After waiting several minutes in the waiting room for my first doctor visit on July 8, 2016, my husband was escorted to an exam room, and I was escorted to a scale.
Side note: When I was 7, and I had “gotten fat.” I knew I gained weight because I had this awesome orange sweater with a penguin on it. It fit perfectly at the beginning of 2nd grade, and by the end of the school year, my mother told me to put it in the “garage sale” box because I was too big for it.
I remember the exact moment the scale changed from a simple, subjective object to an emotionally charged monster that measured my self worth. We didn’t have a scale at home, and we were weighed twice a year. At the end of 2nd grade, I emotionally connected the scale in gym class with the loss of my favorite sweater. My first diet came in 4th grade, or when I was 9. My parents gave me a product called “Get In Shape, Girl.” I had the ribbon edition, see below:
Get In Shape, Girl came with an audio cassette that would shout out the exercises I was to perform with my ribbon. In the upstairs hallway of my childhood home, I ran back and forth with my ribbon several times a week for months. This product didn’t teach me that exercise is important; it taught me that because I was fat, I didn’t get to have real toys or have real fun. Nope. Being fat meant that your “play” was exercise.
But, the diet didn’t work. My parents felt it was important to humiliate me for my weight but did not feel it was important to educate themselves on proper nutrition for their children or themselves. When I stepped on the scale at the end of school that year, I hadn’t lost any weight. Instead, I gained a pound. I worked so hard. My mother told me my weight was good because at least it was just one pound unlike the other years where I had gained so many. When I got home that day, I put the damn ribbon and the cassette tape in the “garage sale” box. End side note
The gym scale eventually turned into a bathroom scale in my childhood bathroom which turned into my own scale in college and graduate school which turned into a scale at my husband’s house when I moved in. That was the end of scales in my life until after the information session. We brought a digital scale into our apartment that was not wide enough for me to stand on without squishing myself onto it performing a feat of balance. I was too fat to fit on a scale purchased at Target.
The first time I stepped on the scale the number appeared was the largest number I had ever seen or will ever see again. The number was terrifying; I instantly screamed and cried. I didn’t have a penguin sweater to tell me about the weight I had gained. I had simply filled out my big and baggy clothes a bit more.
I knew I was going to be weighed at this first appointment, so I wore my favorite blue jeans, my Bob’s Burgers T-Shirt that read “Tina is my animal spirit,” and sandals. I made sure both my stomach and bowels were completely empty. As I look back on the decision of what to wear and being completely empty for that weigh in, I wish I had made a different one. I would have worn a coat, kept my shoes on and eaten a massive meal beforehand. This would have given me a bit more ammunition in the fight against the weight loss war that was to come.
I was scared. I was afraid the doctor would reject me for the gastric sleeve surgery. After I had accepted this was the path I was going to take, I feared the doctor would block my entrance. I made sure I was as light as I could be in order to get clearance to begin the journey.
The scale, much like the chairs at the weight loss clinic, is an exaggeratedly large size. It is double the size of the scale at my primary care doctor’s office, which doesn’t sound odd upon first glance, except that the scale at the primary doctor’s office is handicapped accessible to accommodate people in wheelchairs. The scale at the weight loss clinic can accommodate at least 2 people in wheelchairs.
I was told to remove my shoes and step on the scale. As I did this, a new ritual was born. Every single time I stepped on the scale in front of these people, I was greeted with a “mmm-huh” noise and a loud pen scribbling down the number. The number was clearly visible to me, as it was also much larger than necessary.
This scale became my enemy and my obsession. That number was the number they would use to calculate my pre-surgery weight loss requirement.
Every weigh in is a nightmare on this scale because no matter how large my obsession with that number was, it could never outweigh the clinic’s. You were “good” if the number was the right one, and “bad” if it wasn’t. To them, I’m a statistic. My success with the number on the scale means one more notch in their belt of one more person either becoming a success story or a failure.
Even when I hit their goals, they do not praise me in any way. They never tell me I’m doing a good job with my weight and obviously following their program. I wonder what they are striving for. What sort of “perfection” do I need to be?
I was escorted back to the exam room where my husband was sitting on a giant chair, his hand open so I could put mine in his.