Monday, September 26, 2011

My history with the scale, and all about my scale break

I have recently decided to take a break from the scale.  Yes, I know that only a couple of weeks ago I spoke publicly about my plans to wean myself off of the scale, but I just felt like I needed a break sooner rather than later.

My relationship with the scale has been a rocky one from the very beginning.  Well, maybe not from the very beginning (8 lb 4 oz was perfectly acceptable to newborn me... I think.) but definately from around age 11. 

I remember being horrified the day that the scale went from 99 to 100.  Seriously, horrified.  Like I had suddenly moved from one group of people (slim and beautiful) to another one (fat and ugly).  And of course, slim and beautiful was much better than fat and ugly.

Scales should NOT be in the family bathroom!
  And of course, during those terrible eating disorder days (age 19-21), I had a disordered, scary, crazy, messed up relationship with the scale.  Things that are embarassing to write about, but just to give you an example of something that an anorexic/EDNOS person may do:  I had a stack of old magazines beside my scale that weighed how much I wanted to lose.  I would weigh myself multiple times a day, and remove and add magazines to the stack by weight, to remind myself how much further I had to go.  It was always as a punishment for weight gained, not as a reward for weight lost.  Eventually this project became too much even for me, and I abandoned it and moved onto something else. 

But the scale was torture for me.  I wanted, NEEDED to see a smaller number every day.  If the number was the same or (gasp) bigger than the previous day, I would punish myself with worse food restriction and more exercise.

Then, after recovery, it was years before I even brought another scale into my home.  One of the things that was stressed in recovery was to forget about the number on the scale, to focus on health instead of weight.  Something that I had not expected from recovery of anorexia/EDNOS was to switch from restriction of food to overeating.  Apparently, this happens to many recovered anorexics, but I'm so happy that no one warned me of this possibility when I was trying to recover, as it was my worst fear:  extreme weight gain.

I went to the opposite extreme with my eating, and gained a lot of weight.  It was embarassing for me, to say the least.  Family members were super supportive of this development, probably because they were terrified with how skinny I had been the previous year and they wanted me to live.  Overweight/obese doesn't always equal unhealthy, but in my case it definately was.  Anyway, I kept on feeding my emotions with food and avoiding the scales, while having to go shopping for new (larger) pants every few months.  This continued for a couple of years, until I looked like the "before" pictures over on the side of this page.

This is a number that apparently we should all want to see? 
Why is it always something like this on the box for scales? 
Not cool, scale companies.  Not cool.

I had to find a better way.  Extreme eating (either under or over) and extreme weighing (several times a day or not at all) clearly were not the answers.  There had to be another way to go about this, a way to learn about moderation.  A way to diet without getting tempted to go back to severe restriction and a way to weigh myself without being tempted to go back to multiple daily weigh-ins. 

That's when I found Weight Watchers, and really learned a new way to eat and weigh.  Eat everything in moderation and weigh myself once a week.  (Of course, this blog post is oversimplifying a lot, since there is limited space, but I also began seeing an amazing therapist, who helped me to see that overeating was not the answer to my problems, and WW wasn't always so easy).

Weight Watchers completely turned my life around.  Weighing in once a week was the balance that I had been craving for years.  It was a great way to see how I did that week, and to make sure that the scale was going in the right direction.  Seeing that number on the scale (220) was terrifying at first, but I soon was only focused on the journey, and my mini-goals (as well as my big ultimate goal weight) and knew that 220 was in the past.

So when did this weekly weighing become a problem?

Quite recently.

I have been giving too much power to the number on the scale again.  If it's a "good" number, I give myself permission to overeat that weekend as a reward, and if it's a "bad" number, I give myself permission to overeat that weekend as a pity party.  Either way, it is overeating.

I was starting to get a little crazy with the number again.  I do want to reach my goal weight of 140, and I do think that it's very possible to do so.  So when the scale stopped going down (going from 145-148, up and down but always in that range) I began to start... feeling fat again.  Which I know is stupid.  I'm in a normal and healthy weight for my age and height and my clothes still fit.  But for whatever reason, I was letting the number get to me.

Since starting my break from the scale a couple of weeks ago, I've noticed a few positives. 

