Scale Phobia

weight-fluctuationI’m trying to get all my annual health exams done by the end of this week. Physical and blood work with my primary care physician. Skin exam by my dermatologist. Pap smear by my gyno (which is always … traumatizing). Follow-up and colonoscopy with my gastroenterologist (yay, ulcerative colitis!!). Six month dental cleaning. Eye exam… you get the picture. I want to do it all in one fell swoop because I dread going to the doctor. I always get worked up and anxious before I go in. While I guess that’s kind of normal, I don’t think my reason for it really is.

You see, I have an irrational fear of being weighed by someone. Weighing myself is bad enough, but having someone else do it, and record my weight on a chart makes me feel reduced to a number. In that moment, as I step onto the scale, the pull of gravity on the mass of my body defines me. It will determine whether I have a good day, or spend it beating myself up.

Here’s the thing: I know how much I weigh. I eat clean and exercise consistently. I’ve never been anywhere close to overweight, but I have battled anorexia and exercise bulimia. I know that my weight is not who I am, but I also know the scale has a powerful way of becoming an obsession for me. For that reason, I rarely weigh myself. Maybe every couple months. I don’t need to weigh myself to keep a steady weight, so I just don’t do it.

The last time I weighed myself was probably about two months ago. I weighed 114.8 (I’m 5’4”), which I’m fine with. However, I spent the entire week before my annual physical fearing that moment when I would be asked to step on the scale. Somehow, I was convinced I’d put on weight. I had no reason to think that. All of my clothes fit the same. My diet and workouts hadn’t changed. Yet, I was sure I’d step on the scale that morning and be devastated — that some huge number would be recorded. That I’d leave the office feeling compelled to do a marathon cardio session and eat nothing but ice chips for the next few days.

After I signed in and gave the receptionist my updated insurance information, I took a seat in the waiting room. I knew that when they called my name, a nurse would lead me down a short hall and stop at a small triage area, where it would happen…

“Jessica?” I looked up, and there she stood, smiling — the nurse who was about to wreck my day. I got up and followed her out of the waiting room. “We’re just gonna stop at the scale real quick so I can weigh you.”

“Ok,” I muttered.

I walked up to the scale, slipped off my sandals (which surely weighed at least a couple ounces), and stepped on. It was a digital scale, which I actually liked better. If I was going to be weighed, I wanted it to be a precise reading. I always felt like the nurses didn’t accurately weigh me on the traditional doctor scales — like they’d always record me half a pound heavier or something.

I looked down at the scale, and there it was. My reading. My self-worth for the day.


“114,” the nurse quipped as she noted it in my chart.

That’s what I was so worked up about. 114 is a perfect weight for my body structure. I didn’t think 114 was a bad number, but I sure as hell wasted a lot of energy on some irrational fears. For an entire week, I was stressed. Over that? 114. A number.

I left the doctor’s office feeling a little triumphant. See, Jessica, you had nothing to worry about. Why do you do this to yourself? At once, I decided I was going to stop that madness. No more scale phobia. No more wasting my precious energy on something so ridiculous. NO MORE!

Until about five days later, when it was time for my gastroenterologist appointment, and the whole thing happened all over again.

And I weighed exactly the same. 114.

I have two more appointments this week, and then I should be good for a year. One today, and one tomorrow, and I know I will be weighed at both of them. I’m not freaking out about it this time, but I still don’t like the idea. I still don’t want someone else to weigh me. Maybe part of this is trauma from a boss I had while I was in college. I was a personal trainer at Ballys (do they even exist anymore?), and I had gotten really into weight training at that point in my life. I was not fat by any means, but I was a lot more dense that I had ever been before. One day, my boss (who was a real chauvinist asshole) asked me, “Jessica, how much do you weigh?” Immediately, I slipped off into an emotional tailspin. Why is he asking me this? He thinks I’m fat. Am I fat? Oh my god, I’m fat. OH NO HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!

I told him I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t weighed myself in a while, which was the truth. “Come on,” he said to me. “It’s time to go weigh in.”

“What?” I asked. “Weigh in?” Was that even legal?

“Yep,” he smirked. “Come with me.” He started to walk over to the pro shop, where the scale was located, but I stayed put, completely paralyzed. When he turned around to see I wasn’t following him, he walked back over to me, threw me over his shoulder, carried me over to the scale, and planted me down on it.

I weighed 135 pounds.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “You’re going to need to get that under control, girl!”

Was this really happening?

In college, I was pretty quiet and full of insecurities. I was a mere fragment of the woman I am today. If something like that happened to me today, I’d be upset, but I’d go after that sonofabitch with no mercy. I’d let him know what a worthless piece of shit I thought he was, and then I’d walk out and never go back. And I’d do my best to have his job (I had plenty of other dirt on him already at that point. For as hefty as he apparently thought I was, he sure made lots of crude sexual comments to me).

But 19 year old Jessica and the 32-year-old me are two completely different women. So I didn’t do any of that. Instead, I trained the rest of my clients, then drove down, and had a total meltdown. I also stopped eating and exercised like a madwoman to drop 20 pounds in less than two months. I quit that job shortly after, but that moment was clearly one I’ll never forget.

I think that one day I’ll be triumphant over this, but it’s a work in progress. I recognize how ridiculous and irrational it is, but I wanted to share because I doubt I’m the only woman (or man, for that matter) who has ever felt this way. I hate being weighed so much that I actually put off doctor’s appointments because of it, and that is ludicrous.

So, what are your experiences with scale phobia? If you’ve overcome it, how did you do it? What do you think are the root causes of any scale-related fears you’ve ever had? I’d love to hear your stories.