Back in late 2011 and early 2012, while I was pregnant with my third child, my self-esteem really took a nose-dive. The pregnancy was normal and free of any real complications. My weight gain was pretty average. For the most part, things were good. Things were consistently good until my at-the-time husband called me over Skype. He was deployed, so that was our means of communication. He called almost daily and that was absolutely part of the problem.
During every call, he commented on how fat I was getting. I was a “whale”, I was “blowing up”, I was “enormous”. By the end of the pregnancy, he had made so many comments about my weight that I had become embarrassed to take my clothes off around him.
After my daughter was born, I bought a scale. My use of this scale start innocently. I would eat normally and workout. At the end of the week, I’d weigh myself. Surely, if I made any progress, the scale would reflect it. It didn’t. No matter what I did, the number didn’t budge. Then he came home from deployment. It’s not that I didn’t want him to. I did. But, after everything he had said to me during the deployment, I didn’t exactly want to be there when he came home. But, there I was.
The next several months were a continuation of those same fights and comments about my weight. What started as weekly weigh-ins became daily. Daily became several times a day. I had let him push me to a point of obsession with my weight.
I no longer wanted to be seen in photos unless I was the one taking those photos. He began walking at a distance from me in public and suddenly stopped showing affection in the presence of others. And I was obsessively weighing myself.
I’ve watched myself, for years now, stepping onto the scale several times a day and being disappointed with the number. When the number disappoints me, I cut back on eating, restricting myself to one meal a day. Then I get on the scale after a week or so of this behavior and see that it has made no real difference, so I binge on food (mainly junk food) to feel better about it. And the number goes up a bit. I go through nearly everything in my closet trying to find an outfit that looks at least decent on me. I stand in front of the mirror, extremely disappointed with the way my body looks in my clothes. And then I buy oversized stuff to hide all of the lumps and bumps.
Now, nearly a decade later, I am slowly beginning the road to recovery. After eight years of back and forth between binge-eating and restrictive eating, I am working on healthier eating habits. Eating a minimum of three full meals a day takes effort. I’ve gotten so use to my self-created patterns that I have to force myself to eat that many times a day, but I’m doing it. Reminding myself to have a healthy snack in between takes effort too, but it keeps away other bad habits like binge-eating. And I’m working on restricting how often I weigh myself. Right now, it’s once in the morning and once at night instead of doing so every time I go to my bathroom. I intend on continuing to restrict it further until I no longer rely on my scale as proof of progress.
Eating disorders aren’t always black and white. And I do not say this to make light of more severe eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or binge eating disorder. As a matter of fact, I’ve been hesitant to see it as an eating disorder because I felt like I was being disrespectful to others who have suffered at the more extreme ends of the spectrum. But, that’s what it is and it’s not always so clear cut. Sometimes, it’s scale obsession followed by restrictive eating followed by more scale obsession followed by binge eating.
I am still learning to determine my worth by who I am rather than by how much I weigh. It is a constant battle to remind myself that the number of calories I eat matters less than what those calories consist of. Eventually, I won’t need to have a conversation with myself about eating right. It’ll come naturally.
In the meantime, if you see photos of food in my Instagram feed at the bottom of my blog, it’s me documenting my meals to help myself.
You are no less valuable at a size 16 than a size 4. You are no less valuable as a 32 A than a 32 C.Mary Lambert