I’m going to open this with a wee little disclaimer – I am in no way encouraging you to become obsessive about weighing yourself (which is probably pretty obvious by now!) If anything, that’s a habit I want you to break. However, particularly during recovery, it is really important to keep a track of your weight in some way. I always found it was the best way of keeping your thoughts about your weight in perspective.
I feel like when you have an eating disorder, your relationship with the scales is one of two things: either you’re obsessed with it, and you have to weigh yourself multiple times a day, or your terrified of it, and can’t remember the last time you weighed yourself. I definitely fall into the latter category – I still find it very difficult to step onto scales. So that’s what I’m focusing on here, but I hope to help you find a healthier attitude towards it regardless.
The simplest thing about it I can say is, it really is just a number. Honestly – they say it about age, and it’s true about weight too! Whatever it is, your height, your BMI, your weight, your blood type, your age or the circumference of your head – they are all just numbers and figures, and do not define who you are in any way. Also, your weight is constantly fluxuating due to so many factors other than what you eat, like your stress levels and hormones.
When I was first admitted as an out-patient of an eating disorder clinic, my doctor didn’t want me initially to be weighing myself at home, which I was very relieved about. She said it would be far too much pressure, and she would never expect me to do something that I find so traumatic by myself. And if you feel the same way – that’s okay. Being afraid of weighing yourself is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t matter that other people don’t find it scary, and don’t let anyone make you feel embarrassed about it. Some people are scared of spiders, some of rats, some of snakes…you’re scared of scales. So what? It’s a completely rational fear, and never feel a need to justify it.
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped onto the scales with my doctor. I hadn’t weighed myself for months. I had no idea what to expect – the only thing I was sure of was that it was going to be much higher than I wanted. And when I actually looked, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so shocked in my life. I wasn’t just underweight, I was dangerously underweight. My BMI had fallen way below the healthy range. I think this was definitely one of the first times that it really hit me how ill I’d become. It didn’t matter that my brain was still telling me I was “fat” and needed to lose more weight – I couldn’t deny the facts that were right in front of me.
This was such a terrifying moment for me, because my brain had suddenly become so conflicted. On the one hand, I had suddenly realised what a dangerous state I was in, and was desperate to get out of it. I really wanted to get back to a healthy weight again. But on the other hand, I still fully wanted to continue to lose weight, and had no desire to get better whatsoever. The voice was telling me I was “fat”, and I believed it.
How can these two completely opposite thoughts and desires be existing in my mind at the same time?!
You may be thinking the same, or have experienced something similar. But as scary as that moment was, it really is a good thing to happen. Because when you recognise what you’re doing to yourself, even just for a moment, you won’t ever forget it. And it will have planted the idea, somewhere in your brain, that you really do want to get better. You just have to keep nurturing that voice, until it becomes strong enough to stamp out the other one.
As I said, keeping a record of my weight in a healthy, controlled way (with my doctor), really was such a great way to keep all my thoughts towards eating, food and exercise in perspective. I can remember so many appointments where I arrived thinking “I’ve done so well this week! I’ve eaten a lot more, I’ve exercised less – I’ll definitely have put weight on.” Still really underweight. Or “I’ve eaten three meals a day and snacks every day and done no exercise – I have to have put weight on!” No difference. Or “I went on holiday and ate apple pie and pizza!! Surely now?!” No – still underweight!
Don’t worry, I’m not saying all that to make you think it’s impossible to return to a healthy weight again – it is. I’m just trying to reassure you that just because you start eating well again, you’re not going to put on three stone overnight. It takes a long time. And also…this period of time really proved to me that I can treat myself to the things I love, and it makes no difference to my weight at all! It was so wonderful to finally realise that I can go out for a pizza on a Friday night, or bake a lemon drizzle cake and enjoy it, and it will have no scary affects on me whatsoever. And it was having the courage to actually face my weight that made me realise this – my perception of how much I weighed had been so wrong.
It takes a long time to become comfortable with weighing yourself again, just as it takes a long time to get your body back to a healthy weight again. But trust me – you can do it. Just don’t give up when you don’t get the results you want in a day, or a week, or a month. If you’ve been determined enough to lose all that weight, you can be that determined to get healthy again. And remember – it’s not about “putting weight on” or “getting fat”. It’s just about getting your glow back!
I used to be so scared of people saying to me “You look really well”. I just thought “oh no, they think I’m fat!” But now, nothing makes me happier when people say that to me. Being healthy, happy and confident looks so much better on you than being very underweight does. And you should be lighting up every room you walk in to, not disappearing into it.
Like always, if you ever want to get in touch, give me an email by clicking on the “contacts” link at the top of the page.
Love Lucy x