Recovery Story: Measuring Up

Why the scale is a no-go area during recovery

By Tracy Stewart

An important aspect of recovering from an eating disorder is the process of learning how to eat normally again. I’ve always battled with the holistic view of an eating disorder. It’s really true that you need to address all aspects of the eating disorder simultaneously – the physical, the emotional and the spiritual. There was much damage that I had caused over 16 years so one can imagine how much work there was to be done to learn how to eat normally again. This was my coping mechanism – my safe place. How on earth was I going to survive without the one thing that I was in control of? How was I going to survive without MY measure of success? That’s it. That’s just the problem. Somewhere when the eating disorder takes over and we become ill, we begin to validate ourselves according to our size and weight (as if our very existence depends on it).

The scale was my best friend and my worst enemy

The scale was my best friend and my worst enemy. It told me how I was going to feel for the day. It told me whether or not I was worthy. I based my entire being on numbers?! I felt I was undeserving of taking up space in the world and the less of me there was the better. I also felt that I was achieving something that others couldn’t achieve by weighing less BUT I was horribly mistaken. No one told me otherwise. No one loved me the way I wanted to be loved. No one supported me the way I needed to be supported so for 16 years, I turned to a completely self-destructive illness to “help me”. This was a huge cry for help. I was trying to get SOMEONE to notice how desperate I was. I never felt accepted – not even by myself. I didn’t like any imperfections and I would literally beat myself up for being this terrible imperfect person I thought I was. I was beating myself up by abusing my body through my eating disorder.

The obsession with numbers is a distraction. It’s an illusion. It provides a false sense of security. It kept me sick. It validated my eating disorder. Now that I’ve been in recovery for over 70 days, I realise how very dangerous it was for me to measure (weigh myself, count calories, calculate BMI). I have not weighed myself since I entered into treatment (for over 70 days). This was my rule because I know that the scale is my biggest trigger. My husband got rid of the scale (he gave it to the security guard who had absolutely no idea what to do with it – I think he was confused but grateful to have received something free in good working condition).

There have been opportunities for me to weigh myself but they have been minimised as I got rid of my scale. As difficult as it is not knowing my weight, I still go to a dietician who monitors my weight and tells me whether or not I’m “ok”. She reassures me that I haven’t gained weight and will tell me if I’m losing weight (which is NOT my goal). I tell her it’s dangerous for me to know the number so she doesn’t tell me. We have a very trusting relationship. I have to do what is best for me and that is to stay away from the scale. I know that although I’m in recovery, I’m still at risk of the eating disorder thinking returning that could result in a relapse.

It is such a dark and lonely place to be

Now that I’m on the other side, I do not want to go back there. It is such a dark and lonely place to be. It’s important to make a commitment when in recovery but it’s really worth the fight. When you get to explore yourself again you will be surprised at this amazing person behind the eating disorder that you have been ignoring. When you make a decision to get well for YOURSELF, you will begin to be honest with yourself about what is most triggering for you. The best is to remove those triggers from your life or to avoid them. To define yourself by a number is so sad. We are so much more than that. The heart that beats inside each one of us is unique and has a unique purpose on this earth. I hope this inspires all of those with an eating disorder to rethink how they see themselves.