Not long after my boyfriend and I moved in together, he sat down beside me and took my hand. Viscerally, I sensed that something pivotal was about to happen. He cleared his throat, looked into my eyes, and said four words that would change my life:
You are too thin.
I laughed—a nervous habit of mine, but also my go-to reaction when someone commented on my weight. It was a sensitive topic. Like a lot of people, I had been plagued with body image issues most of my life. They ran the gamut from disordered eating, to body dysmorphia, to being downright obsessed with my weight.
His gaze did not waver, and my laughter subsided when I realized he wasn’t joking. He explained how he had been concerned with how little I was eating. This, he said, amounted to scarcely enough nourishment to sustain the life of a small child.
I scoffed. I ate at regular intervals. Granted, it was never all that much, but I had traveled lightyears from the really bad times, when I starved myself nearly every day. I had quit that nonsense long ago.
So I watched what I ate. Big deal.
He squeezed my hand, and with a serious expression, continued. He said that, although he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, he believed that I was being unhealthy; my hip bones and ribs jutted out at disquieting angles, and I was putting unnecessary strain on my body.
Stung by these revelations, I felt myself reeling. I was crushed.
My face flushed and I could feel anger well up inside me. Who was he to criticize? Beyond what I had shared with him, what did he really know about the struggles I had faced? On some level I knew that his concerns probably had some merit. But wasn’t being a bit slim a good thing?
It was then that he delivered an ultimatum: I had to take better care of myself, or it wasn’t going to work out between us.
I put my head in my hands. Did he know that I weighed myself upon waking each morning, and how those numbers were often a dark shadow that followed me throughout the day? Did he know that every night when I got home, I got back on the scale?
I recalled how I became dizzy virtually every time I worked out, and how, whenever I started to make any real progress, I backed down because my weight increased. I thought about how my daughter would soon begin to emulate my restrictive eating habits, opening her up to the same body image issues I’d possessed for so long. That was the last thing I wanted for her. My heart sank.
It was true that I had made enormous progress over the years, but it was also true that my fear of gaining weight still had a firm grip on me. I would have been lying if I had said that I didn’t want to break free.
I stood up and walked upstairs, then down the hall into our bedroom. In the darkened ensuite, I picked up my scale. I clutched the calibrated piece of metal to my torso, and in that moment realized how much I detested it. I wanted to smash it into a thousand pieces.
Instead, I brought it downstairs and handed it to him. He wanted to help, and I was willing to accept the assistance. With a knowing look and without a word between us, he took the scale away.
In the weeks that followed, I did my best to grapple with the challenges of living without my erstwhile emotional barometer. At first, it was difficult, extremely difficult. I contemplated purchasing a new scale more than once. But I knew that if I did, I would be its prisoner.
Unbound by the confines of my relative mass, I began to work out harder, and I ate more—still healthfully, but enough to supply my body with what it needed. In turn, my figure metamorphosed into that of a more voluptuous woman.
I was astounded. My waist became smaller, hips wider, legs more muscular, and for the first time, I actually had some junk in the trunk!
There was a snag, of course, one morning when I discovered that none of my pants fit. Just as I was spooling up for a catastrophic brain-melt, my boyfriend swooped in. This was to be expected, he said. I didn’t want to see all of my ill-fitting pants, hanging forlorn in the closet, so I packed them into boxes. The next day we dropped them off at a donation center.
Time went by, and I bought some new pants. Then, one day, after booking a long-overdue physical exam, I realized that I would have to face my old foe. I hadn’t weighed myself in over two years.
When the time came, the nurse ushered me onto a scale. I took a deep breath, and gingerly dared to look down. When I did, I noticed something truly mind-blowing. The numbers were almost identical to what they had been, all those weeks and months ago. It turned out that my weight had actually held very little meaning all along. I smiled to myself.
So what if my old pants didn’t fit? I was happy, healthy, and finally free.