Here’s the deal with weight-loss and scales: There is absolutely no number on the scale that will result in, “Yep, we got it, we hit the mark, now we are done dieting, trying the next “lose weight quick” trick, restricting, bingeing, purging, over exercising, taking laxatives, etc. We have arrived.” Whether you are struggling with an active eating disorder, in recovery from an eating disorder, or have body issues that result in yo-yo dieting, or have body image issues that result in (fill in the blank); it is unlikely there will be much benefit in utilizing your scale under the influence of said body image issues. In other words, go home you’re drunk.
Eating Disorder therapists often use blind weights or weigh-ins to refer to the act of weighing someone and not disclosing the number on the scale, this is to decrease obsession with weight and decrease anxiety associated with weight gain. The number can’t impact you if you don’t know what it is. Blind weighing is also useful in eating disorder recovery because it keeps you in the present moment. When the focus isn’t on the number on the scale, we can focus on the more important things like, your recovery and the life you are building.
A big variable in eating disorder treatment is control, trusting your therapist with the weight is exposure to balancing a long-term recovery challenge of trust and control. I tell my clients, “I’ve got it,” my eye on the progress AND their back. I treated a guy years ago who lost over 100 pounds, when his treatment ended he said, “I don’t think I would have lost all my weight if every week I had to think about my ups and downs.” If he knew he was up .5 pounds, down 2 pounds, up 4 pounds, down 2 pounds, etc. it likely would have created huge obstacles in his progress. It causes too much anxiety and distorted thinking (see above). Blind weights take one symptom off the table which can lead to significantly less obsessive thinking and preoccupation with the weight.
The number on the scale is outsourcing self-worth, without the number we learn to find other indicators to determine how we are doing. As a therapist, I am not thrown by the fluctuations, I am not attached to the number, I am in the business of recovery. We focus on the recovery and let weight loss be an outcome rather than a goal. Yes, you will lose weight when you stop bingeing, purging, over exercise, etc.; yes, you will gain weight when you stop restricting, over exercising. Yes, it will be difficult. It will be really hard at times. No, it will not be as painful and difficult as being in an active eating disorder. And full recovery is possible, I am lucky enough to see people transform and build lives free from the grips of their eating disorders.
To My “Yeah But, Naysayers”
There are a few, very rare occasions, when I find weight to be effective metric in eating disorder treatment. There is a reality testing component that is effective in helping to manage body dysmorphia and distorted perception of self. Meaning after an extended period being disconnected from the way one’s body actually is in reality, knowing one’s weight can help keep the recovery and the eating disorder grounded in reality, in real time. The other time is when a client and I contract around them allowing me to weigh them in return for them agreeing not to obsessively weigh themselves at home. I make a commitment to tell them if their weight fluctuates more than 5 pounds in either direction. Other than that, weight and scales really don’t have much utility in eating disorder recovery.
Other Self-Worth Metrics to Focus on:
If you are struggling with an eating disorder call NEDA Helpline at (800) 931-2237 and get connected with resources, services, and eating disorder specialists in your area. You are not alone.
Originally published at www.meghanbreen.com