Last weekend, my parents went to Cape Cod with a group of their friends and left my brother and me home alone. I kept joking that we were going to throw a huge party while they were gone, but I don’t think that was what they were worried about. Their actual worries were as follows: one, that my brother was going to impregnate his girlfriend, and two, that I wasn’t going to eat. Both of those were pretty legitimate, although I was present enough that I’m fairly sure the former was avoided.
To be fair, the latter was avoided as well, because I did eat. I didn’t exactly follow my meal plan, but food was consumed fairly often. I considered that a success considering how easy it would have been to give in and listen to my eating disorder’s enticing promises.
I will admit, however, that I went a little nuts. On Saturday, as I was fighting off a plague of insecurity, I remembered that somewhere in my house there was a scale. I knew my mom was still using it, because she tracks her weight like a hawk, but she’d hidden it right before I’d gotten home from residential and I hadn’t seen it since. If I stepped on that scale, maybe I could soothe my worries about the amount of weight I’d gained since beginning treatment. It sounded like a good idea.
Thinking back on it now, I’m embarrassed by what I did next. I ripped apart my house looking for that scale. Unpacked boxes, opened closets, dug through drawers like an addict searching for cocaine. I would clean it up later. After I found the scale. God, where was the scale?
Well, spoiler alert: I found it. I have to hand it to my mom – she’d chosen a very good hiding spot. If I hadn’t been so desperate, I probably never would have thought to look there. I yanked it out, turned it on, and climbed on it eagerly. Seriously, I could keep harping on the similarities between me and a coke addict, considering the amount of pure bliss and relief I felt as my feet centered on that cold piece of plastic. Soon, I thought, I would know if things were as bad as I imagined. I looked down…
I stared at the number in disbelief. Stepped off. Stepped back on. It was still the same.
I learned two things:
1. I thought I had reached a "healthy" weight when really I was only a pound away from being considered medically underweight. Meaning I’d only gained a little over ten since October.
2. Knowing that didn’t make me feel any better.
Here’s the thing. My current reality is that I hate my body, and it actually doesn’t matter whether the scale says 110 or 180. When I was at my most emaciated, I still hated it. I weighed myself more than ten times a day, hoping to God that I’d never see the number on the scale rise because my eating disorder told me I would be happier if it kept going down. But I wasn’t. I was never happy. Eating disorders don’t let you be happy.
And now, the fact that I know my weight doesn’t really make me feel any differently than I did before. Sure, it takes some of the guesswork out of it, but do I like myself more knowing that I haven’t gained as much weight as I thought? Of course not. Since Saturday, the way I’ve treated myself hasn’t changed – my eating habits, my thought patterns, they’re all the same. Thankfully (I think), I have been relatively unaffected by my temporary lapse in judgment. That speaks volumes to me, especially because of the fact that since then I have not felt even the slightest urge to weigh myself again.
At the end of the day, my self-esteem still sucks just as much as it always has, which is not exactly an inspiring conclusion to the story I’ve shared. But the reason I’m sharing it is because this experience has renewed in me a bizarre sense of hope. I have passed a major milestone in my recovery: the way I view myself is no longer affected by the number on the scale.
If I can make it this far, there are no limits to how much further I can go.