A few years back my daughter was collapsing while she was running her cross-country meets. It is not a good thing when you’re standing at the finish line, waiting for your daughter to blaze through and beat her Personal Record, and instead you see her coming and she’s slow and pale and stumbling. And crosses the line and falls into your arms.
Her doctor had her tested for everything possible before she would let her run again. And what we found out – my daughter was “starving.” She literally wasn’t getting enough fuel – not enough energy, not enough food – to run as hard as she was running. So she would collapse.
She went on a high-calorie, high-fat diet and gained six pounds in six weeks. And stopped collapsing. But she was worried that somehow she would drop the weight and get in trouble again. So she asked if she could get a scale.
Now, I’ve gone years without a scale. Intentionally. I was anorexic in college and a scale, I was sure, would be bad news. I didn’t want to risk getting addicted again to stepping on the scale every morning and checking my weight. And I honestly didn’t know if I could live with a scale in my house and not step on it every morning and check my weight. I am currently in good shape, even I can admit that. I exercise, in some form, nearly every day because I enjoy it. But I also have to admit that if I go a few days without exercising, my mind tries to tell me that I’m fat. Even though I know that’s not true.
But my daughter asked. She wanted it to make sure she didn’t lose weight. The irony was not lost on me. And I wanted to do it for her. So we did. We got a scale. We keep it in her bathroom, and I’m happy to say I pretty much forget that it’s there. I don’t rush to it in the morning. I don’t have a relationship with it. I don’t worship it or nor am I afraid of it. I move it when it’s in my way.
It used to be very different. I’ve pasted below an excerpt from Way Out that gives a sense of what it was like to be in my head around food. It was not pretty. But I’m proud to say that today I can live with a scale.
As evening came, I’d walk down the hill from the library, oblivious to the beauty around me, hoping I wouldn’t run into anyone who suggested we eat dinner together. Dining on my own meant fewer questions.
Making it safely, alone, to the dining hall that was nearest our apartment, I grabbed a tray and headed towards the obstacles I had to face before I could fall into bed with a flat stomach. My eyes darted around the room to make sure I avoided everyone so that I could eat in peace. At the same time I steeled myself to overcome all the threats around me. The bread table. The ice cream freezer. The entrée line. The smells. I didn’t know how to avoid the smells. How to dislike the smells.
Quickly I made my way over to the salad bar, grabbed a plate, and piled it with lettuce. Lettuce was safe. Carrots were okay. A bit sweet, but okay. Cucumbers were mostly water. Green peppers. I didn’t like them, but at least they were low in calories. I pushed past the avocados – too fattening – past the croutons, past the cheese. As a treat, I poured on some vinegar. I liked vinegar; somehow its acidity always made me feel like it was burning calories.
I grabbed a fork and a glass of water – I was good to myself and drank a lot of water – and made my way to the loft dining area, upstairs, away from the smells. I looked around the room, searching for a spot in the corner where I could sit and eat. But every once in a while…
Shit. There was Virginia, a girl in my Psych class.
“Hey,” she called. “Come on over.”
Trapped. “Uh, sure.” I made my way over to her table and took a seat. And smelled her food, as she stared at my plate.
“That’s all you’re eating?”
“I had a huge lunch and something a little while ago at the Straight.” I looked away, just in case my face revealed my dishonesty.
“Wow, I wish I had your restraint.”
We talked about boys, classes, our professor – who knows what. I pushed my food around and took a few bites, waiting long enough before I could get up without seeming too rude. I had to get away. I interrupted Virginia in the midst of a story, a sentence even. “Uh thanks,” I said. She stared at me. “I gotta study,” I lied. “I’ll see you in class.”
With that I pushed back my chair, grabbed my tray, and practically ran down the stairs – away from the food, the smells, and the people. As I fled, it hit me. I had eaten so much, had too little control. I was disgusting. “I’ll do better tomorrow. I won’t have green peppers. I won’t use vinegar. I’ll do better tomorrow.”