Bad Body Image and Throwing Out the Scale
By: Laurel Haislip
tw: eating disorders
I haven’t stepped on a scale in years.
For some people, visual confirmation of their healthy choices (was choosing that salad really worth it?) is routine behavior that keeps them on track with their appearance. But for me, it became dangerous. There was a time, not all that long ago, where I began weighing myself regularly, even obsessively. Upon first waking up, I’d weigh myself. After eating breakfast, I’d weigh myself. I’d do it again after lunch, again before dinner. Each time I watched the numbers fluctuate up and down, and my self-esteem with them. I’d go from feeling thin and hungry in the morning to pudgy and self-deprecating after a meal, even though the difference was only a few pounds.
I love food. An eating disorder has never been something I’ve had to worry about or that I can pretend to understand. But eventually I realized that what I was doing to myself was, nonetheless, self-destructive. I was caught in a vicious cycle where the number on that scale determined my mood, how much I enjoyed my food, and how I viewed myself. It was becoming a dangerous dependency.
Today I am healthy, happy, and appreciate what I eat. I’m training for a half marathon this spring. I love my body and I don’t care how much it weighs. And the funny thing is, I’m thinner and happier than ever before. By stepping away from the numbers I have learned to estimate my weight by how I feel, not what the scale tells me. I have become in tune with my body, allowing it to work in sync with my lifestyle.
Scales have their purpose, but for many they are harmful. In a culture where we are told that thinner is better, generating numbers to represent our physical being reduces us to just that: numbers. What about a culture where healthy is best? Where healthy proportions and high physical self-esteem are admired? Today, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 91% of college women have attempted to control their weight through dieting and 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8. Not only that, but the mortality rate of female teenagers with eating disorders is 12 times higher than that of other causes of death for that age group. This is a very real problem, and it’s affecting more of us than we like to admit.
A culture entrenched in media and visual self-projection doesn’t help. Models, athletes, and actors/actresses give visual evidence that, especially for women, success and skinniness go hand-in-hand. And we buy into it. Rather, we can focus on eating right, exercising, and loving the body we’ve each been given. Stop worrying if you can’t fit into those size 2 jeans. Stop worrying what people think about your appearance. Stop giving the scale power over your self-esteem. If you are happy and in tune with your body, that is enough. You are enough.