On being weighed

I hate being weighed. It makes me freaky anxious and I just don't like it. I worry that I might have gained, which will make me hate myself. I worry that I might have lost and then everyone will freak out on me. The ED part of my brain still sees maintenance as some sort of abject failure because I should be losing weight, not maintaining it.

It probably sounds pretty paradoxical that I find the concept of being weighed at my therapist's office to be reassuring and helpful. Not because I take comfort in being weighed--I most certainly don't--but because I find it helpful to know my weight and know that it is staying where it needs to be.

My first therapist never weighed me, although it didn't really matter all that much because I was weighing myself 80 bazillion times a day anyway. I ended up in the hospital soon enough because my physical deterioration was making my low weight almost a secondary issue. My second therapist used to weigh me, back to the scale, each week and then she slowly phased that out. Ditto for my dietitian. That left me to my own devices for quite some time, and it wasn't pretty.

Not being weighed felt nice at first, because I really do hate being weighed. It's kind of embarrassing, like someone knows all of your dirty little secrets. The problem was that the ED had a field day. I couldn't self-regulate around food. I would overeat, and then restrict and overexercise. Whether this would have showed up in my weight is unclear, but the lack of weighing added one more way for me to hide the seriousness of my ongoing eating disorder.

With my relapse last year, it was back to the weekly ritual of being weighed. I was weighed with my back to the scale so that the weight gain wouldn't freak me out. This was no doubt a wise move, as I'm reasonably confident that I really couldn't handle knowing the number at that point in time. However, TNT has a very different philosophy about weighing (namely that it's just a number and there's a time when you have to get over it) and so I started actually knowing my weight. After an initial freak-out, the actual number ceased to be such a huge deal. I still detest that number, think I'm a whale, etc, but the number itself doesn't provoke as much anxiety as it once did.

Now that I am in recovery and doing well, I'm still weighed by TNT, although only every other week. It works out well- I get a respite from the grueling scale-induced anxiety attacks but TNT is still monitoring my weight closely enough that the ED can't really get out of hand. My parents and treatment team are (not surprisingly) more worried that I will start losing weight again. Since I have the eating disorder and am therefore not that rational about my weight, I mostly worry that I will once again start gaining. Seeing my weight stay exactly the same week in and week out gives me the reassurance that my body isn't going to flip the hell out at an extra cupcake, and it reassures my parents that I really am taking this whole recovery thing seriously.

There's another interesting variable that my weight gives TNT: an insight to my psychological state. Bouts of the stomach flu aside, usually a drop in my weight means an increase in anxiety and ED symptoms. There's no clear cause and effect (did the drop in weight increase the ED thoughts or did the ED thoughts cause the drop in weight? I think both are true) but the fact that my last therapist pushed for a higher weight and then insisted I stay there (despite me calling her a meanie and much, much worse) has given me much greater psychological stability. The slightly higher weight (5-10 pounds) is the price I have to pay for a hint of peace of mind. But the opposite would have been a Faustian bargain: a weight I "preferred" but an ongoing, never ending, ultimately losing battle against the ED. Seeing my weight every other week is a reminder of that icky number, but it's also a reminder of my renewed peace of mind.

I like the fact that someone is monitoring my weight even though I really do hate getting onto that scale. Waiting for the little slide weights to settle themselves is like waiting to hear a verdict: it's long and agonizing but it probably really takes no more than 10 seconds. I'm getting used to my new weight although I still don't like it. I prefer knowing the number to not knowing it because at least if I know it, I'm not imagining having reached a four-digit weight overnight. Which makes the entire situation one massive paradox: hating getting weighed, liking the security of being weighed; hating what I weigh, liking to know that awful number rather than leave it to the imagination.

Since when did an eating disorder ever make sense?


melissa said...

The moment I saw this title, my heart raced...which shows just how powerful and emotive the weight thing can be. I relate to a lot of these experiences and, particularly, around being weighed by others and learning to trust my weight.

It has also reminded me of all the many attachments and associations that I still link to weight. For me, being weighed was often a battle ground in treatment, and I think that this experience has hung over my relationship with the scales and, in some ways, with how I received support. Up until recently, I only complied with weighing when I was given no choice; but now, my GP supports me and we're in it together, so to speak, which feels very different.

We have re-framed weighing as a safety check, rather than a measurement of something - and this seems to help. Staying the same or weight gain is better than going backwards, so the objectives of getting on the scale are different, if that makes sense...

I'm digressing...

There's just so much to think about here - thanks for another thought provoking post!

From Here to There. In Purple. said...

im about to start treatment and i'm freaking out about knowing about the weight gain. ill probably ask for blind weights.. i feel like itll take a little weight off my shoulders and a little anxiety off my mind..

James Clayton said...

Yeah, since when did an eating disorder make sense?

I also hate the idea that my weight is being monitored and that it's a mark of whether things are going well or going badly. Lately, I've just not even absorbed what my weight is doing just to try and concentrate on the mental recovery and get away from the neurosis. I don't know if it's working: that's the emotive, anxiety-inducing power of weight as Melissa said.

