have only the roughest idea what I weigh. I’m a million times more relaxed and happy, but it took a long time to get here.
Breaking the bond with my own personal “sad step” was something that happened over time. As I sought help for my anxiety and depression, I began to address some of the underlying issues that had led to my eating disorder. As with many others, it was mainly about control. When so many other facets of my life were chaotic, I could at least call the shots when it came to my weight. Identifying that need for control as a symptom of my mental illness was a big turning point.
However, it wasn’t until I became pregnant with my first baby that I really changed my attitude to my weight. For the first time in my life, I was getting bigger by the week, and this was a good thing. As my body changed, not just in size but in shape and how it functioned, I began to appreciate how amazing it was. I was growing another life inside of me, and diet was a huge part of my responsibility toward my unborn child. I believe motherhood begins from the time of conception, not birth. I hadn’t yet met my son or daughter, but I was their mother, and it was my job to keep them healthy.
As part of my ongoing recovery, I make a point of reminding myself on a regular basis of all the incredible things my body has done during the past few years. I doubt I would have been able to conceive at 110 pounds. Since then, I’ve created, carried and given birth to two children. I wouldn’t have been able to run a marathon when I was 110 pounds. Since then, I’ve run four of them. I take the chance to challenge myself physically and push my body to its limits as often as possible, but the everyday joy of running on the beach with my dog and playing with my kids in the park are just as significant. I can do these things without feeling sick or dizzy or exhausted.
These days, the only scale in my life is my happiness scale. The feedback I get from that depends on a wide range of things, and what I eat is up there near the top of the list. But instead of depriving myself and counting calories, it’s about nourishing, protecting and fueling my body.
So that I can play outdoors with my kids. And maybe run that fifth marathon.
Visit National Eating Disorders Association for advice and support.