In the summer after my first year of University, a friend and I decided to smash our scales.
I found the idea on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website (NEDA). and had been wanting to do it for a while since I’d gotten out of residential treatment a little over a year before. My friend was also in recovery and we thought it would be a great way to get out our remaining emotions about the constant distress and sadness our scales used to give us.
The premise of the scale smash is described by NEDA as: “a way to bring people together to talk about eating disorders and body image issues…Symbolically smashing away our individual and cultural collective preoccupation with body weight and shape can be a great tool for starting the conversation among participants, sharing information about eating disorders and providing resources for those who may be struggling” (http://nedawareness.org/sites/default/files/NEDAwareness_2015_ScaleSmash.pdf).
I think that one of the most important parts of this description, is the acknowledgment of the obsession over body weight being a societal issue, not just an individual one. Growing up, I always remember weight being a factor in my life. Whether it was a family member being on a diet, an overheard comment about how someone wanted to lose 10 pounds, or someone explicitly calling me fat – weight seemed to always somehow be involved. Once the onset of my eating disorder began, this of course didn’t change. Weight became a number to which I associated my value and worth as a person. In my mind, being overweight meant no one would like me, so I had to change that in order to be happy. Weight goes along with the scale hand in hand, since that’s how you’re able to keep track of what you weigh. As I began to lose weight, the scale became my best friend. I would always step on it, usually early morning before I’d eaten anything for the day, in order to get the most up to date number. If the number went up, my entire day was a bust; if the number went down, I felt an elation that most people might not even be able to imagine. The scale became such a huge part of my life during my eating disorder, but in treatment, I was rarely allowed to know my weight. It became routine to step on a scale backwards and hope that some how you would get a sneak peek of the number the nurse wrote down.
Once I finished treatment, it took a while for me to be okay with knowing my weight. I knew that it was just a number, that it didn’t mean anything, but it had been such a habit to give it power over me, that it took a while to adjust. So when I heard about the idea of the scale smash, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. My mom had hidden the scale from me in the midst of my eating disorder, so I asked her to get it out for me, in order to face my now enemy. (Side note: I’m not saying scales are horrible things and should never be used. In this case, the scale was my enemy because of what it represented in terms of my eating disorder. It had controlled me and fuelled my disease, so naturally I wasn’t a fan)
Smashing my scale was honestly such a cathartic thing. It felt so great to turn the tables so that I now had power over something that used to be such a determining factor in my life. I remember being hesitant at first, but after a few hits of my hammer, I was having a great time. I definitely smashed that scale, and it felt amazing to recognize the way my mindset had changed about weight in a tangible way.
In my life now, I rarely ever weigh myself. I usually only do it three to four times a year, when I visit the doctor. When I step on the scale, I see the number, take it in, and move on with my day. Obviously, sometimes I still get caught up on the number of my weight, but when I do, I am able to redirect my thoughts. I am able to reassure myself, and remind myself that weight does not equal worth. Also, as I continue to be more invested in gaining muscle, to a certain extent, gaining weight has become a good thing in my mind. Muscle weighs more than fat, so in order to get those gains, you have to gain a little bit of weight too. I have learned that gaining weight is not always a negative thing, and that a certain number on the scale, looks different on every body. Weight is a factor used by healthcare professionals to determine a persons health, but it is not used as a sole factor. It is combined with so many other things in order to make an observation. That being said, we shouldn’t be using our weight to determine whether we’re “fit enough,” or “healthy enough” and never to determine if we’re “good enough/”