Project RED-S Team Member, Professional Counsellor, and Olympic Skier, Holly Brooks, shares her experience of weighing scales and numbers.
Let me share with you a personal encounter that got me pondering the weight-related challenges many people face, especially those recovering from eating disorders and RED-S. I recently met with a client who used to be a college athlete and is currently in active recovery. During a routine doctor's appointment, she was asked to step on a scale before entering the exam room. Without hesitation, she turned around to avoid seeing the number on the scale. This proactive step to protect her mental health made her proud, and it got me reflecting on the significance of numbers and scales.
For many individuals with complex relationships with food and body image, the number on the scale can feel like a defining factor. It can have an enormous impact on our self-worth and trigger various emotions. If the number is low, it can be perceived as a success, while a higher number can lead to feelings of crisis. As a therapist who has worked extensively with athletes, I know how detrimental and unsustainable it is to rely solely on weight as a measure of health. This narrow focus can cause immense pressure and negatively affect athletes' relationships with their sport.
If this resonates with you, here are some tangible recommendations regarding the scales:
If seeing your weight on the scale triggers negative emotions, try stepping backwards on the scale. Remember, you don't owe anyone an explanation for your actions.
Be aware that your weight might be included in medical records or blood test results. If you receive such information via mail or email, it can be helpful to have a trusted friend or family member review it on your behalf.
If you're an athlete struggling with your relationship with food and body, consider seeking support from a licensed therapist or recovery coach who specialises in the area of food and body images. It's essential to choose carefully, as the influence of diet culture can unfortunately seep into the "experts" in this field.
Finally, if you're a health practitioner, I encourage you to ask each patient whether they would like to face or face away from the scale during weigh-ins. By normalising this choice, it becomes easier for those grappling with disordered eating or an unhealthy relationship with their body to choose a path of recovery rather than perpetuate harmful practises. Taking this small step can alleviate a significant amount of suffering.