What it Feels Like to Hate the Number On the Scale

Warning: eating disorder, thoughts and behaviors mentioned in story. Julia Galway // As told to by Julia Galway

146.9…

138.6…

129.2…

118.4…

112.5…

Breathe, Julia, everything is going to turn out fine. You’re going to get through this. You’re not anorexic or anything; you just forget to eat. I’m losing weight in a healthy way. After all, calorie-cutting is normal, and it’s what nearly everybody does when they want to lose weight… right?

My mind had suffocated itself in its thoughts constantly, and to say it still doesn’t would be a lie. Throughout my whole life, I was always a healthy 125 pounds. During my sophomore year, my weight increased to nearly 150 pounds in a few months. Being 5’6 and 150 pounds isn’t bad; it’s actually considered normal, but I never stopped to realize that. It’s a healthy weight, but my mind was terrified that the extra fat on my stomach would mean people wouldn’t find me attractive. The cellulite that lived on the back of my thighs and the red stretch marks on my hips made me feel like I was less of a woman than I was, and the only remedy I knew of for this feeling was getting rid of it all; the extra weight… the imperfections… everything.

I had begun to eat less and less as the days went on during the summer between sophomore and junior year. I resorted to eating one meal a day that I thought was healthy enough for me to at least stay alive, but most importantly—at the time—to lose weight. Rice, peas and shredded chicken mixed together. One serving, that’s all. No more than that, but less was okay.

Within the duration of the summer, my healthy weight of 150 dropped significantly, tapering off at 109 until I started taking notice that if I stood for longer than ten minutes at a time, my vision would blacken, and I’d become nauseous. My hair I had loved fell out, my already-pale skin turned paler, my hands and feet became cold all the time from the lack of circulation, and I found myself dry heaving nearly every morning from how nauseous I was from the lack of food I was consuming. This whole weight loss thing was wrong; I was doing something wrong here.

Humans can’t live without food, that’s common knowledge, but when you’re a teenage girl being flooded with thoughts of perfection and needing to be a supermodel, you tend to forget these simple facts. I was living, but I wasn’t able to do anything without sitting down, or else I’d risk passing out. My friends had begun to take notice. I remember one time, I was in my friend’s basement, and she looked at me and told me my face looked sunken in and skinnier than usual. She then asked me if I was OK. The three other girls in the room agreed with her, and suddenly four girls were asking me if everything was OK. Though I knew I wasn’t, I looked at them and nodded, saying I was simply stressed out from my rocky home life and not to worry about me; all of us should keep partying and forget everything about my health. I couldn’t bear to speak about my problems.

Junior year came along, and when I opened up to some people, I realized that it wasn’t normal. My friend I sat with at lunch constantly made me finish my food, like an overprotective parent with their kid that was a picky-eater. Throughout the next year and a half, I spent countless hours debating whether to eat more than a mere 1000-calorie diet, when I realized that the restrictions were causing damage to my daily life.

Restrictions are good, don’t get me wrong. Things like limiting the amount of soda you drink, or how much of that cake you eat are normal things to keep in mind for health, but for someone who spent so much time restricting themselves to nearly the fullest extent, it wasn’t sustainable. So, I stopped restricting myself entirely. If I have an urge for McDonald’s, I have to get it. If I have a craving for an extra few chicken tenders, I have to eat them. My bank account may be hurting, but at least I wouldn’t be sitting in my room for 23 hours out of the day because that’s simply how much energy I had.

Working on my self-confidence and appreciation for myself and my body became a daily thing after a while, and I am still working on it to this day. My hope is that one day, I won’t have to work on it; it’ll just come naturally. Regardless, for the time being, I set aside time for me to focus on myself every day. Just an hour or two where I do what I want to do, whether that’s eating, watching TV, painting my nails, or anything like that– I have to allot some time out of my day for myself. It helps, don’t get me wrong, but there’s always that voice in the back of my head telling me that when I eat a whole Jack’s frozen pizza, I shouldn’t eat much for the rest of the day. I constantly have to remind myself that it is totally normal to eat more than average every once in a while, and it’s okay to be eating as a normal teenager does.

The image society perpetuates as the ideal woman is unattainable. As a woman, you have to have a slim waist but larger than average hips. Big breasts and a big butt, but if your breasts are larger than your butt, it’s not attractive. You have to have big thighs, but not so big to where there are stretch marks or cellulite. You have to have a flat stomach, even though that’s not healthy in the slightest for a woman’s body, simply because of how our organs lie inside our skin. This image plagues the minds of impressionable teenage girls, and it’s not until your hair is falling out and you look green every day that you realize that you fell victim to this image.

There are thousands of others who have gone through the same thing I did.

We all hated the number on the scale and waited for the day we started to look like Madison Beer or Addison Rae, just to realize that day was never going to come, and we needed to start loving ourselves for exactly how we are normally. In just a few months, I had lost myself along with that weight, and I’m still struggling a year later to eat like a normal person. Today I weigh 118 pounds. I’m not back to normal yet, but more importantly, I’m getting there.

If you know someone who is seriously struggling with binge eating, anorexia, bulimic tendencies or overly-restrictive diets, visit NEDA to find help, a person to talk to, or better coping strategies for unhealthy eating habits. It gets better, I promise.