How is Your Relationship With the Scale?
I came across this very interesting infographic while on the internet a while ago. It’s from the excellent Green Mountain at Fox Run health & wellness retreat center. They use a non-diet approach to weight loss and in addition to their great work, they put out really good information online about the non-diet approach, self-acceptance, and other related topics.
I loved this infographic about how the scale really does more harm than good, and I for one can relate! I used to weigh myself once a week, which was better than some people I’ve worked with that were on the scale daily or multiple times a day. But even once a week was a complete nightmare for me. If the number wasn’t what I wanted, I would move the scale around the room, hoping for a better reading on another section of the floor. Then I would compare stepping up with my left foot first to stepping up with my right foot first. I tried the scale on the carpet versus on the wood floor. I’m sure you get the picture, can you relate to this?
Here’s the craziest part of my former Saturday morning date with the scale. No matter what the result, it ended up making me feel worse then before I stepped on it. I’m talking about any result.
If the number went up: The rest of the day was bad, I would beat myself up, contemplate an even stricter diet, plan more exercise, “feel fat” all day, think everyone is looking at me and judging me, obsess, and of course, consider binging all day (and usually would after eating nothing but rice cakes and carrots all day).
If the number stayed the same: There would be a brief moment of relief that it didn’t go up, then I would beat myself up for not working hard enough, contemplate an even stricter diet, plan even more exercise, hate what I’m wearing because I won’t buy clothes until I lose weight, and of course, consider binging all day (and may start binging earlier than if I had gained weight).
If the number went down: I would allow myself just a brief moment of excitement – and then the anxiety would hit me, followed by obsessive thoughts like, “what if it’s just water weight and it comes back on really fast?” Another typical pattern would be to tell myself that it’s not really much of a loss, just one pound. This led to the inevitable beating myself up, contemplating a stricter diet, or vowing to get in more exercise. Then I would get stressed about the future – “I hope I can keep losing weight”, “That’s one pound, but there’s so many more to go”, “How hard am I going to have to work to keep it off? Can I do that for the rest of my life?” The end result, was – you guessed it – consider binging all day (I figured I lost a pound, so if I gain weight from binging I will most likely just end up where I was last week) and once the binge began, that was it for the rest of the day, if it didn’t continue on through the weekend.
How ironic is it that the binges, while they could happen any day, were most likely to happen on days where I showed a loss on the scale? While I believe getting rid of the scale is an individual choice, I eventually decided I could not have one in my house.
Long after becoming an intuitive eater, a scale somehow found it’s way into my home so I decided that I could ignore it, no problem. Just one week of seeing it was enough to trigger me. I found myself using it here and there, which led to weighing myself every other day, and it wasn’t much longer until all the old craziness of obsessing over my weight (which I thought I was done with) came back. The scale was removed and I have not owned one since.
I tell my clients that they have to make their own decision about having a scale. But if they want to continue using it, I suggest before stepping on that they consider what they are going to use the number for, and how will they feel once getting the number. I also ask them to consider all possible outcomes and how they will feel with each one: gained weight, lost weight, or maintained weight.
How do you feel when you use the scale? Is it just “data” that you use as nonjudgmental information? Maybe you can keep it. However, if the number on the scale tells you how to feel about yourself all day, it may be better to put it away or get rid of it.
Just remember to keep things in perspective. The scale is an inanimate piece of metal that dispenses data. Also, that data it gives you is flawed. It doesn’t give you the full story about your body and what is going on. At any given time in one month, your weight can fluctuate within 7 pounds. So even if you are up, it doesn’t mean you’ve gained body fat. If you lose, it also doesn’t mean it was body fat that was lost.
One final thing about the scale. Many people tell me they use the scale so they can monitor their progress and keep things “under control.” There are people who can take a look at that number on the scale and be rational about it and use it to eat a little less or exercise a little more, but they don’t take it any further than that. This is not the way most people react to the scale. If the scale tells you how to feel about yourself or whether you were good or bad this week, you aren’t keeping anything under control – it is controlling you. It has the power to tell you what kind of person you are on a daily basis.
The good news is that you actually get to decide if you want to continue to let it have power over you. You have choices and that includes the choice of who or what is going to judge you. You don’t have a lot of control over what the scale says, but you certainly have control over whether you allow it to say anything in the first place. Whatever you decide, I know you can make the choice that is right for you!
Be sure to check out the infographic from Green Mountain at Fox Run for more paths you could find yourself taking by stepping on the scale.