Here’s the thing: I’ve spent way too long caring about the number on the scale and the arbitrary calculation of my height-to-weight ratio. Not caring about the number on the scale is so foreign to me. For the past seven years, I’ve weighed myself multiple times a day, changing my intake (usually decreasing it) to make myself “happy”. Realistically, no matter how much weight I lost, it never made me happy. My eating disorder served a purpose, but now, it’s not needed like it was- and neither is the number.
For the past 3 months that I’ve been in treatment, I’ve had to look at my weight on the scale anywhere from 2-7 times a week. Seeing this number go up was terrifying. It felt like a loss of control, and I wasn’t allowed to restrict or exercise, even if I was in distress from the number. At first, I thought my treatment team was crazy, but three months later, I can look at the scale, see the number, acknowledge it, and move on. Exposure therapy works, because once you realize that no matter what you do, your body is going to settle where it wants, you stop caring so much.
If someone had told me this a few weeks ago even, I would have laughed in their face- but it’s true. Throughout my time in residential, day, and now IOP at the Renfrew Center, I’ve come to realize how irrelevant weight is- not to say that it shouldn’t or won’t ever upset you- for these reasons:
- It changes. Every day. Multiple times a day. So if you weigh yourself in the morning, mid-day, and at night, it’s GOING to change because you’ll have eaten food, drank fluids, and moved. It’ll probably go up, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gained weight. Studies show that it takes an average of 3,500 EXTRA calories, on top of the calories your body needs to breathe, digest, walk, etc., to gain even 1 lb. Studies also show that 3,500 is an average, and the true range is probably between 3,000 and 9,000 extra calories. So those fluctuations are fluid shifts, NOT weight gain from a single meal/day/week.
- Although I’m aware and overly-conscious of the number I see on the scale, no one else is, besides my dietitian and doctor. When I walk down the street, I see people for their cute outfits or their smiles or their really well done hair. I don’t look at bodies and estimate how much they weigh.
- Realistically, weight is just a measurement of your relationship with gravity. Same goes for BMI- it’s a ratio of height to weight. Categories like overweight and obese aren’t always applicable or accurate, since weight and BMI can’t measure muscle mass, bone density, organ weight, etc. Really, really, REALLY often, doctors tell patients that they’re overweight and need to lose weight, by judging the number on the scale, not the larger picture of their movement and exercise, food intake, labwork, and other variables.
- At the end of the day, how do you want to be remembered? Personally, I don’t want to be known for eating vegetables/ low-carb and high-protein/clean, and being seemingly disciplined (hint: obsessed) with exercise. I’d much rather be known for what I accomplish in my life, not how I look.
- No matter what you do, you can’t change the weight that your body wants to be at. The idea behind this is the set point theory, which explains that your body settles at its natural, healthy weight when you’re feeding yourself enough and a variety of food, and moving- not necessarily exercising- but moving to do life activities, like clean the house, walk the dog, or go to class. Everyone has a different set point, and restrictive eating and dieting, as studies show, do not lower your set point. In fact, they may slow your metabolism, causing your body to gain above your set point.
Realizing that honestly, no one gives a shit about the number I see on the scale, has been one of the most freeing things- only followed by the realization that actually, I don’t really care either. Here’s to finding a lot more freedom in the future.