How to have a healthy relationship with the scales

wellbeing

How to have a healthy relationship with the scales

wellbeing

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*I get a bit sweary in this post, sorry I just get passionate around this topic! You have been warned ;-)

The scales have been both my best friend and my worst enemy. In the years before I seriously decided to lose weight, stepping on them was nothing short of an ordeal. I avoided them like the plague so that I could continue to live in blissful ignorance that my expanding waistline was in fact equating to additional pounds, pushing me into the obese category. When I finally faced up to my weight issue, and started losing weight, suddenly they became a positive thing! Stepping on them and seeing them go down gave me a high that I would bet could compare to any drug out there. Seeing that number go down, and telling people about it, made me very happy, in fact I started to notice that my whole day could be improved when I saw a good result on the scale.

As I got addicted to that feeling I got when the weight went down, I started weighing myself more often. What had started as a once a week habit had turned into a daily occurrence. Of course, weight loss can not keep going forever, and when it slowed down, and god forbid, went up, I found that my mood for the day was ruined. I would feel guilty for eating food, how could I be eating when I’d gained that pound overnight?!

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might already be familiar with my story. Looking back now I can clearly see that my relationship with the scales led to a fear of gaining weight, which ultimately led to me losing weight down to a point where my periods stopped and I looked, well, pretty damn ropey  to be honest. One of the issues that came up for me was that my ‘goal weight’ got lower and lower. I can even read my blog  archives and see in my own bloody words, that I was happy at a certain weight, but the temptation of losing more and more, and the feelings that came with it, made that goal weight get lower and lower. God only knows where that would have stopped if losing my period hadn’t served as a serious wake up call.

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It took me a long time to establish a healthy relationship with the scales, but time very well spent. I think it comes down to a few factors, but if you can relate to any of my experiences, here are some ideas to help you have a more healthy relationship with your scales:

You are not a machine

We, especially women, are not designed to maintain the exact same weight day in day out. Our bodies are not equations that can be solved, they fluctuate and change all of the time. To maintain a set weight all of the time is not going to happen. Once you’ve wrapped your head around that, and can understand that some days you are naturally going to weigh more than others (for example, food in ‘transit’, retaining water, hormonal changes etc) then you can start with a few more realisations…

Do not weigh yourself every day…

If you weigh yourself every day fucking stop it now. Seriously, why? Going back to the point above, there’s very little that weighing yourself daily is going to do for you when your body will naturally be fluctuating. You really are just setting yourself up for a roller coaster ride of emotions that you have very little control over. Once a week if you are trying to lose weight is enough. If weight loss is not your goal and you are just wanting to monitor it, then once a month. I would recommend doing it at the same time each week on the same day. If you are losing weight in a healthy sustainable manner, you shouldn’t be losing more than 1-2 lbs a week anyway, and taking those natural fluctuations into consideration, some weeks you might maintain or even gain. That does not mean that you have done something wrong! So many factors come into play with weight, for example if you are strength training you may not see big changes on the scale, but will see differences in body shape and composition. Remember that you need to look at the bigger picture rather than week to week for sustainable weight loss. If you struggle with weighing yourself every day, make sure you keep the scales out of sight and just get them out at the time when you want to use them. Out of sight out of mind!

…but don’t avoid them

If you find that you are actively avoiding them all together and the idea of stepping on them breaks you out in a cold sweat, that is not a healthy relationship either. Asking yourself why you feel that way is a good start. As I said at the beginning, I avoided them because I knew my weight was an issue. Ideally (I know this is a long shot) you should feel completely neutral about them.

Remember what it all means

Do you have a tattoo of your weight on your forehead? Nope? So why do you care what number the scales say? When most of us say ‘I want to lose weight’ most of the time what we mean is we would like to be smaller. The scales can be a great measure of that progress, but one does not directly correlate with the other…

Use other methods of tracking / measuring your health 

Make sure that the scales are not your only way of measuring your health and / or weight loss progress. Measuring yourself with a tape measure, checking your body fat levels with a (reliable) monitor and last but by definitely no means least, use the Fabulous Scale (see the front page on the Uniquely Healthy site for an explanation!). This is something I came up with to use with clients to help measure how they feel about themselves as a complete package. Losing weight means jack shit if you still feel like crap afterwards. Take a more holistic view of your health and wellbeing! 

