*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.
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!
How would you describe your relationship with the scales?