If anyone wants to see how badly I cope with questions of weight and am doing my best not to even acknowledge it then I blogged about it here... http://anorexiaoni.blogspot.com/2010/04/weight-off-my-mind-or-drop-distracting.html

I figure if I gain it's a bad thing, if I lose it's a bad thing and if I stay the same it's stagnation. [sighs] No, it doesn't make sense, but thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Jessi said...

I hate knowing my weight, I hate NOT knowing my weight. The cycle is a vicious one...ED's make no sense.

The Woollen Typist said...

I really hate being weighed. It truly does feel humiliating and like someone else is made fully aware of your 'dirty' little secret.

I've found that being weighed weekly or bi-monthly leads to far too much panic...just because of all the fluctuations (as little as they may be), so my therapist and I decided that we would not weigh me every single appointment, rather once every couple of appointments.

Still totally panic inducing but slightly more bearable.

The short of it is though that I understand where you are coming from. :S

jackie said...

I hate weigh-ins. I'm having trouble maintaining weight and it is awful going to the scales and being consumed with fear. Did I lose? Did I gain? Both are horrible. I feel like a failure for not maintaining weight. I feel like a failure for gaining weight. And I feel like a failure when I actually keep a steady weight.
Yesterday my senior class went to a water park. Seeing all the skinny girls in their bikinis made me feel like a whale. I know I'm not a whale. I'm about 5 feet 3 inches and I'm about 112 lbs (maybe a bit less now). Most girls at my school are Asian. I live in Hawaii and we joke around that the guys have "Yellow Fever" and only like Asian girls, but the sad thing for girls like me (I'm half Chinese and half Caucasian) it's true. And it makes me feel like a blimp in in a square inch of stretchy material.
I was never body conscious until I started treatment, but then it was one of the only things people could talk about and therefore the one thing I thought about a lot. Has that happened to anyone else?

Maddi said...

omg, I know what you mean. A lot of times when I weight myself, it either makes me binge or restrict. Its like there is no middle ground, so I am really starting to despise stepping on the scale. :/

A:) said...

I agree completely. . .

My weigh-ins are extremely ritualistic because I need to be sure if the weight I have gained/lost is real and not a fluctuation.

I wear the same clothes, drink/eat the same amount up to two days before the weigh in. I also have rituals in stepping on the scale and the time of my appointment, etc. . . I graph my weight on an excel spreadsheet and monitor my monthly cycles. . .

As you can see, I am extremely obsessive because weight fluctuations cause a large amount of anxiety which can ruin weeks.

At the same time, I always approach the scale thinking I have gained a HUGE ENORMOUS amount of weight and therefore seeing that the number has not changed that much helps settle my perspective.

It's quite a battle and I don't think its something I will ever be fully comfortable with. However, I feel safe being weighed by my dietican because I know she can help me process the number and give me guidance on how to move forward. . .

Does anyone think that weighing in at a close to normal weight (w/in 10lbs) during weight restoration is HARDER than weighing in at the uber-low weights?


Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

Right now I'm in PHP and on weight restoration and I dread the daily weigh-in. The number is supposed to go up, which causes me anxiety. Then midweek I was told the number had stayed flat for quite a while and was given a calorie increase.

I know the number is supposed to go up to get me to my normal weight, but so far the refeeding process hasn't quelled my anxiety about the number on the scale nor the number of calories I am now required to put in my body.

I still waiting for that magical recovery moment to kick-in ... when I start feeling good about all this.

jackie said...

When I weighed in at the cusp of normality it felt like my eyeballs were going to fall out of my head or that I swallowed a mace. It was horrible, a mix of happiness (because recovery is good, right?) and anxiety (because I'm failing at being anorexic). I wish I hadn't had to weigh in then, but I guess I see the necessity. I was so high strung for a week or two after that. It really took a toll mentally and on my other relationships too. Weighing in at uber low weights wasn't horror-inducing like normal weight weigh-ins.

Crimson Wife said...

During my pregnancies, I've learned to be weighed at the OB clinic in a way such that I can't see the numbers and to tell the staff not to tell me anything beyond whether or not I'm on track. The experience is too triggering of ED thoughts otherwise.

mindy said...

I have never been able to articulate how I feel about being weighed, and you totally did it for me. The complexity of this mental battle is baffling, the absolute need to know accompanied by the terror of knowing. And while weigh ins are anxiety producing, make me want to cry and hide under a blanket, and feel almost as violating as standing naked in front of a crowd, they provide such security in knowing that my weight is ok. I could trust my TNT to tell me if anything was wrong.
Outside of residential and not being able to afford a team, so just seeing a therapist is sometimes challenging for that reason, because she clearly is not a dietitian and that's not her role. She doesn't weigh me, and I wouldn't want her to. I so wish I could afford to have a dietitian at this point, but know what is possible not right now.
In Jenni Schaefer's book "Goodbye Ed, Hello me", she talks about being able to know the number and being completely ok with it. That was shocking to me....I just assumed I'd never know my weight again (the treatment center I was at didn't disclose our weight, and I didn't want to know). However, now as I'm farther along in recovery, I can see the signifiance of being able to know the number and seeing it as just that-a number. I'm not there yet,and cant even fathom knowing my weight, but I hope I can be sometime.

mike said...

Me too this makes me crazy to be over weight but there are alot of ways to lose weight
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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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