Never compare your weight to someone elses

Your weight is your weight, I know other women that are a similar height to me but weigh much less, and yet we look fairly similar. If I was just fixated on the weight I’d be feeling pretty bloody crap, however I know that I carry my weight differently to them. When I tell most people my weight, they are surprised that it is so high because I seem to be lucky in that I carry it well. When I was just under 9st, I probably looked a lot thinner than that too.  It all really depends on how your weight is distributed and how much muscle mass you have, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to weigh the same or less than ‘her’.

BMI is bull shit

See point above about differences in weight distribution that can impact on this. BMI is based on statistical information about what weight people are when it triggers health issues. That is a huge, sweeping measurement of the population, so try not to get too hung up on it. Remember to use your common sense though, if your BMI is over 30, you may well be healthier losing some weight, likewise if it’s under 19 then consider if you would be healthier gaining some weight.  But if your BMI is 26 and you worry about losing weight to fit into the ‘healthy’ range, then consider if you feel that you would in fact be healthier. I am currently in the overweight category but have never felt better. Go figure. 

You are SO MUCH more than what you weigh

Never ever forget that. It doesn’t matter what number pops up on them, it doesn’t make you a good person, bad person, better or worse than anyone else. Don’t let an inanimate object have so much power over you!

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How would you describe your relationship with the scales?

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34 Comments

  1. Joy @Twelve52

    I was planning on writing a post similar to this but I feel like I don’t have to now, as this is just so good! I have to be honest, I am much happier when I don’t weigh myself; I know if I’m healthy or not without it being dictated by a number on a scale. If i’m eating well, exercising, healthy and sleeping well then a scale can’t tell me any more than I already know. Whereas if I’m doing the opposite than I already know I need to fix those issues. I probably weigh myself every month or two, more out of curiosity than anything.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Joy! I think you are so right about thinking more on the healthy habits you have than the scale, I know that I don’t even need to look at the scale to know when I’m not at my healthiest as my habits aren’t as good as usual!

      Reply
  2. Alex

    THIS. ALL DAY LONG.

    I went to my doctors this month to get my pill prescribed and they told me that they’re no longer weighing; they’re using blood pressure and a quick health check as an assessment and approval for a repeat prescription now. I can’t tell you how happy I was that they had finally given up on the BMI chart – it’s the first time I’ve been in that office and not had to complain about them using it!

    Reply
    • Laura

      That is so good that the doctors have stopped that. I used to hate that weigh in, and it goes to show that I was doing that for a couple of years at such a low weight it’s caused me issues and was never picked up anyway!

      Reply
  3. Claire @ Flake and Cake

    LOVE this post Laura. I almost became superstitious about my weight at one point and really angsty if I wasn’t at that exact number. As I had to gain weight, I still couldn’t let go of the scales – I simply adjusted my ‘perfect number’ to fit in with weighing a little more. Two events stopped this. Both times, I was at my heaviest and feeling incredibly down about the number on the scales on the day of a run. I actually cried near the start lines because I thought I had failed by letting myself get to that number. Well both times I ran a PB. James gave me a good talking to about it and I couldn’t believe I’d put so much pressure on what is just a number.
    My Mum banned scales in the house when we were growing up and told us it was all about shape and how you felt. She was so right. The best way I ascertain where I am is a good eyeball in the mirror at the whole picture – my skin, whether I’m puffy etc – and it is usually clear when I’m over or under doing it!
    I have to admit I do weigh myself once a week or so to check I’m in the right bracket. I have a 5-6lb window and like to ensure I’m at the top end for HA purposes. Now I have my cycle back I’m often stressed about losing it again, I find making sure I weigh enough helps reassure me I’m giving my body the best chance of keeping it. I hope I won’t need this security blanket and be able to bin the scales but I’m not quite there yet.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Claire! It’s really scary what a hold they can have on you isn’t it :-/ So good that your Mum banned the scales. I’m the same with assessing my healthiness through my habits and how I look and feel than a number. I know that with HA it is more complex, but I have no doubt you’ll get to the point of being able to forget about the scales once and for all :-)

