This post was written by Erin Palinski-Wade
“I just can’t quit you.” Have you ever felt that way when it comes to your scale? I know I sure have. To me, the scale is like the toxic boyfriend you know you shouldn’t obsess over, but you just can’t help yourself. My relationship with my scale used to be like a bad Lifetime movie. I’d hide from it, tell myself whatever it told me didn’t matter, but somehow it always worked its why back into my life, messed with my mind, and damaged my self-esteem.
Sound like a familiar story? I think most women can relate to this type of relationship with the scale at some point in their lives. So what should we do? I’m not advocating that we all toss our scales out the window or pretend they never existed. I do think weighing yourself can be valuable from time to time (and yes I do weight myself occasionally). But we need to adjust the reasons we choose to weigh ourselves.
When you are about to step on the scale, why are you weighing yourself? What are you planning to do with the information the scale provides? I have found from working with hundreds of clients (as well as my own personal journey with the scale) that we step on for two reasons: to verify our self worth or as a form of self-punishment. We let that silly number on the scale define us. If the number is low – hooray!- your day just got instantly better. Your self-esteem is boosted, you feel energized, you feel prettier, and you feel like you are more worthy. If the number is high -#?!$@!!!- you jump off, get pissed, and feel fat, ugly, and unworthy the rest of the day. Am I right?
Guess what? Before you stepped on the scale you were just as pretty or smart or thin or heavy as you were before that stupid number popped up. That number changed absolutely nothing about you. But unfortunately, our mind doesn’t always see it that way. If you know before weighing yourself that whatever the number tells you it will impact the way you view yourself, whether that be positive or negative, then your relationship with the scale isn’t exactly a healthy one. If this sounds like you, then it’s time that you break up with your scale (or at least part ways for the time being).
Breaking up with your scale can be incredibly empowering. I know before I broke up with the scale, I was terrified that if I didn’t weigh myself daily my weight would just balloon up. What happened in reality? After avoiding the scale for over a year, my weight decreased, my self-esteem increased, and I finally developed a healthy relationship with my body weight. Now I can occasionally jump on the scale to gauge where I am at (like when I want to see if I am back to my pre-baby weight), use the number as constructive feedback, and get on with my day. I can’t tell you how much better it feels to not let a dumb number rule my life or impact my day. And you can feel this way too- you just have to go through with the breakup first!
If you are ready to stop letting the scale rule your life, use these 3 simple steps to break-up effectively:
Place the scale out of sight
When I want to avoid binging on those cookies my husband brought home from work, I don’t throw them away. Instead, I just place them where I can’t actually see them. That way, I am not constantly reminded to eat them, but they are still there when I want to enjoy some. I use this same strategy with the scale. Place it somewhere where you don’t see it or have easy access to it. If you tell yourself you are not going to weigh yourself, but then the scale is right there in front of you as soon as you go into the bathroom, you will end up weighing yourself. Instead, hide the scale in the back of the closet. Its there if you need it, but you will have to go out of your way to find it.
Trust your body
This was probably what I struggled with the most when I wanted to stop weighing myself everyday. I feared that if I didn’t weigh myself and see that number in front of me, my weight would skyrocket out of control. It didn’t happen, and there’s a good reason for that. Before, when I would weigh myself, if the number was low I felt ‘skinny’ and often found myself ‘treating’ myself to whatever I wanted to eat. Then after I would do this, of course my weight would begin to creep back up. When I weighed myself and saw my weight was high, I would be almost too careful with what I ate. This led to deprivation, which ultimately led to overeating.
When I stopped caring about the scale, all of this went away. I ate because I was hungry. I stopped when I felt satisfied. I treated myself on occasion, but mostly I just wanted foods that made me feel energized and healthy. The yo-yo dieting, the deprivation and binge eating cycles, and the desire to ‘reward’ myself with food all went away. I was more in touch with my body and my needs, and my weight leveled off accordingly.
Use measurements that actually mean something
Here’s the thing. As a nutrition professional I cannot state that the number on the scale has no value. Tracking changes in growth, development, and disease status are all dependent on weight changes, so we cannot stop using the number on the scale completely. However, I have never seen any research that says a fluctuation in body weight of a few pounds up or down is an indication of a change in any sort of health status, negative or positive, in an otherwise healthy individual. So you are doing when you focus on those small changes on the scale is playing mental games with yourself (and driving yourself mad).
If you are eating well, exercising, and trying to improve your health then focus on measurements that actually mean something. The scale can go up and down for a number of reasons, like whether or not you went to the bathroom before you weighed yourself. Measurements like tracking your waist circumference aren’t so sensitive. This can help you to gauge body composition changes without messing with your mind. Tracking fitness changes such as when you can successfully bench a heavier weight or walk a mile a minute faster than you previously had are all ways to know you are improving your health.
So put the scale away, make a commitment to yourself to focus on how you feel from your efforts to eat well and be more active versus how the number makes you feel, and finally free yourself from determining your self worth based on a silly number.