CW: This post talks about weight loss and weight gain.
Weight is a fraught topic in today’s society. There, I’ve said it. We all know it, so why hide from it? In rebellion and for self-protection, I have refused to have a scale for many years. I kept track of my weight just enough to know if I needed to adjust my medications. This was easy to do when doctors weighed me at each appointment (though I don’t know why, since of of them ignored it, even when there was a sudden change.) But then Covid-19 came, and I stopped seeing doctors on a regular basis. Now I’m struggling with whether or not to buy a scale.
I grew up in a house of mixed messages. My parents criticized those who judged people based on their weight, yet they judged people based on their weight. I’m not sure if they were even aware they were doing it. I am aware that carry that judgement with me. “Fat” was used as an insult, and I feel judged for being overweight now.
In my teens I was diagnosed as anorexic. I had lost a lot of weight. One day I looked in the mirror and saw how thin I was. In horror, I ran to my mother for help. I told the doctors that I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but they still said that I was anorexic because I sometimes skipped a meal here or there. I did not skip meals every day, maybe a few each week. They ignored the fact that I had frequent diarrhea, cramping, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. They insisted that I eat more. By drinking high calorie shakes and eating more meals every day, I managed to gain enough weight to no longer be in danger. Then the issue was completely dropped.
Whenever I spoke about my struggle to gain weight, people told me how lucky I was. I was constantly sick, lacking nutrients, and feeling weak, and that made me lucky? No one understood the struggle. Today I need to lose weight, and that is considered socially acceptable. But why? This makes no sense.
I am a victim of society’s messaging as much as anyone else. I try hard to resist it, but that is much easier said than done. I see the thin women in tv shows and think that if only I lost weight, I would be prettier. Then I consciously remind myself that it doesn’t work that way. Still, I’m not happy about the bulge around my middle. Or the expansion of my butt and boobs, the jiggle of my underarms, my growing chin.
Like I said, one way I deal with all of this is to not weigh myself. In recent years, my weight plan has been simple: if I have gained weight and my knees and/or back are hurting more, then I need to lose weight. If my knees and back are ok, then I need to accept it. That works as long as we’re talking about a few pounds here and there. But last year, suddenly, it wasn’t just a few pounds.
I am short, so for me, 5 pounds is a big weight gain. Imagine my shock when I gained 15 pounds in just a few months! I was exercising as much (or maybe even a bit more) as before and my diet hadn’t changed. I had recently started a new medication, though. Tracking my weight was one way to determine the proper dose of that medication. We began lowering the dose, and the weight gain stopped, but it didn’t reverse. Then the pandemic started, and follow-up care was difficult. As things eased up over the summer, I was able to begin lowering the dose again. It has to be done slowly, so I lowered it a tiny bit and then waited a month. Sure enough, I seemed to be losing weight, but was it an illusion? My pants fit a bit better, but since I was wearing only stretch pants, it was hard to judge. My jeans no longer fit after last year’s big weight gain. I had planned to buy some in my new size before this winter, but that was before the pandemic started. Obviously I am not going to stores to try on clothes, so the stretchy pants will have to do. So did I really lose any weight? If I did, I think it has stopped, but it would help to know before we adjust my medication further.
The answer is obvious: buy a scale. I am not risking virus exposure to get weighed at a doctor’s office. My worry is that if I have a scale in my home, I might become fixated on the numbers. I could make a rule: weigh myself once a week and not look at it in between. But once a week seems like a lot. Maybe once a month would be better? I suspect, though, that I would be tempted to sneak a peek in between. It would be so easy to take a quick look, and to use this scale as a rare empirical measurement of my health. The problem, of course, is that weight is only one data point. Even if I lost 20 pounds (which would put me back into the “normal” range, and based on past experience, would be a good weight for me) that doesn’t mean I would be “healthy”. I would need to be careful not to try to use my scale to measure whether my health is improving. I would have to remember that health and weight are not the same thing.
On top of that, what if I begin to engage in unhealthy behaviors in order to lose weight? There are two ways to lose weight in a healthy way: exercise more or eat less. I might try to exercise more. With my joint problems and adrenal fatigue, this would likely create all sorts of problems. Yet if I’m out on a walk, it might be tempting to walk for “just a few more minutes.” And I should, right? After all, my doctors tell me to. But I know my body and I know what it needs, and what I’m doing right now works, so I shouldn’t mess with that. Still, I know myself, and I’m likely to try and push for “just a little bit more.”
As for eating less, to be honest, I don’t want to mess with food. First I had years of being sick. Then I had years of being sick and being told I had to eat more. Then I had years of being sick told it was IBS (it wasn’t.) Then I went on restrictive diets and, miracle of miracles, the gastrointestinal symptoms finally stopped! But then eating became difficult, especially when I wasn’t at home. I could not longer grab something at any random restaurant. Eating out with friends involved me researching restaurants in order to find one that had 3 items on the menu that I could eat. Food was no longer fun. I struggle to eat in ways that are healthy not only physically but mentally and emotionally. So no, I do not want to add attempts to eat less to all of that.
And that brings me back to my initial problem: needing to track my weight without paying too much attention to my weight.
Let’s face it, I’ll probably get a scale. I don’t know if I will be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine and, even if I can, it’s going to be a long time before things normalize to the point where I am regularly getting weighed at doctors’ offices. Meanwhile, I am taking my own pulse with an app on my phone, checking my hair loss and complexion in the bathroom mirror, keeping a daily symptom log, and generally doing all I can for my health. The truth is, I need to know if my weight is changing, and I can’t trust myself to eyeball it or guess based on how my pants fit. The key is that I need to learn how to not judge myself for whatever number appears there. That’s easier said than done, but I’m going to work at it.