      Reply
  4. Anna @AnnaTheApple

    Great post! Excellent points raised.
    Scales: the nightmare of all women. When did this number become the marker of good health? It’s ridiculous. I have a pair of jeans that I love wearing. If they get tight I know I need to cut back on the cakes and chocolate, but if they get too loose I know to start bulking out my meals a bit more (and eating more cakes!)
    I think it’s easy to get caught in a trap of getting fixated on numbers. And you’re right, weight is not a static thing. It can drive a person mad.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Oh god yes, clothes are so much better for keeping an eye on things. I’m the same, I know when somethings getting a bit tight it’s time to dial it up and of course the other way too now that I’m happy enough with the size I am :-)

      Reply
  5. catherine

    Thank yooou, I love sweary Laura :)
    This is quite timely for me, I recently won some scales in a contest, fancy ones that link into your laptop and shiz. So I set them up and weighed myself, this is after not having scales in the house for years and only vaguely knowing what I weigh. Now I have packaged them back up and will sell them as I just am not interested in what I weigh. I don’t want to lose weight. I do, however, want to get in under 30 mins on my 5k, run faster, do more weights, stretch more… the scales aren’t going to help any of that really, unless I suddenly become a heifer. I mainly just go on how my clothes feel on!
    A quality post my dear :)

    Reply
    • Laura

      hehe I lot of people seem to like sweary Laura! ;-) Love your approach, that is so much better than worrying about a number, when you focus on those goals you reach healthiness through them anyway!

      Reply
  6. Amanda @ .running with spoons.

    This may just be my favourite post that you’ve ever written — well done, Laura! I’d say that I have a pretty healthy relationship with scales now, but that definitely wasn’t always the case. I went through years of obsessively weighing myself every day, and not only would it affect my mood, but my food choices as well. If I ate something different the day before and the scale went up, I’d deem it as being a bad food and avoid it… the same was true if I lost weight. My life was controlled by a number, and nothing else seemed to matter.

    When I got serious about recovering, I had to completely cut myself off from the scale because it was too triggering for me. I avoided it for probably a little over a year and was terrified to get back on — like you said, not healthy either. I waited until I was in a fairly stable place with my recovery before finally seeing how much I weighed, and… I didn’t hate it… I was mostly indifferent. These days I’ll hop on a scale every few months or so just out of curiosity, but it’s really nothing more than that. I prefer to go by how I feel than what a tiny little machine tells me.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Amanda, that’s lovely of you to say! Sounds like you have such a good relationship with them now, I think that indifference and curiosity is a pretty good attitude to aim for really :-)

      Reply
  7. sonja@vesenmork

    great post! you should swear more :o)
    I don’t weigh myself at the moment. I kind of know how much I approximately weigh, but I always hope it’s lower than it actually is. I sometimes punish-weigh myself, and it always functions as a trigger for bingeing. When I was smaller I experienced the same thing you did: it always could be a little bit lower.I didn’t even consciously decided to keep on “dieting”, but the fear of gaining made me undereat anyway so that I kept on losing. Till the bingeing returned. It will probably be a while before I have a healthy relationship with the scale, but I do try and use other tracking techniques. I now have the habit of taking pictures in bikini type clothes every know and then to see how the weight is shifting and *fingers crossed* dissappearing. It’s still hard to see those pics at the moment, but in some way it is a bit easier than seeing that number, that, as you pointed out,doesn’t necessarily tells the whole story. XX

    Reply
    • Laura

      I was exactly the same in that I didn’t consciously decide to continue dieting, I just kept under eating and over exercising really. I think photos are a great one, so much better than using the scales for judgement :-)

      Reply
  8. Christina

    You’re amazing, amazing, amazing. It’s definitely an individual choice when it comes to the scales, and you have to trust your instincts. Coming from a history of weighing myself ten times a day (or more) I know that the only scales I can have in the house are those for weighing pasta and self-raising flour! I felt bad denying Trout his want for them, but I don’t see them as a necessity if both of you are healthy, and not in the under/overweight category.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Chrissie :-) I absolutely agree, I think if you are both clearly healthy then there’s not really a need for them at all!