1) I am tracking my food and exercise for the sake of tracking.  It's not about my weight right now, it's about my health.  I'm following Weight Watchers, and doing everything "right".  I know that by doing this, my weight will go down, so I'm not worried about my weight right now.  Tracking is just for tracking, and for learning about portion control again, and rediscovering the joys of fresh fruits and vegetables.

2) My weekend eating has nothing to do with the scale.  It's still junk-food-y compared to the work week, but that's just what I eat on the weekends!  It's not a reward or pity-party anymore.  I am tracking my PointsPlus and my calories, and am enjoying my weekend food and activity more than I have in months.

3) I don't care how much I weigh.  Right now, at this moment, I just don't care.  I'm feeling great about my body and my food and exercise choices.  Life is busy, but great.  There is too much going on to worry about something as silly as the number on the scale. 

And... that's it.  This is a loooooooong post, and if you are still reading, bless you.  :-)  I do plan to go back to regular weigh-ins, because I know that never weighing can be as bad for me as constantly weighing.  I will probably step back on the scale in mid-November.  For now, I'm enjoying the break.


Rae Jeannine said...

As someone who has gone through many of these same things to an extent, I can relate to most of this post. As long as you are taking care of yourself as you are, less frequent weigh ins are a good thing. I may have to think about that soon enough myself since I am becoming scale obsessed again also. Unlike you though, I don't feel ready to let the scale go. I am simply restraining myself to only use it once a week despite wanting to peek everyday lately.

Cyn said...

boy oh boy can i relate to this post -- i too have a love/hate relationship with the scale and i swear it is almost as hard to break as overcoming food addiction is. such a vicious horrid cycle we put ourselves through.

the photo of the scale at 124.5 blows my mind -- either i am blind and never noticed or i am the prime example of consumer brain washing.

glad you are in a good place -- i know i am not ready to wean myself from the scale -- but my once a week ww weigh-in is better than the 20x's a day i use to engage in.

awesome post leah!!!!

Megan said...

I really understand what you're going through, although not with the eating disorder recovery. I was raised in a "diet-conscious" house and even went with my mom to a diet center where they basically had her on a completely fat free diet after she couldn't loose the weight that she gained when she was pregnant with me. I don't remember it, but I'm sure it had an effect on me. I can't wait to break my relationship with the scale, we have such a love/hate relationship. I can't wait to get to my healthy weight and just maintain. I don't think I'll have any problem with that, especially since I've been maintaining for a while now anyway, haha!

Jennifer said...

"I don't care how much I weigh"

This is the best place to be. I'm trying to get there. I FEEL better, but the number keeps creeping up. :/

Katie said...

I felt like I was reading something I had written while reading this post! Thanks for the reminders :) I am still scared to give up the scale... but I really need to decrease my weighing in instead of weighing myself whenever I walk past the scale (NOT HEALTHY!). I as well feel like I keep gaining and losing the same 3 lbs (150 - 153), and want to get down to 141 eventually. But, I am tracking and working out to be healthy - everyday I have to "coach" myself to get over the number on the scale and remember that I feel good, and have non scale victories and still fit in to my clothes!

Jill said...

I am glad you are in a good place now. I have so much to say about the "power of the scale" We need it- but it can totally derail us. Finding a way to use it as a tool- but nothing more is key. I wish I knew how to do it. I have gone from obsessing over the scale to ignoring it. Like you- this only led to more eating. Right now I am at a pretty good place. I weigh in 1 time per week at my WW meeting. This seems to be working for me right now. I know that things change-so I must be flexible and what works now, may not work later. I hope you continue to stay in a good place!!!!!

myvon said...

I enjoy your blogs - they are like me talking to me. I moved my scale out of the bathroom so that I don't obsess with the number. I am trying to lose weight again and right now I am on a plateau--- and I still have 50 lbs to lose, but the exciting part when I put on my uniform tonight the pants are loose and weren't even like thus when I bought them when I was 20 lbs lighter - so even I the number isnt going down my size is. Now just to get back to exercising and learning how to enjoy it--- that is my downfall.

Anonymous said...

I haven't ever had an eating disorder, but the scale is definitely something I have a love/hate relationship with. As in, I love it when it goes down and I hate it when it doesn't! I've had to take breaks from it in the past, too.

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