Healthy Living Blog

Dis-Empower the Scale

Maybe you’ve had the experience of waking up one morning after several days of nutritious eating, energetic work-outs, and excitement about some compliments you received about the “glow” you seem to have lately since you have been paying more attention to your self-care.  You use the bathroom, strip down to your birthday suit, and step on the scale, expecting to see a lower number than you saw the last time you weighed.  And then….”WHAT?!?!  How could I have gained 1.6 lbs??!!?”You step off the scale, look in the mirror, and you see your image staring back at you.  You feel discouraged, upset, confused…and you have the thought, “I feel fat.”

Whoa, there…slow down!  You feel fat?  Well, first of all, Fat is NOT a feeling.  Second, your body is EXACTLY the same the moment after you saw that number as the moment right before you stepped on the scale…remember, in that pre-scale moment, you felt confident, healthy, strong, and empowered.   I promise you – your body did not change one iota in those seconds during which you were standing on the scale.  But something more important changed…your feelings of self-esteem and self-worth.  Why?

Diminishing Our Obsession with the Scale

I always talk with participants about our culture’s obsession with that number on the scale.  Why are we so attached to it when it is just one piece of the health and wellness equation?  Why is it that every Biggest Loser episode culminates with the big “Weigh In” and not the just as important “Blood Pressure Check” or “VO2 Max Test”?   Each of these measures is just one data point that, taken together with other data points as a story, can give you some good feedback about how your health behaviors are influencing your well-being.

At Structure House, one way that we attempt to assign LESS power to the number on the scale is to encourage folks to weight themselves every single day. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, a practice of daily weighing is actually one way to decrease the importance of that number. Getting on the scale every single day is the best way someone can become intimately familiar with the random fluctuations that are normal, inevitable and have little to do with what we ate or how much we exercised the day before.

The change from one day to another is much more related to hydration, salt intake, bowel movement patterns, and even how you happen to be standing on the scale that day!!! (as opposed to real changes in body composition). The only way that I have seen participants come to believe this fact is to have the experience of daily weighing over days, months, and years.  It takes time, but eventually, the emotional reaction to the day-to-day changes does abate in intensity.

Using the Scale to Support Health and Wellness

Weighing daily also has several other benefits. For one, when individuals weigh only on, say, a weekly basis, there is a tendency to change our eating and exercise behavior depending on how close we are to the big “weigh-in.”  Folks can be tempted to restrict calories and over-exercise as the weighing day approaches and then overeat and be more sedentary in the days after the weigh-in. This sets up an unhealthy pattern of irregular eating behaviors. Weighing daily encourages people to be more consistent in their behaviors day in and day out.

Second, starting each morning on the scale is a way that you can remind yourself that you are a person who values your health and well-being. This reminder can focus your attitude and impact the decisions that you make as the day goes on.

Finally, weighing daily is one of the best ways to keep yourself out of denial when you might be headed toward a relapse. It is far easier to recover from a week of being off-track than it is to recover from nine months of being off-track.  Seeing a trend sooner than later will at least give you the opportunity to change course.

Weight Management-Not one-size-fits-all

I would be remiss not to mention that although weighing daily has a variety of positive benefits, weight management strategies are never one-size-fits-all. If you find that your emotional reaction to weighing daily is coloring your entire mood and mental state, it may be prudent to weigh less frequently or not at all. Additionally, it is crucially important to find a variety of indicators of success that extend beyond the scale.  Keeping track of other medical parameters (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol), psychological affect, mobility, and a sense of well-being are critical in measuring the effectiveness of your health behaviors.

So, the next time you choose to step on that scale, understand that the number will not always match your efforts due to the many other variables that impact your weight at any given moment.  Using this number as one data point, along with other off-the-scale-measures of health, will help to dis-empower the number on that scale and keep the information in perspective as you strive for your healthy weight.

Other relevant posts: Building a Better Body Image Through Self CompassionA Weight Loss State of Mind

the confidence to believe in myself again

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