Letter: A scale can be a trigger

Recently, Carleton University’s fitness centre removed the scale from their gym. The result has been an overwhelming amount of backlash from the online community.

I understand where they are coming from, as a scale is a beneficial tool for many in their workout routine. That being said, I have a problem with how a lot of people have expressed their disagreement.

Looking at the comments on the articles from The Charlatan, the Ottawa Citizen and other outlets, you will see the mention of a snowflake generation, hurt feelings and jokes about what a trigger is. What people are failing to realize is triggering someone isn’t the same thing as hurting their feelings. In many cases it can be life-threatening.

For someone with an eating disorder, a scale can be a very dangerous thing. People in that position don’t always have the strength to “just not step on the scale” because they have become obsessed with that number, and have associated weight and body image so much with self-worth. If they are unable to resist getting on a scale, the results of that action can send them down a very dangerous spiral.

What a lot of commenters have failed to acknowledge is that for someone with an eating disorder, it’s not a choice.

People who suffer from eating disorders can’t choose to just not step on the scale because they have a mental and physical illness that affects them so strongly. But that isn’t what we are hearing in the response to this action from Carleton.

By making fun of triggers and just chalking it up to hurt feelings, we are not helping anything. Instead, these types of comments increase the stigma surrounding eating disorders and can be harmful to people reading them.

A few comments in particular really angered me. In response to an opinion piece on the matter from the Daily News, I saw Facebook comments that said if people don’t like the number on the scale, they should stop eating. This type of talk is literally what can cause someone to develop an eating disorder. This type of talk can be life-threatening.

I support anyone’s right to disagree with Carleton’s decision and express their opinions, so long as they do so in a respectful way. We can’t have a productive discussion if we are going to constantly be belittling people and downgrading their struggles.

An eating disorder is not a choice, or a diet, or a matter of just hurt feelings. It is a serious illness and we need to respect and acknowledge that in our arguments.

Maybe removing the scale entirely isn’t the right call. Carleton could instead try putting it in a less obvious location, so that people who could be negatively influenced by it don’t have to see it, and would then be less temped to step onto it. But no matter what your stance is we can all be better people.

Nobody wins when we are insensitive to the needs of each other and tear down someone else’s struggles. Go ahead and disagree with a decision, it’s your right to do so. Just be respectful towards others because you don’t know what they’re going through.