      Reply
  9. Fran

    Great post, I used to weigh myself everyday and all it achieved was me feeling miserable. How I felt for the rest of the day would be determined by the number on the scales which is utterly ridiculous because after all, who else sees the number? Only me and no one else would be able to notice a difference from day to day in my weight but I would be paranoid that others would think I looked fatter if my weight went up even a little. I am still striving to achieve a healthy/healthier relationship with the scales and although I’m not quite there yet I am definitely happier for having ditched the daily weighing routine.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Fran, glad that you have been able to ditch the daily routine! You are so right that no one else can see any difference with just a couple of pounds.

      Reply
  10. Nicky @kabochafashionista

    Ahhhhhh thankyou thankyou thankyou for writing this! More women need to have this attitude seriously. I don’t think theres any woman who doesn’t have a hard time with the scales at some point in their life though, even if the problem isn’t as serious as others it is a number that is easy to feel like defines you and how you look. When I started losing weight I definitely related to that high feeling from seeing that number go down and down and my day feeling so great because of it. So stupid thinking about it now. And yeah, soon enough I was weighing myself every single day, addicted to seeing that number and soon becoming addicted to eating less and less to see that number go the way I wanted it to…and then suddenly I was told my weight was a problem and that I was anorexic and needed help but I felt fine, I was happy, that number going down was the only thing that made me happy whilst I spent the rest of my time depressed…so sad.

    Now I do try to avoid the scales. I guess there’s a part of me that isn’t happy with the number because I spent such a long time a such a low number but I try not to define myself by it. I lift weights so I know my weight is not all fat and muscle is heavier etc and I can live without knowing what I weigh every single day because of weight fluctuations and I don’t need it hanging over me all the time. I eat well, exercise well, eat more on some days, less on others and on a monthly basis my weight stays the same so obviously this is the weight I am supposed to be and I won’t try to fight it anymore because I know it is such an unhealthy addiction that could destroy my life again.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Nicky, it sounds like you have such a better relationship with them now. I think it’s that knowing that you are living that balance and that whatever weight you might be is simply the right weight for you because it’s a result of living well!

      Reply
  11. Rachel

    This is a really great post – I would definitely put your last point as the most important one by far! We are so much more than what we weigh and it’s so easy (speaking from experience) to get caught up in our physical appearance and forget that other people actually judge us more for how we act and the way we treat others rather than how we look (well, the people that matter anyway!). I know it can be tempting to get a bit fixated on the numbers and it can be helpful if you’re looking to lose a bit, although equally the jeans I am wearing today that I could not wear 6 months ago is also a good gauge! As you so rightly say, weight is a very transient thing and there are sooooo many variables that can affect it (muscle density, what you had for lunch, time of the month, if you’ve had a poo today!) – that it does seem a bit arbitrary. I don’t necessarily think though, that weighing yourself every day will automatically lead to a negative spiral and disordered thinking – the times when I have weighed myself daily I have actually been quite fascinated to see how much my weight can fluctuate from one day to the next and in a way it underlined to me the fact that weight is just a snapshot of a wider picture rather than making me obsessed with seeing it drop. Agree that it’s not something to carry on doing long term though as it probably wouldn’t be helpful.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Rachel, you are so right about using clothes as a good judge of changes. I think as long as you are in the right place mentally, then weighing daily for a short period of time is ok for curiosity sake, it’s just that for a lot of us that would lead to a fixation, but as you say it’s not something you’d do long term anyway.

      Reply
  12. Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes

    Great post! I don’t actually have a relationship with the scales as I don’t actually own a pair. In fact I don’t even know how much I weigh and I prefer it that way. Generally I use my clothes as a guide on whether my body shape has changed or not. I was becoming far too obsessive and seretive in my teens where the scales were concerned and used to weigh myself every day. Then I realised that I was more than just a number and what the scales say really doesn’t define who I am as a person.

