A person with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) often must have their weight monitored and discussed by treatment professionals, such as doctors, therapists, nutritionists, and inpatient clinicians. It can be difficult for a sufferer to balance the need to set aside thoughts about their weight in order to focus on therapeutic issues, and also invite – or be forced to allow – others to keep track of their weight. For many, the fear that crops up over going to an appointment where they know or even just suspect they will have to get on a scale causes great anxiety, often to the point a person will cancel an appointment or even end treatment with someone in order to avoid what feels like a Reckoning With The Enemy.
A person who is underweight often wants to hold on to staying that way, commonly beyond the point of being able to recognize that they weigh as little as they do. When weight restoration begins for them, it can be quite difficult to see the numbers creeping up.
Someone who is overweight can feel great shame when they are confronted with the reality of the digits staring back at them. As well, while society shouts from the rooftops the message that losing weight is always a great thing, it does not respect the fact that many people who have to restore weight going down the scale instead of up deal with a fear of losing weight.
Many folks who have used an eating disorder to lose or gain more weight than is healthy for them have underlying feelings of being somehow protected more if they maintain those weights. Many a victim of rape or molestation has found a sense of solace by taking their bodies to a size they feel is less likely to attract violent and other unwanted attention. It can even be a way to avoid romantic attention or socially isolate themselves, even if they are doing it subconsciously. Because of these reasons, restoring weight can be a loaded experience.
If you find yourself in a position of being required to be weighed as part of your eating disorder treatment, do not panic. You can ask to have a conversation about it, and discuss why the thought of the scale is difficult for you. You have options:
1. You can do blind weights, which is standing backwards on the scale so that you cannot see the number. The nurse or whoever is doing the weigh-in should be instructed that you do blind weights, and she or he will write down the number, but not say it out loud or show you your chart. You may have to give a friendly reminder at each visit before you get on the scale, but it’s worth it. You are the patient, and you have the right to make sure they are going along with the treatment plan that’s in place.
2. You can discuss options about how often you need to be weighed, and may find that while other patients are weighed at each visit, your treatment plan can include less trips to the scale. This is more likely to occur the further along a person is in recovery, but it’s worth asking about. The idea isn’t to avoid needed weigh-ins, but rather to see if you are in a place in your treatment that doesn’t require you to have your weight monitored on every visit.
3. If you are seeing more than one professional for treatment, you may find that you are getting weighed over and over. Even a person without an eating disorder would likely tire of regularly visiting several offices (nutritionist, doctor, therapist) and hopping on and off the scale each time. If your treatment team is working in conjunction with each other, i.e. they pass along needed information so that everyone is on board with how you’re doing and what your goals are, ask if just one of them can be the one to monitor your weight. Even if that’s not an option right now, it can be a goal to work towards as you progress through recovery.
4. Rethink how you view scales. You can learn not to hate or fear them. It likely won’t happen overnight, but attitudes can and do change, especially in something as involved and life-changing as recovering from an eating disorder. Many things you once thought were impossible to do, think or feel become a regular part of your life as you become healthier in mind and spirit. While some people choose to do blind weights even after they are recovered (not out of fear, but because that works best for them), many make a goal to get to a place where a scale is just a scale and doesn’t dictate their emotions. They develop a new attitude about The Scale.