The Trouble with Scales
I just got back from the gym, where I witnessed something interesting, although not unusual. I was sitting in the hot tub, which is diagonal from the fancy electronic scale at my gym. The warmth of the hot tub felt really good, so I sat there for quite awhile, preparing myself to go back into the subzero chill of Minnesota winter. While sitting in the hot tub, I watched woman after woman step gingerly on the scale. Some of them were sweating profusely in workout clothes, others were dripping wet and stark naked after a visit to the sauna.
Every woman that stepped on the scale peered at the red digital numbers, and grimaced. No one smiled.
It was as if the scale was an instrument of torture. Feeling good about yourself and the workout you just completed? Let the scale bring you down a notch.
Why do we get on the scale? Why do we torture ourselves this way?
I have some theories, mostly formed from my own sordid history with scales. At one time, my scale and I had a very intimate relationship. I jumped on that thing upwards of twenty times a day. Eat something? Weigh myself. Drink something? Weigh myself. Exercise? Weigh myself. Purge? Weigh myself. Wake up in the middle of the night in a panic that I might’ve magically gained five pounds? Weigh myself. Ad nauseum.
The number on the scale was something tangible (in my mind) and something I thought I could manipulate. It was the best of distractions.
I had five scales one year. I would buy one, then swear off scales and trash it, and then break down and buy another one. I debated the merits of digital versus analogue. I reduced my value as a person to a number.
In recovery, staying off the scale was one of my hardest battles (and you definitely know about my history with scales if you read Purge). I never really succeeded in fully separating from the scale, but in 2011, I’m going to challenge myself to be scale-free.
I had an epiphany about a month ago. I stepped on the scale in the bathroom and it told me I weighed twenty pounds more than what I usually weigh. Cue heart attack. I moved it over a few inches and it told me I weighed ten pounds less than I usually weigh. I realized, in that moment, that I was being completely ridiculous. I had spent a good ten minutes pushing the scale around the bathroom, seeing what I weighed in different spots on the floor. I asked myself if I really cared that much, and I decided I really didn’t. So I stopped my foolishness and went on with my day.
And I haven’t stepped on a scale since, and the world hasn’t ended.
On a related note…anyone who has been in eating disorder treatment has likely dealt with being weighed backwards (so that you can’t see the number on the scale) and knows how crazymaking that is. Ever since I left treatment, I’ve had a huge issue with people weighing me. It makes me snippy and defensive. I got around this issue by saying “No thanks, I think I’ll pass” whenever my doctor tried to weigh me. No one was bothered by my refusal. Then, my doctor’s office instituted a new rule that every patient had to be weighed every single time they had an appointment.
Even though I’m in recovery, I choose to be weighed backwards. Do I really want to see the number and give it power over me? Not really. Do I think the nurse is judging me? Not really. If she does judge me, am I likely to say something snarky to her? Yes.
I think I have finally been able to let go of the numbers, and take back the power that the scale once held over me. It’s not easy, but’s it’s liberating. I do not want to be one of those women at the gym who step on the scale and grimace as they step off. And I hope that anyone who is reading this and has a similar relationship with scales will consider going scale-free, too.