Numbers on a Scale: My Battle with Eating Disorders
I swallow the lump in my throat as I approach the robot responsible for my sense of worth. I disrobe, wishing there was more of me to shed. Hope and anguish slow-dance in my consciousness, each ready to be dismantled at a moment's notice.
I step onto the apparatus, aware, as always, that there are but two possible outcomes. I will leave either pleased or distraught. The former seems a welcome result, though its fleeting, problematic nature nullifies its glory.
I have been standing for what feels like millennia. My trembling body is increasingly aware of the absence of the layers upon which it depends for warmth.
I try to quiet my mind, though I know that in seconds, I will be rendered powerless by. Cold. Hard. Plastic. It stares right back at me, arrogantly aware of my longing for its approval.
Surely the number has dropped. It has to have dropped. I was so careful yesterday...I think...Was I? I recount every single thing that I consumed in my head, a daily practice for the past thirteen or some odd years.
I can't go through this again. So I toss away my pride, just as I did my clothing, and plead for cooperation. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to win the machine's allegiance.
Finally, the number appears on the screen. My heart sinks. 119.6. An increase of 0.4. That means I have gained a full four pounds in the past six weeks. How is this possible? I was so careful. I go through everything I ate yet again. I cannot for the life of me pinpoint the culprit. Now, I am drowning. It's hard to breathe in a sea of self-loathing.
I go back to my bed and stare at the ceiling. Self-defeating thoughts swirl around my cranium like disoriented fruit bats. Never do they overwhelm me more than after my encounters with that abysmal creation...except perhaps, for when I stumble upon mirrors. Mirrors are pretty good at it too.
I think back to the first time I felt fat. I was four. Somehow societal conditioning had already tarnished my thoughts, convinced me of my inadequacy. From that age, I knew that my sense of worth as a woman would depend upon numbers. On a scale. On a clothing label. It was the beginning of my enslavement.
There was the time when for months, I restricted my daily caloric intake to below 500, and was applauded by those around me for losing so much weight. Then there was the decade of hand-picking which meals would be allowed to remain in my body. A habit which went unaddressed by even my closest friends.
There were the dozens of fad diets and failed workout regimens. The times I shrunk into myself as I listened to my male counterparts picking apart the bodies of my sisters, as if bodies is all they are.
Denial kept me ill. I remember thinking that this behaviour, though unhealthy, could not possibly be problematic, for I, of course, was far too fat to have an eating disorder.
How could I admit it to myself when a simple mirror check confirmed the opposite? How could I tell anyone? They would laugh. How could I tell the very same people who cheered me on when I resigned myself to starvation?
I wasn't thin enough, I didn't look like the women on billboards and walking down runways. I had failed. I was too fat to accept my disorder. Too fat to seek help. Too fat to stop.
I have come a long way though, surmounted innumerable obstacles and slain demons which I never imagined could be slain. Somehow though, I am back here. Again.
How am I back here? How am I stuck in front of a mirror pinching at fat? How is my waistline puppeteering my self-esteem? I thought I was smart enough to know better. How, after all of this, am I still a slave to a fucking scale?
It is a few days later and those four pounds will not budge, mockingly strung upon my hips, a constant reminder of my shortcomings. Those four pounds which cause me to look at myself with distaste. Those four pounds that society urges me to diet and treadmill off. Those four pounds that render me inadequate, flawed, undesirable.
I'll hang on to those four pounds though, the ones that assure me that I am unworthy. I'll hang on to them because they keep me subservient in a society dominated by the opposite sex. I'll hang onto them because they keep me feeling undeserving. I'll hang on to them because so long as they control me, it is impossible for them to fade.
I’ll hang onto those four pounds because their loss would not satisfy me. In this pursuit, I am insatiable. At my lightest, I still wished that four more would drop, and four more after that, and then yet another four.
It is bigger than me though, this affliction. I think of the media’s constant proliferation of images of emaciated women; women fading away to nothing so that they may be considered beautiful. Conditioned to believe that they must be less to be more, that their success as women is dependent upon their measurements. That their hearts, minds, souls, are entirely irrelevant. That they are but faces, bodies, numbers on a scale.
I remain staring at the ceiling, exasperated, perplexed by my inability to rise above my stifling thoughts. I think about it logically but it is far too ingrained to be dismantled on this day. I know that I am strong, bold, courageous. I know that I am kind, loving, creative. I know that I am so much more than my outer shell but for now, I'm here again, just numbers on a scale.