My Breakup with the Scale
Updated: Jun 28, 2021
As a child, I didn't have a steady relationship with the scale. It was always around, but we didn’t spend much time together. I definitely didn’t let what it had to say change how I viewed myself. What did it know?
As an adult, I looked to the scale for security. To see how I was doing. Where I stood compared to where I’d been or where I wanted to be. I could count on it to be honest with me. It never lied.
It did hurt my feelings from time to time. Other times, its message was cause for celebration.
The more I learn about how addiction works in the brain, the more I encounter the wild world of dopamine hits. Frustratingly, I’ve heard that when an addict gives in to a craving, the hit will never satisfy.
One of the things we are warned about in food recovery is the let down of stepping on the scale once you achieve your goal weight.
When applied to my relationship with the scale, how unsatisfying to have the number stop moving!
For years now, I’ve had a torrid relationship with the scale. If the number went down, I could celebrate, pat myself on the back, and possibly make some less wise food choices as a reward. If the number went up, I could chide myself, relive the past few days and figure out what I had done wrong, how it was my fault that I’d gained.
As I have garnered freedom from my food addiction, my brain has started healing, and my weight has trended downward. I realized that when I stepped on the scale, I was holding my breath, waiting for the signal of which messaging to unleash: celebration or chiding.
I didn’t want to play that game anymore. I was close enough to my goal weight that I wanted to focus more on how I felt, in my body and in my clothes. As someone who has dealt with digestive issues for years, I wanted to focus on feeling healthy and light, pain-free. I didn’t want to be emotionally wrenched around by the whims of the scale.
A radical thought flashed through my mind: I have to break up with my scale.
But how? We had been together for years; I couldn’t just quit our relationship cold turkey.
I’d have to hide it.
But not really, right?
That night I shared this with my husband, Judah, saying it out loud for the first time.
As I said the words “hide the scale” aloud, panic shot like electricity through my body. It was as if someone had threatened to kidnap my best friend. The absurdity of this response left me convinced this was exactly what I had to do.
“I think I might need you to hide it.” I had a deep sense of knowing that if I hid the scale, I’d just sneak it out and weigh myself.
But if it’s hidden, then I won’t know where it is!
My body was hot as if someone had told me they accidentally let my indoor-only cat outside and didn’t know where he went. I felt totally out of control.
Deep breath. Identify the fear.
For most of my life, the scale had carried very specific messaging. It determined my worth with regard to my weight. How would I know how I was doing? I’d also strongly believed that the number on the scale dictated the choices I make. It goes up, restrict food intake. The number goes down, I can take creative liberties. If I didn’t have my trusty ally weighing in, how would I know how to feel?
But that’s not how I do food anymore. I don’t drastically change what I’m eating based on the scale.
Other messaging said that if I don’t weigh myself, at least weekly, I could gain twenty pounds without even realizing it. Tracking the data is how you stay in control.
But that’s what I’m trying to change! I don’t want to be solely focused on a number. I want to feel myself in my body and know that I am safe. I don’t want an external force dictating my worth.
I officially asked Judah to hide my scale. For six weeks.
SIX WEEKS?! Are you sure?!
My mind raced, scanning the house for all the places he might hide it. The basement. The guest bedroom closet. He could try to be clever and leave it in the bathroom, under the vanity, where it belongs.
I told him not to tell me when he was hiding it, because I knew I would try to game the system. I couldn’t be trusted.
Two days later I asked if he’d hidden it. He had.
I went to the bathroom. To use it. Like a normal person. As I sat there, my eyes glanced toward the vanity. Maybe he left it. I hadn’t heard him move it. Maybe he didn’t.
No. I would not allow myself to look. If it was there, it would stay there, untouched and unseen, for six weeks.
A measure of surrender started to set in. The tight grip of control loosened.
Three days later, I told my friend Matthew about my breakup with the scale. Even as I said the words, a sharp sense of panic shot through my body. My mind started to race again. Maybe Judah hid it in our closet. I shamefully confessed these thoughts to Matthew and felt the grip loosen a little more.
Over the course of the next five weeks, I gained more and more freedom, all while losing weight. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time.
After five weeks and six days of not weighing myself, Judah revealed his hiding spot. He was very proud of it. It hadn’t been any of the places I guessed in my moments of hysteria.
It was in the guest bedroom. Not in the closet. But under the mattress. Clever.
I returned the scale to its home under the vanity with a steady pulse. I didn’t feel joy. Or relief. I didn’t even weigh myself. That was scheduled for the next morning.
After the painful break up with my scale, my brain had six weeks to do some healing. I focused on eating “how I eat” regardless of what some number had to say about it.
I lost five pounds in those six weeks. But honestly, it wasn’t about the weight.