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Friday, June 1, 2012

The Day I Went Postal on the Scale

The first installment in a series unraveling “my story…”  This process’ purpose is for reflection on past experiences in order to dig out the positive messages and lessons from the negative rubble…
Most 13 year old girls obsess about 13 year old boys, dreamy tweeny-bopper stars, the latest school bus gossip and what flavor Lip Smackers they bought at the store. As trivial as these fixations were, I would have given anything to have been stuck on the Justin Biebers of my day rather than what plagued me for years to come…
Wake up… get on the scale
Use the bathroom… get on the scale
Eat breakfast… get on the scale
Come home from school… get on the scale
Use the bathroom… get on the scale
Abstain from food and drink for hours… get on the scale…
An estimated 2.7% of girls between 13 and 18 years old suffer from eating disorders. -National Institude of Mental Health (NIMH)
From the age of 13, I became a statistic. How much I weighed and how little I ate were of utmost importance; I subconsciously grasped for a semblance of control somewhere… anywhere in my life.
My body image issues began early on and, although the core issues surpassed the superficiality of looks, I became obsessed with the number on the scale. I allowed a primitive piece of equipment rule my emotions and bar me from happiness, as the number never seemed to satisfy. If the number was too high, I failed; if it stayed the same, my efforts to bring the number down were useless; if it were lower than expected, it fed into the weight loss obsession- there was no winning situation. By day’s end, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have stepped on and off of that device of personal torture upwards towards twenty times. I was no longer a person- I was an object.
Fast forward to today…
I look back at the days where a literal tenth of a pound reduced me to tears.  Bringing home an A+ on a paper or receiving first chair as a 7th grade flutist in the 8th grade band held no importance;no matter what I had managed to accomplish in my day, nothing could define me more than that plastic measuring device.
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment that it happened, but a switch flipped within me, shedding light on the hopelessness of my attempts to let a needle on a wheel of numbers define my “goodness.” Although I still fought a long path to recovery after this moment, I thank my lucky stars to have relinquished the obsession with the scale when I had.
I don’t remember the last time I stepped on a scale. When I go to to the doctors’ for a checkup, I insist on facing away from the display and request the number not be shared with me. I don’t remember what the last reading said, nor do I remember the exact moment when I decided “never again!” I do, however, remember the ceremonial moment in which I took a hammer to the cheap “Health-o-Meter” scale, channeling every last frustration it has ever given as I bludgeoned it to smithereens. 
Now, as a personal trainer and a holistic health coach, I preach against the use of numbers to show progress. I favor measurements in terms of energy levels, mood stability and the fit of clothing (not the actual size). Due to erratic changes in water weight, the heaviness of muscle trumping that of fat, hormonal levels in the body, etc, I don’t see such a volatile number as a fair way to determine body composition or, on a deeper level, self-worth, at all. Scales are for fish, not for humans.
Constantly a work in progress, I have morphed my sense of self far away from what my weight is. The people I affect, the changes I create, the smiles I cause are all much more indicative of self-worth than any number would ever be able to tell. The day I destroyed my scale was not the day my battle ended, but it was absolutely a landmark moment in my life in which I refused to be defined by such a worthless measurement. Even though the illness falsely made me believe I had everything in perfect order, going ape on the rectangular white scale with the bold black and red numberswas the moment I reclaimed some actual control over my out-of-control, food/image/perfection driven life.

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