Question for you: Would you rather be skinny, or would you rather be healthy? Most of us assume that “skinny” and “healthy” are one in the same… at least I always did. But come to find out, they aren’t even in the same universe.
I ask because I was recently at the clinic for my annual physical, waiting patiently in the lobby, when the anxiety over the dreaded weigh-in started to sink in. The nurse who came to take me to the back was bubbly and happy… too happy for someone who weighs people in and takes their measurements for a living. Weigh-ins have always been a source of stress for me, even when I was just a little kid. As an adult, I have tried every diet plan under the stars, and every diet plan has a different catch or tagline or what-have-you. But the one thing they ALL have in common is the weigh-in (cue the horror movie sound clip – donDonDON!!! Screaming in the background).
When I was in college, I did Weight Watchers for about six months and lost 27 lbs. I went to the same meeting every Wednesday at 5:30 pm. “Hi, my name is Becca and I’m fat…” That’s not really how it goes, but you get the drift. And actually, I wasn’t fat. When I started there, I weighed about 30 lbs less than I do today. They should have some sort of prerequisite mental screening before they let people join those places because if they had, they would have never let me through the door. I was clearly caught up in the throes of eating disorder hell. Of course, I only know that now, and it’s not something I can expect the common person to spot at 50 paces. Weight Watchers took me in with open arms (Of course they did! I was a paying customer! Who were they to tell me I was already a healthy size and no, we won’t take your money?!)
So I went to the same meeting every week. That was what they suggested: attend the same meeting and weigh-in at the same time, every week. If you missed a week, you had to pay for it the next week. A whole $7… (I don’t know how it works now, but I’m betting it’s more than $7 per week). Weigh-in days were the most exciting day of the week for me… Why, you ask? Because I could really give this “diet” thing a go. If I put my mind to it, I could go the whole day on just a few pieces of string cheese, some green beans, and lots of Diet Coke.
Oh, the joy of stepping on that scale to find out that it had dropped a few lbs from the week prior! It was the greatest feeling in the world… the feeling of control. Yes, I had taken control over my body at last. I had beaten it into submission and it would bow to my will. I was superhuman when I could control my food intake to the point of near starvation. And how did I celebrate after those weigh-ins? By going out to eat at any number of my favorite restaurants and stuffing so much food into my poor body that I felt like I would burst. You see, this was the one time of the week that I could just let loose and gorge on whatever delicious concoction I wanted, because I knew that I had all week to starve it back off.
The problem was, the skinnier I got, the harder it was to make the scale move. That meant resorting to more and more disgusting behaviors in pursuit of the dieting Holy Grail – the dropping numbers on the scale. It was an obsession, that scale was. It ruled my life. I lived and breathed by what the scale said every week. It determined if I had a good week or a bad week. It determined if I could eat the next day, or if drastic measures needed to be taken.
So back to the waiting room at the clinic. You can see why I would not exactly jump for joy when it came time to hop on the scale at the doctor’s office. Eating disorder recovery is a slippery slope. I feared that knowing the number on the scale would throw my mental state for such a loop and that it would derail my precious recovery forever.
The bubbly nurse led me behind the nurse’s station where they keep the scales. As I took off my shoes, I said in a panicked, shaky voice,”Look, I can’t know what I weigh. It’s a matter of my mental well-being.” She cocked her head to the side and gave me a quizzical look, similar to the look my dog gives me when I’m telling her why it’s not okay to piss on the bathmat. “I mean it,” I said, “I don’t want to know it, see it, hear it, or even smell it. And if it means you can’t give me my after visit paper thingy, then that’s fine. Because I don’t even want it to be accidentally written on there. Got it?” I asked. She nodded in agreement that she had gotten it, and just like that, the weigh-in part of the whole experience was over.
I’ve learned over the past year of recovery that psychological health is just as important (if not more important!) than physical health… and it should not be ignored! I always thought I was dieting in the name of “health”, but what I didn’t realize was that the more I pushed back against my body, the more unhealthy I became. Maybe one day I will know my weight, but as of today, I’m done slaving away to the scale.
I end today’s post with a little fairy tale: Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She was a normal, beautiful girl. As she grew, her body changed. But she was still beautiful. She was no longer a child. But she was still beautiful. Her thighs were not separated. Her hair was not straight. Her stomach was not flat. Her breasts were not perky. Her eyebrows were not even. Her face was not slim.
But she was still beautiful.