The scale: recovery is a fine balance

A student reflects on recovery and her complicated history with weight during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Content warning: This story includes numbers and other weight-related details that might be upsetting for some readers.

I bought a scale a few months ago.

For most people, the purchase would be insignificant. But for a 23-year-old woman who has been recovering from an eating disorder that dates back to 2010, it’s a pretty big deal.

I never personally owned a scale before, and I avoided buying one once I started college for several reasons — the largest being my compulsive urge to check my weight, and my subsequent fixation on the numbers that showed up on the scale.

I first started losing weight when I was 15. Until then, I’d always been overweight, and I’d always been bullied for it.

So when I saw my weight drop for the first time, something sparked in me. I began shedding pounds faster than anybody could believe, myself included. In about six months, I lost nearly half my total weight and was addicted to weighing myself.

At the height of my disorder, I weighed myself a minimum of three to four times a day. I needed to have the most accurate and up-to-date measure possible. If I ate or drank anything, even fruit or water, I’d wait three hours, and then weigh myself.

From the moment I woke until late at night, any opportunity I had to hop on the scale, I took. Normally this was while my parents were away, or too preoccupied to notice.

A year after I started college, I began recovery.

One of the first things my doctors said was to avoid weighing myself; it was too much of a trigger.

My parents took that seriously. Whenever I came home to visit, my mom stashed away her scale. Back at school, my friends made sure I didn’t have access to one — they kept an eye on me and were in contact with my parents.

I easily could’ve gotten a hold of one at some point, but the guilt was enough to make me steer clear. Over time, I grew accustomed to not weighing myself on a daily basis. The overwhelming need to know my weight shrank to a faint, nagging curiosity.

Today, it’s been almost eight years since my eating disorder first manifested and more than three since I began recovery.

So, the scale I bought online was the result of a late-night impulse buy.

I ordered it through Amazon. One-click, and I immediately panicked. I kept wondering,“Was that wrong? Should I have done that? What if I revert to old tendencies?”

But in less than 12 hours, it was on its way to my apartment.

The package arrived within a few days. I brought it up to my apartment and put it on the floor up against the wall. I avoided opening it for as long as I could, until the suspense became too much.

When I finally opened the box, I was a nervous wreck. I took the scale out of the styrofoam casing and set it on the tile floor of my kitchen — I didn’t even walk it to the bathroom.

I stepped on and exhaled.

The whole experience felt different than I’d remembered — foreign. The scale felt cold beneath my feet. It had been well over a year since I’d weighed myself.

I waited and then peered down: 106. That was 10 pounds heavier than the weight limit I set for myself in the midst of my disorder.

I blinked, held my breath and then weighed myself twice more. I needed to make sure I got the most accurate weight because the first number is sometimes wrong — but it kept coming up the same.

I put the scale away and tried to forget that number.

But the next few days were brutal. It took a long time to fully get those three blinking red numbers out of my head. I hadn’t weighed that much in nearly eight years.

I haven’t told my parents about the scale yet, but I suppose they’ll know soon enough. I just don’t want them to worry; they tend to do that, especially whenever my eating disorder is concerned.

Looking back, I’m not sure what made me buy the scale in the first place — I guess curiosity got the best of me. I don’t regret it, though. I feel stronger knowing it’s sitting in the closet just collecting dust.

I sometimes like to think I’ve completely recovered, but I know that’s not how these things work. At end of the day, I’m just trying my hardest to be at peace with myself, just like everybody else.

Like my dad said to me the other day: “Head up and fight the fight.” And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

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