Wednesdays are always tense at intensive outpatient because it’s a weigh-in day. Stepping on the scale midday while fully clothed and full from breakfast and lunch is guaranteed to show some weight fluctuation – something none of us really want to see – and so everyone is distracted on Wednesdays; brooding and disappointed, the patients are doing the quick math in their heads to see if they had lost or gained since the last weigh-in on Monday. In my case yesterday, I had gained.
“God dammit,” I muttered as I stepped off the scale. “God fucking dammit.”
I slunk out of the exam room and rejoined the women in the waiting area. My friend caught my eye and I grimaced in her direction, jabbing my thumb upward. She smiled sympathetically and pointed to herself, then held up two fingers: me, too.
During group, all I could think about was my weight: I gained since my last weigh-in. I’m getting so fat. I’ll never stop gaining weight. They have me eat so much food, it’s not fair. I hate my body. I hate it. My eyes began to sting – angry, hot tears were threatening to spill. I’m disgusting. I’m worthless.
“Alexa, how are you doing?” the therapist said, leaning forward in her chair. “You seem as though you’re struggling.”
All eyes on me; there’s no stopping the tears now.
“I really resent my body,” I began. “I feel resigned to it. I keep gaining weight and I want it to stop.” Someone handed me a box of tissues; I was crying, my voice rattling. “I don’t want to go outside where people can see me – I’m just so ashamed.”
At that moment, the Doctor ducked his head in – I was needed for rounds. It seemed awfully abrupt, especially after such a tearful admission – couldn’t it wait? Of course not, so I pulled myself from my chair and followed him, wiping the wetness from beneath my eyes and blowing my nose.
When we sat down, he blinked at me for a few short moments.
“Why are you upset?” he asked.
I looked down at the crumpled tissue in my hands. “Because I gained weight since the other day, and I don’t want to gain anymore.”
“Well, that’s a bit silly, don’t you think?”
I shrugged. I didn’t want to hear that I was being silly, not right now. He glanced at his notes from last week and then turned back to me. “You weigh less this week than you did last week, yet here you are, tearful and upset. Why is that?”
I was getting irritated. “Because it’s more than I weighed yesterday.”
“So do you want to be losing weight each day, until – what? You die?”
“No..” I trailed off.
“Then what? You’re still putting so much emphasis and power on this number – it’s influencing your whole mood. You gotta get yourself together! It’s just a number – you’re more than that.”
I’ve been reflecting a lot on my conversation with the Doctor; he gave me some much-needed perspective. The number is in no way indicative of the type of person I am, what my life goals are, how much love I have for others. It’s just math, something to do with gravity – it has no say over me as a person. At least, it shouldn’t.
I’m going to continue to remind myself that the number is just a number. I’m also going to get weighed with my back to the scale for a while, see if that helps to separate me from the actual number itself. I think my mood will improve a lot just by making that change..