…with the scale. Yes, the bathroom scale. The thing that tells you how much you weigh. Kind of.
Scales aren’t accurate
Depending on what time of day it is, whether you’ve eaten recently or not, how much water you’ve drunk recently, how much humidity is in the air, whether or not you’ve gone to the bathroom, what time of month it is (if you are female), if you’ve exercised recently, how stressed you are, if you’ve properly digested your food—do you see where I’m going with this? So many factors contribute to what someone weighs at any given moment during the day, week, month, or season. Someone can weigh themselves on the same exact scale several times a day (and I used to do this so I know from experience) and see the number fluctuate within 5 to 8 pounds or more of the first reading.
Furthermore, all scales are different even though whoever owns it swears their scale has been specially calibrated and is the most accurate scale on the planet. I remember getting ready for my annual physical exam when some of my weight started coming off—I think it is around when I lost 20 pounds from my heaviest point. I remember not drinking any water before bed or that morning, not eating breakfast, going to the bathroom first and then weighing myself on my scale with the clothes I was wearing to the appointment. I remember being pleased with the number and being excited to show the doctor how much weight I’d lost.
|If my scale says that's what you weigh, then that's what you weigh.|
I got to the appointment, pretended the water cooler was not staring at me in the waiting room, went to the bathroom again, and then stepped on the scale again. It said I weighed 3.5 pounds MORE than my scale at home said. NOOOOOOO! I remember telling the nurse it wasn’t right—and of course she said that they have a specially calibrated scale with a high tech digital mechanism and maybe a flux capacitor so if it says I lost 16.5 pounds instead of 20, then that’s the truth and it’s carved in stone.
I remember feeling so defeated that all I wanted to do was go drink a gallon of water (which my body surely needed at that point) and stopping at Dunkin Donuts on the way home for a 500+ calorie chocolate chip muffin and several 500+ calorie donuts (which my body certainly did NOT need). I admit that I did stop and get that muffin—although I held off on the donuts.
Scales do not define who we are or determine our self worth.
I’ve shared with you before that I’ve been all over the place in terms of weight. I’ve been underweight, I’ve been overweight, and I’ve finally achieved balance. But I have to tell you that even when my weight began to normalize, I was still obsessed with the scale and those numbers really wreaked havoc on my self esteem. If the number was pleasing, I started the day in a great mood, feeling confident and self-assured. I put on a smart and sassy outfit (maybe even a sexy one), and felt great. I held myself up higher, and seemed to be much more productive. I had more patience with my kids and had pleasant conversations with whomever I encountered. I’d eat healthy, get a workout in, and just feel great.
But then I weighed myself again later in the day (which I knew was a dumb idea in my head but for some reason my feet just kept walking me over to the scale anyway), and the number would be different—usually higher since I’d eaten or for some other reason that had nothing to do with my actual weight or health. And then my day would take a turn. I’d start snapping at my kids, lose interest in cooking a healthy dinner and order a pizza instead, not feel motivated to write or work or do housework, crawl on the couch with a bag of chips, and just feel horrible about myself. I’d change out of my smart and sassy outfit and put on sweats. I’d wash off my makeup. And I’d feel horrible about myself. And so begins the vicious cycle—of course eating a pizza and a bag of chips would make the number on the scale the next morning even worse. And I’d want to punish myself then by not eating, or comfort myself by staying in bed and not being productive—there were a lot of really negative emotions and behaviors going on. ALL BECAUSE OF THE NUMBERS ON THE SCALE.
If I hadn’t weighed myself at all the entire emotional roller coaster would never have even happened. This behavior continued for many months. It changed when I began working with clients and hearing how often many of them weighed themselves and how it made them feel throughout the day—elated, defeated, strong, weak, skinny, fat—all because of the stupid scale. By seeing and hearing how the scale was getting in the way of their progress and their ability to meet their goals of health and happiness I was able to see that I had to stop this behavior myself once and for all.
So I broke up with the scale.
I quit the scale cold turkey. I decided it wasn’t going to dictate how I felt about myself or whether or not I had a good day or not any longer. I was still losing weight, and instead of tracking my progress on the scale I instead paid more attention to how my clothes fit and how I looked in the mirror and how I felt throughout the day. I also felt that I needed to do this in order to be a better example for my kids as well as my clients.
If people are losing weight and they have a significant amount to lose, it might be helpful to get a baseline weight and then check back in every 2 or 3 months—but I highly discourage daily or even weekly weigh-ins. I don’t think it helps keep people accountable and I don’t think it motivates people. After seeing how my clients were negatively affected by the scale and after reflecting on my own past behaviors and emotions that were governed by the scale, I really believe the scale does more harm than good.
Eating disorders have many different roots—I’m not saying that using a scale causes eating disorders; but I do believe that it can contribute to their development in people who are at risk, and I also feel that it can make an existing disorder much worse.
I still get weighed at doctors’ appointments (which are few and far between), and I have to admit that I still cringe if the number on their scale seems “off” to me—but I no longer let it ruin my day or allow it to move me into unhealthy behaviors and bad choices. If you feel like your scale has too much of an effect in your life, it’s time to ditch it.
If you need help breaking up with the scale, I’d be happy to offer you one-on-one support. Check out my health coaching website or email me for a free consultation.