Knowing My Weight.
Just a reminder: After you read this post, you do not need to go weigh yourself. This blog is mainly the journey of me as I continue to make sense of caring for a changing and aging body. As well as me caring for my mental wellbeing as someone who has an eating disorder past. What I choose to do will, at times, look different from what you choose to do. Take care of yourself. Be thoughtful with protecting your health and recovery. Not all advice is good advice for you. Be critical with what you bring into your life. Be discerning, wise, and individualized in the care of yourself.
Last year I started doing an exposure where I weighed myself. The idea was that I wanted to expose myself to the weight I am when I care for myself in a way that is inline with my values. I was feeling like I was avoiding my weight and I didn’t want that. I don’t want to fear the weight I am or have unchecked negative assumptions about that weight. I wanted to live in the reality of the body size I’m meant to be when I don’t have an eating disorder/disordered eating and am caring for my body well. I took nearly a decade off of knowing my weight and it was healing and necessary to allow me to increase my reliance on my body cues as guidelines (i.e. hungry –> eat; tired –> rest; craving movement –> move; overcome with emotion –> do something regulating for your nervous system), rather than relying on an external factor (a scale) to dictate what my body was allowed to do.
That said, I wanted to share some takeaways from the last 8 months as I’ve consistently known my weight. I hated experiences of seeing/hearing my weight when I had requested not to (at doctors appointments) and then having to make sense of that weight with an audience. I’m a very introspective, internal processor and I don’t need an audience when I’m making sense of something important to me. The straw that broke the camels back on all of this was at an OBGYN appointment the nurse practitioner recommended I do a local hospital systems weight loss plan. I responded with, “That doesn’t sound like a very sustainable option.” That is all I said and then I just stared at her. She eventually said, “ohhh yeah, you’re right.” After that situation I felt like I didn’t ever want someone to blindside me with a weight that I didn’t expect. I wanted my own time and space to make sense of my care of my body size. After this I went to my PCP, who listens and I like. I have to remind her from time to time that a focus on health promoting behaviors is better for my health than a focus on weight and she is respectful of that and we’ve found common ground on the pointlessness of BMI. I told her the situation and we did blood work. One biomarker came back elevated and I decided I wanted to do something with food to address it. I chose a path forward that I felt neutral about and wouldn’t trigger (or, at least would minimally trigger) my food insecurity/make me feel like I was being deprived. Satisfaction is a very big part of the eating experience. To turn off the drive to eat a person needs to be satisfied. I make sure my behaviors with food, for now and always, prioritize satisfaction.
Knowing my weight is an exposure I decided was important for me right now. Other exposures in the realm of distorted perception of your body, harmful perspectives on your identity, or eating disorder recovery could be:
- Find a balance of self-care between not caring for body and vanity/insecurity. There’s a spectrum here. One end of the spectrum is: If you wear a lot of make-up and it is tied to your self worth in a all consuming way: Decrease beauty aids and all the things you do to increase your appearance. The other end of the spectrum is: If you never wear make up because you feel you dislike your here and now body and don’t deserve to do nice things for it because it embarrasses you: Wear more make up or take 10 minutes to do your hair. (dry shampoo, manicure, buy a tinted moisturizer)
- Looking down at your belly area to see if there is any food/stains on your shirt after a meal. I noticed a few years ago after eating I wouldn’t look down at my belly area because the look of a belly with adequate food in it was distressing to me, so I intentionally started to do this.
- Wearing the first outfit you try on.
- Limiting body checking. Set a timer to limit how long you will spend getting ready.
- Wear tighter clothes or shorter clothes
Here are the realizations I’ve had over the last 8 months spent knowing my weight:
Realization #1 // I think that weighing myself may have been a contributor to the depression I fell into towards the end of 2020. I didn’t feel more preoccupied with my weight with knowing my weight, but around this time I was in a state of depression where it became necessary to take anti-depression medication and I don’t know how much knowing my weight influenced that mental distress. I decided to continue knowing my weight because I didn’t want to be avoiding my weight. Overtime, it was helpful for my brain to be reminded that if none of my behaviors are unhealthy/I like how I care for myself with a balance of fun and fuel and rest and play and listening to my body’s God-given cues, if that is the case, how can this be an unhealthy body size for me? I needed and was seeing a therapist and taking an SSRI to support me during this time. Around this time I did start to notice that I was a bit disinterested in food, and I thought maybe this was subconsciously from knowing my weight. However, a couple months later we found out I mostly likely had a stomach ulcer. My appetite came back slowly but surely once I started taking meds to give the ulcer time to heal. At other times when I’ve known my weight it has made me more preoccupied with my body size, but that wasn’t the case here. If it did, I would’ve stopped.
Realization #2 // I knew how much water and weight I lost while having a stomach bug and it was interesting to see that the next week it had all come back. The body is resilient. I know getting sick with the flu, or anything where you can’t eat normally, has been the start of some people’s eating disorder. The feeling of no food in your body is a very dangerous and wrong feeling to get used to. Making sense of the feeling of nourishment in your body, the feeling of a stomach that is expanded after a meal, is what should be normalized and encouraged. Seeing the lowered weight during this time was helpful because I reminded myself I should have a negative association with this number. Acute sickness led to this body weight and I should not have nice feelings towards this body size. Anti-health/sickness was the cause of this smaller body size.
Realization #3 // At one point I started feeling like, why am I even exposing myself to my weight? Is there even a point in this? Was this a wise decision? But then(!), I took Ella to her 18 month old check-up and she was losing her little baby mind and wouldn’t sit still to be weighed. The nurse said she’d come back later and try to weigh her again or I could just step on a scale with Ella and then step on the scale by myself and they’d subtract the two for Ella’s weight. Ella was miserable so I just said, “that sounds great! let’s do that!!” So they weighed me holding Ella. And then when I set Ella down she lost her freaking mind screaming and lashing about (as toddlers do), so the nurse weighing us scooped her up but Ella did that boneless, yet somehow arching straight backwards move (as toddlers do) so she was preoccupied and called her coworker over to get my weight. So then he ran over and hollered my weight across a room full of 8 medical professionals to the nurse managing Ella and I felt so proud. I had already had time and space to make sense of my worth and weight and had 8 months to think through lingering connections between my worth and my body size and I was proud I did what my daughter needed in the moment. I liked the reminder that this is why you are seeing your weight, for those unforeseen instances when you jumping on a scale is in line with my values of serving my family. For me, it felt like a victory and I’m glad I had been weighing myself.
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t think this is a good idea for everyone. For me, I don’t want to avoid my weight. I want to slowly (oh-so-slowly and within my capacity of the season) work to accept myself as God created me. How does me knowing my weight play out from here? I don’t know. I tend to be pretty mindful of (at least when it comes to food and body related things) if I’m doing something that I’m later going to have to put a lot of effort into undoing. As long as it feels productive, helpful, and doesn’t impact my mental health negatively I plan to keep having some awareness of my weight.
What do you think? Did you have a season of time when you didn’t weigh yourself? Do you weigh yourself now? Or, for your wellbeing and intuitive eating journey, do you choose to continue to not weigh yourself?