    In my experience BMI is a good and an important approximation for many medical applications, but it doesn’t take into account things like bone density and muscle mass. Therefore It shouldn’t be a definitive for anyone’s health status as in many instances with the BMI scale you can have a healthly obese person.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Good for you! I wish we could all have such a perfect relationship with scales and weight. I definitely agree that using clothes as a guide is a great idea.

      Reply
  13. Tamzin

    I don’t really use the scale for myself I go by the way my clothes feel, I do use them with clients though because everyone like to see a number be it going up or down its a way to help with training : )

    P.S Great Post!

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Tamzin, yes I do think that scales have their place, I’m not against them, I think it’s just about having the right attitude to them, and if you are working with someone for weight loss then once a week is spot on I think! :-)

      Reply
  14. Em

    Even after both my trainers have told me to stop weighing myself and take a month off I still weigh in every day – I know I shouldn’t but I don’t seem to be able to stop myself getting on those scales every day. I am determined to stop and learn that my worth doesn’t come from the number on that damn scale!
    x

    Reply
    • Laura

      Keep at it Em! Even if you try once every two days and gradually reduce it, you’ll get there!

      Reply
  15. Lauren (@PoweredbyPB)

    Great post Laura. When I was underweight I loved seeing the numbers on the scale drop, and it became a very unhealthy obsession, and one that could make or break my day. We don’t have scales currently which is probably just the best option all around, I”m no longer bothered by knowing my exact weight, it’s just a number after all, I think other things like how you feel in your body, how your clothes fit etc are must better options anyway.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Lauren! I’ve totally been there with the ‘make or break your day’ thing. You are so right about clothes fit etc being a better judgement.

      Reply
  16. Katie

    Lovely post Laura! After losing a lot of weight, I started working part time for the company that helped me do it. As an employee, I have to weigh in every month and be within the BMI range. I’m pregnant now, so I don’t have to do that…but I’ve been thinking alot about my weight during pregnancy and what I plan to do to get “back to goal” after the baby is here. This post is so timely for me, because I’d recently started thinking that I don’t want my life (happiness, etc) to be all about the number. I love that your post (and all these comments) focus on other ways to know you’re healthy. I know that within a certain weight range, I feel amazing…but it has more to do with how I’m eating, exercising, sleeping, etc. I know I feel a million times better when I’m regularly practicing yoga (I won’t even get into how I was advised to give that exercise up because it is not “cardio”). Thanks for the reminder! And I like the swears!

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Katie! I have to say that sounds quite scary, I can see why you would need to weigh in, but basing it on BMI worries me, as I say I’m in the overweight category and would go off on one if someone tried to suggest I wasn’t healthier now than I was when I was in the healthy but low end of the BMI range! Congrats on your pregnancy though, it’s good that you’ve been thinking about things for when the baby is born so that you don’t feel pressured. I completely agree about feeling good based on the habits you have, I am just the same and know that when I eat well and exercise well I feel good and don’t need a scale to tell me that :-)

      Reply
  17. Sam

    This post is the first one I’ve read from your site, and I can totally relate. My personal story is similar in that I’ve gone too far in both directions before. I was a bigger girl when young, lost far too much weight for my wedding and got hooked on the feel-good adrenaline, then recognised the danger of that and overcame feelings of guilt eating, and then slowly but surely lost control of portion sizes and became too large.
    The most important thing to remember is that your size and weight don’t define you and don’t control you. But if you have specific goals, you need to lose weight as a actor for a role, or you want to be an athlete, then the weight issue is usually secondary to your fitness level or look.
    I regulate my weight now based on what clothes I enjoy wearing and how they feel, the adrenaline hit I get from a gym workout – balanced at three times a week, and I like to know that I’m maintaining my weight roughly within a reasonable range through good diet and exercise.

    Reply
  18. Maria @ runningcupcake

    Just read this Laura and I think it is such a great post. I have never weighed myself more than once a week, but still I find that if the number is a “good” number then my mood that day will be better, and if I see a “bad” number it can make me feel rubbish. I like to keep a check of my weight as I gain weight very easily, and as I am short it gets unhealthy quickly (and as my mum is diabetic I have to be more careful too)- but I really try to focus on other things and not just that number. I have never posted my weight on my blog or anything, as I want to not worry about the number if that makes sense?

    Reply

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