Step away from the scale. (Seriously.)

June 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm 3 comments

Since October 2010, I have managed to not step on a scale. That’s right. I haven’t weighed myself in over 6 months.

And damn it feels good.

I was inspired to take this action by a professor whose class I was a Teaching Assistant for, and I am so grateful for her wisdom.

I have felt my healthiest – emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually – during this time. I have been able to focus on exercises and foods that taste good and make me feel healthy, rather than being chained to the scale. I have been able to make peace with my body for what it actually is, rather than for the number that appears on the scale.

Because it is, after all, just a number. But we attach so much meanings to those numbers. And as a result, only make ourselves miserable.

Most days, I find it easy to show up in the workout room, do my thing, and leave without feeling tempted to step on the scale. Once I made the decision to not weigh myself, I just didn’t. However, there are some days I really really really want to weigh myself. And I noticed that the days I really want to get on the scale are the days when, for some other reason – unemployment, relationships, whatever, I feel sad, and upset, and basically just like shit. So that desire to get on the scale makes me check in with myself: “hey self, what is it that you’re feeling, why are you feeling this way, and how can we get out of this rut?” It is because I know the scale is bad, poisonous, self-defeating that I am able to recognize that my desire to weigh myself is really me feeling other negative things.

Some of you may be thinking: “well how do I know how healthy I am if I don’t know how much I weigh?” First of all, if you are eating and exercising in balance with the rest of your life, and listening to what your body wants, needs, feels, then your weight is going to figure itself out. Seriously. your body is SMART. It knows your optimal weight, and if you are really truly honestly exercising and eating certain things because you want your body to feel (not look) good, then your true weight will follow. And I believe that dieting and working out to lose weight is not the same thing.

Also. Realistically, your weight probably doesn’t change that much over the course of a whole year anyway. If at all.

Second, and just as important, weight does not equal health. I will say it again: weight does not equal health. And there are a lot of reasons for that, but they are not the same thing. It is important to question assumptions, and a lot of people assume weight and health are correlated, and they often move toward causation, where high weight causes poor health outcomes, but those assumptions do not necessarily  hold up. The best example is a really thin person who might be anorexic. Not healthy, but low weight. Or even naturally skinny people who don’t exercise ever. (Yeah, it happens) Not healthy. But it goes the other way, too. People just have different bodies.

Look, fat shaming is not going to make people pursue a healthy lifestyle to allow their body to find its optimal weight. I don’t think its realistic to approach exercise and food intake with the idea that you want to lose weight, rather than  be your healthiest. Because the first one is about hate/self-loathing, wheras the latter is more about love/self-care.

And to bring it back to my main point, stepping on the scale tends to make us feel hollow, shallow, disgusted. Even if you lose a few pounds and are temporarily joyful, I don’t believe for one second that that “good feeling” is a lasting one. Eventually, we will plateau or even appear to gain a few pounds, and the vicious cycle begins. Plus its artificial.

Why let a number dictate what kind of day you will have or the type of mood you are in?

So I challenge you to love yourself enough to give up the scale. I did. And I’ve never felt better.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kayla  |  June 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Hey Steph-

    Great post. I agree on many counts. I think what’s important is to be healthy, not a number.

    That being said… The scale really helped me. Two years ago I was dangerously overweight. I was 5’8 and nearly 200 pounds. If I hadn’t had a scale, I wouldn’t have been able to track my progress because waiting for my clothes to feel different, for me, wouldn’t have been enough. I’m so so so glad I lost that weight. Every day I feel proud of myself for not having reached

    Secondly, I have to disagree with your point about weight =/= health. Very often it does. Obesity is very likely to increase heart disease and risk for heart attack. Obesity undoubtedly, unreservedly, and incontrovertibly is harder on your joints. Particularly your hips, knees, and ankles. Any doctor in the world will tell you that.

    Third, our bodies are smart, but sometimes we do need numbers to help jolt us back into real life. My body is/was smart, but 200 pounds is NOT the weight a 5’8 woman should be, or wanted to be. I was 200 pounds because I was leading an unhealthy lifestyle, and my body was starting to hurt. The scale did help me realize that, as well as measuring my BMI. And now that I’m down to 150, I feel better and my whole body feels better. I needed the scale to help me get where I needed to be.

    Reply
  • 2. Kayla  |  June 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    *for not having reached morbid obesity.

    Reply
  • 3. Steph  |  June 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Yeah I definitely hear you. So I can see how for someone who feels their health is on the line, the scale is helpful to track progress. And I especially appreciate the point where you realized your weight was a consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle and tracking your progress via the scale the helpful.

    But I think people, women in particular, who don’t need to lose weight rely on the scale far too much. I definitely did. And for some people, they can probably weigh themselves occasionally and be fine, but for me it is really always or never. I just feel like a lot of people who focus on their weight aren’t really overweight to the point where it hurts them physically, as you described. Right? I mean I was not overweight but I had to weigh myself every day and would feel good or bad depending on the number (even though it didn’t fluctuate more than a 2-3 lb swing any given day, and probably had more to do with how drenched in sweat I was or how much water I drank). So my challenge to stop weighing ourselves is really aimed at those people.

    Also, there are instances that weight and health related, you’re right. But I think those terms get conflated far too often, especially when people go on diets to be “healthier” when they really want to lose weight. Or when people exercise and eat certain foods specifically to lose weight, when they would be better served focusing on their health. Again, because I think the second one is more about self-care and self-love and not fat shaming or self-hate. Like if you are morbidly obese, thinking “I need to lose x amount of weight” will not, in my opinion, get you as far as “I need to lead an overall healthier lifestyle to prolong my life, etc.” And in that sense the scale would be useful, BUT not the primary thing driving you. I guess that is the distinction for me.

    So yeah I do think you’re right that in certain circumstances the scale is useful. But I think this is a case of a certain tool being used inappropriately and far too often by too many people who don’t actually need it. And who arguably are harmed by it.

    Reply

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