Scaling Back

5 min read

I am in withdrawal after giving up the bathroom scale. After a year and a half of program, of going to meetings and working the Steps with a sponsor, I have finally succumbed to my sponsor’s suggestion (and experience I’ve heard from other members) to put the scale away.

For an OA member who is practicing abstinence and losing weight, the scale can become a new addiction. Oh, the joy of losing! I step on the scale and see the number drop another pound or two more! After I run, will it be even lower? One OA member called this “the high of losing and the low of gaining.” The pull of the scale greeted me first thing in the morning and was there all day—sometimes throughout the night—whenever I needed a hit. I needed it to feel better about myself, but if the number went higher, even by just a half pound (.2 kg), I would plunge into self-loathing.

At my home group meeting, I heard another member say, “I weigh on the first of the month, so I’ll have some more information to share with my sponsor.” Then we read a story in which the writer shared her need to always be on the scale. And it hit me: The scale owns me. I need to put it away. So I weighed myself on the first of the month and then put the scale away. On the second, it was freedom to say, “Oh, I don’t have to weigh this morning!” But all day, my thoughts led back to it. It was strange not to see it there on the bathroom floor. Now, after three days, I am in withdrawal.

The insanity of this compulsion really came to light last night. A family member was out very late and not answering his cell phone. I couldn’t sleep, and you can guess what I wanted to do: step on the scale. I kept thinking, well, if my weight is down from last time, then I’m okay (as if the number on my bathroom scale had anything to do with whether my family member was safe at three o’clock in the morning). But my feelings of worry, fear, and anger were building—feelings of being out of control and not knowing what was happening or what to do. Since I couldn’t eat, I needed the hit of the bathroom scale to feel okay.

Instead, I prayed. I prayed for his well-being and prayed to get a little sleep, because if anything was really wrong, I wouldn’t find out until morning and would need some sleep to deal with it.

This morning, I awoke to find him safely returned. I am running on three hours of sleep and still filled with those feelings of anger, but I’m not getting on the bathroom scale. I need a much bigger higher power than the forty-dollar, hardware store variety to help me through this day.

— Anonymous, Duluth, Minnesota

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