Losing the Weight of the Scale

October 30, 2020

The summer of 2019, I swore off the scale. I decided I wasn’t going to weigh, measure or track myself ever again. This is the best decision I have ever made. More and more research is emerging showing the ineffectiveness and outright harm of focusing on weight as a primary measurement of heath.

The Philosophical

The whole idea of using external tools and systems to measure health comes from a system that values the convenience of one size fits all health and wellness over taking the time to really get to know and value each individual person’s experience and body. Intellectually, we know that a person can have incredibly unhealthy habits and still be small or thin while another individual might be fit and healthy while living in a larger body. Yet society still routinely judges and celebrates based solely on size and shape and the health and wellness industry has some of the worst perpetrators.Some of the more enlightened practitioners will in fact veer away from weight, instead looking to measurements and body composition, but this is still a one size fits all approach.

Evelyne Tibole highlighted this beautifully in our recent Intuitive Eating training. She shared stories of how one client of hers had been complimented by her doctor on her weight loss when in reality this client was in the midst of a severe battle with anorexia and of another client being complimented on their weight loss when it was a result of invasive and difficult cancer treatments.

The bottom line is that size does not indicate health and health does not equal size or weight. It’s time to let go of these standards and start looking at what really matters. This is of course about much more than just giving up the scale, it’s even about more than rejecting diet culture. It’s about taking the time to know and value each person’s individual story and experience, starting with your own.

The Practical

My decision to throw out the scale all began with a single thought. I was driving along one day, when I suddenly realized I didn’t need a scale to tell me that I had gained a significant amount of weight. At this point, I was still weighing myself regularly and knew that I had put on about 50 pounds in the previous few years due to a variety of factors including health struggles, injuries and the diet monster and I was feeling frustrated, ashamed and hopeless.

The realization that this weight gain was obvious to me without the help of a scale, immediately made me realize that the opposite would also be true. I wouldn’t need a scale to tell me if/when I had a significant drop in weight either. The scale would of course measure those small day to day and even week to week fluctuations that are essentially undetectable to anyone BUT the scale, but even at this point in my journey, I was educated enough to know that those fluctuations don’t really mean anything.

The human body is not a stagnant machine, but rather a LIVING organism that is constantly fluctuating as it strives for balance and responds to its environment, stresses and stimuli. It is completely normal for the body to fluctuate several pounds and a few inches as our hormones, water intake, stress levels and numerous other factors vary from day to day. It is both meaningless and futile to track these small fluctuations in weight or size from day to day. Meanwhile, larger shifts will be noticeable without the help of tools such as a scale, measuring tape or fancy body scanners.

Ultimately, the body has much more effective ways of communicating than a scale or other external tool ever will. I know when I am at a healthy weight, not because of a number on a scale or a tape measure, a body fat percentage measurement or how closely I resemble an image online. I honestly don’t even know these numbers these days and I recognize that I’ll never look like a fitness model. I now measure my health by how I feel and what I can do. I measure these points against myself and no one else. I’m now at a healthy weight where I am physically comfortable in my body, still working on body acceptance, having fun achieving new fitness goals and enjoying healthy living instead of constantly punishing and shaming myself.

The Psychological

The act of weighing yourself can be addicting. That rush you get when you're down a couple pounds is exciting. I admit that even after I threw out my scale, I gave in three or four times over the first six months and weighed myself at the gym out of curiosity. I could tell I was shrinking and I wanted to see just how far I had come. And it did feel good seeing my progress in tangible numbers like that. I won’t lie. I had 37 years of mental programming, telling me that it mattered, to undo. But I can also say that no positive rush I ever got from seeing the scale drop ever lasted, or was as powerful as the negative feelings that I would have when it didn’t move or went up. The freedom from letting go of that battle is one of the best decisions I have ever made for my mental and emotional health. I no longer feel any temptation to weigh myself. I truly don’t know the number and I truly don’t care because I am happy with how I feel and the things that my body is capable of. They still weigh me at the doctor, but I no longer have any emotional attachment to the number. I continue on my journey towards body-acceptance, with some days easier than others, but the scale simply isn’t a factor.