<trigger warning for those with eating disorders>
This picture was taken 5 years ago. I haven’t owned a scale since. To me, a scale is an actual weapon that only causes damage and pain. I can’t be around them.
Ironically, when I first became anorexic, I never weighed myself. I didn’t own a scale and anorexia wasn’t about achieving a certain weight or ideal of beauty. It wasn’t about how I looked, it wasn’t about my body. Anorexia was a complex and deadly form of disassociation, which over time turned into equally deadly obsessive compulsive disorder. So my eating disorder was not about losing weight, but losing weight was a side effect of my eating disorder. This is a really important thing for people to understand.
Over time though, sexual assault and anorexia F#@ed up my relationship with my body. And as a woman, patriarchy and ideal standards of beauty and thinness began to impact me.
As I began to “recover” the first time (I was forced to gain weight), I was terribly uncomfortable with my body. I equated safety with taking up less space, being smaller and following my strict food rules. Anorexia means that I feel extreme levels of anxiety when I break my food rules. Today, in imperfect recovery, I have fewer rules and more good days, but ultimately, the terror remains.
The terror of becoming “fat” and being out of control and unsafe.
I’m going to admit something terribly un-feminist. Even though I read blog posts about body positivity and I fundamentally hate fat shaming, I am puzzled by larger, rounder bodied and fat people. I’m not judging them. I don’t think they are weak or lazy, or those negative stereotypes that the media forces down our throats. I’m just puzzled and curious. I really honestly want to know “how is that fat person comfortable in their skin?” I want to know because if I could figure that out, maybe I could accept myself.
I’m tortured by the feeling of clothing being tight on my skin. Some days I can’t wear certain clothes just because of the way they touch me and make me feel “fat.” So how do many people I know, who are rounder and love themselves, achieve this self love? I’m struggling just to tolerate my body.
I’ve been in told in therapy that “fat” isn’t a feeling.
That “fat” is a code my mind has made up, as a cover story for real underlying feelings. Objectively, my body is not fat, large, or round. It’s also not unusual, it’s not disgustingly ugly, it’s not misshapen or weird. It’s just a body. Most people would say I have thin privilege and that I’m ridiculous for thinking I’m fat. And even if I were fat, that would be okay. I believe that intellectually, about other people. I’m not judging others, I am holding myself to a standard I would NEVER apply to a friend or even a stranger. I love your body, I will fight for your right to body positivity no matter what your shape is. But I hate my own body.
“Fat” is not a feeling. I think the feelings I have are shame, sadness, anger, grief, guilt, fear and many others. But when I feel “fat” it’s not about my weight, any more than my anorexia was originally about my weight. I was never fat. “Fat” is about the shame I feel as a survivor of sexual abuse. “Fat” is about feeling my own body betrayed me. “Fat” is about me blaming my body for the abuse. “Fat” is me thinking that if I had no body I’d be safe. “Fat” is my fear of being assaulted again.
I never weighed myself. When I was in treatment, they weighed me and I stood backwards on the scale. After leaving treatment I continued this practice at doctors appointments. A few times over the years, I knew my weight. But whatever the number, I was unhappy. The number was never okay. At various times I had F#%ed up goal numbers, but they were not based on anything other than pure magical thinking. And they never correlated with my actual healthy weight range.
In 2011, I was struggling with abuse in my marriage. I was in school and I was struggling with that too. As I would take the bus home from school, I sometimes snuck into a store and used the scale there to weigh myself. I’m not sure why I started doing it. But my OCD anorexia mind told me it would keep me safe and comfort me. I did this for probably a month or more. I was consumed with guilt and shame. I never told a soul. Then one day I decided it would make more sense to buy the scale and take it home, to avoid the shame of sneaking into the shop. I hid it and I never told anyone I had the contraband item.
It was the first time I’d owned a scale since I developed anorexia. Within a few months of owning it I was suicidal. The thing about OCD, is if you give in to it even one little bit, it will take you for a ride, a hellish ride. First I started weighing myself once a day, first thing in the morning. Then, gradually I started weighing myself at night too. And before I knew it I was weighing myself 8-10 times a day. It was out of control. And it got out of control in a matter of a few weeks. I was controlled by that scale. This was at the same time when I was receiving ECT treatments, I wasn’t eating very much because I felt quite ill. My weight dropped and because I had a scale, I obsessed about it. Then when the ECT was finished and I began eating more normally again, I began to PANIC about the weight gain.
Normal, intellectual, reasonable thought of someone without an eating disorder: “I was sick, I lost weight and it was unhealthy, it’s normal and healthy that I’m gaining it back”
Anorexia: “You are weak, you are “fat”, you are out of control, you are ugly, you need to stay at this number on the scale or something bad will happen”
In the end, the suicidal thoughts became so overwhelming that I decided to get out.
I took a hammer, I went into the garage when nobody was home, and I smashed the hell out of that scale. I smashed it until it was in pieces. It was surprisingly sturdy and difficult to break. I was sore and sweating from exertion by the time it was destroyed. And I felt empowered.
Five years later and I’ve never owned a scale again. Sometimes in weaker moments I will weigh myself on a scale at a friend’s house, or in a store. But I know that this practice is self destructive and only gives Ana ammunition to destroy me and shame me.
Scales are for fish.
I will continue to admire the folks around me who embrace their bodies of all shapes and sizes. I will continue to be mystified and curious about the concept of body positivity. I will continue to strive towards true recovery from anorexia.
True recovery goes so much further beyond weight restoration. True recovery means that the scale is powerless over me. True recovery means I can be comfortable in my clothes. True recovery means that food is nourishment and enjoyment and doesn’t have moral value. That my weight does not mean anything about my self worth. True recovery is freedom from shame and self hatred.
I may “look good” but don’t be fooled, Ana still runs my life.