During the height of my anorexia, getting on a scale was an obsession. A year into my starvation, I was weighing myself between 50-75 times per day. Weighing myself had started out in a normal “healthy” way, but slowly destroyed my brain like a flesh eating disease. I would weigh myself after waking up, after drinking water, after eating, after exercising and after peeing. In addition to starving myself, I was also exercising compulsively and running three 10Ks a week. If the number on the scale was too high, sometimes I would work out an extra hour, or restrict my already 500 calorie a day diet to under 300. Sometimes I would go back to bed and cry for hours because the starvation and over exercising wasn’t working anymore. If the number was too high, I felt like a worthless loser and wanted to die. I felt like I wanted to apologize to everyone I met for my imperfect body.
This was my life for almost three years. An endless, sick cycle of self-torture and starvation. I was slowly drying up into a pile of skin and bones. But even at my thinnest I wanted to be smaller and still saw a chubby girl in every photo and in the mirror.
After a certain point, my body started fighting back. My metabolism quit its job and I was holding on to every single calorie I ate. I went from 5’7 and 108lbs to 114 in a week. To counteract this new issue, I decided to settle for chewing and spitting my food, so that I could enjoy the taste but not absorb the calories. When that didn’t work either, I would just binge and eat everything in sight and throw it up.
I woke up one morning and began the daily routine of weighing myself, counting calories and beating myself up over how I had failed on my diet the day before. I don’t know what changed in me that day, but I had a brief moment of feeling like a fog had lifted. My mind felt clearer than it had in years. I walked into the bathroom to weigh myself, but instead of getting on the scale, I threw it in a garbage.
For the first time in years I felt free, and excited at the possibility of being able to enjoy life again.
I haven’t owned a scale since. During my years of recovery, I’ve learned that weighing myself is a major trigger for my disorder. Despite knowing this, I am still often shamed for refusing to be weighed at doctors appointments. I eventually got so tired of struggling with nurses trying to force a weigh in that I would flat out tell them “I used to be anorexic and the scale is a trigger.” The first time I said those words out loud I almost started crying. I had hidden my disorder for so many years, that saying it out loud was emotional and empowering.
Most times when saying this, the nurses have been understanding and backed off, but not always. Recently a nurse rolled her eyes and said, “Just get the scale backwards then, I don’t understand what the big deal is. The doctor needs your weight.” After refusing a second time, she harshly told me that I would need to ‘explain myself’ to the doctor for refusing to be weighed, then slammed the door. The doctor was equally lacking compassion and demanded I get on the scale twice. She then let me know I needed “help” if the scale causes me so much trauma and then disregarded my concerns which I was there for which had nothing to do with my weight. But I knew that they enter weights into your chart which would be visible to me online and in my appointment summary.
Anyone has the right to refuse being weighed at the doctor without shame. University of Pennsylvania researchers say they believe some women may be avoiding the doctor just to avoid being weighed in front of other people. I compare forcing someone with an ED history to get on a scale to putting a bottle of vodka in front of someone in an AA program. I have found that using stronger language like “Please chart that I decline to be weighed” or “I do not consent” gets them to back off a bit. The times I have been berated by nurses over a getting on scale have made me feel inadequate and really crappy about my progress. They don’t understand that the fear isn’t just about the number. It’s about being terrified of going back to the very dark place I was trapped in for so long, but next time not getting out alive. I hope that women and men in similar situations stand up for their right to not be weighed to avoid relapses.
Throwing away my scale was a monumental step in my recovery and I am thankful I did it. Though I’m not back to 100% yet, I’m proud of how far I’ve come in my recovery. Maybe someday I’ll be in a good enough place to weigh myself at the doctor and not care, but I’m not there yet.
Originally posted on BlogHer.