Many people are surprised to learn that I don’t own a scale. How can I possibly be a health coach and not keep track of my weight?
I don’t keep track of my weight. That’s how.
This wasn’t always the case, mind you. As a teenager grappling with an eating disorder, I lived and breathed by the number on the scale, my emotions ebbing and flowing along with any fluctuations in my weight. When the number would creep up, my mood would plummet, panic and feelings of shame rushing in. On days the number would be going down, I’d celebrate in secret, congratulating myself on my obviously superior self discipline, a false sense of improved self image taking hold. The scale didn’t need to swing too far one way or another for the roller coaster ride of emotions to set in. One or two pounds in any direction could set the pendulum in motion.
Somewhere along the way I finally wised up and saw my relationship to the number of the scale for what it was. Toxic. It was simply keeping me stuck and miserable. Breaking up with the scale, like kissing that toxic college boyfriend goodbye once and for all, wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, it was a relief. When I didn’t know my weight, my mood seemed to stabilize. Without the endless dialogue of shame on loop in my head, I started to find new ways to measure my worth. Ways that mattered. It turns out that keeping track of my weight, day in and day out wasn’t having an impact on my weight at all. I didn’t suddenly find myself unable to fit in my clothes or not recognize the person in the mirror. Instead, I found myself becoming an expert at listening to my body in other ways. Was my lack of energy tied to what I was eating (or not eating?) Did my clothing feel comfortable? Was I sleeping better? Did I have energy to push through a hard workout?
These new means of measuring my health felt liberating. I found I was obsessing less and focusing more on just what it means to feel good in my own skin. The scale had robbed me of this gift for far too long and there was no way I was going back to it. Ever.
That meant not only letting go of the feelings of worthlessness I attached to a number higher than I’d liked, but also cutting myself off from the high that would follow seeing a number that pleased me.
When I suggest to clients that they take a break from their daily or weekly weigh-ins, it is often met with trepidation. There is this sense that somehow the scale is keeping them in check, yet many struggle to lose unwanted pounds. A scale, I tell them, doesn’t tell them if they are hungry or not, what foods they should be eating or even what that number is made of. Take for instance marathon runners. It is not uncommon for someone training for a marathon to gain weight, but would anyone argue they were unhealthy? Probably not. A scale can’t tell you your blood sugar levels or whether your good and bad cholesterol levels are up or down. It simply measures your body’s mass in relationship to gravity.
It most certainly cannot measure your worth.
Start measuring your health in other, more meaningful ways. How are you sleeping? What do your labs look like? How are your clothes fitting? Do you have more energy to get in that evening walk? Is your mood improving?
You are going to weigh what you weigh. And you weigh that amount whether you step on a scale or not.
Consider ditching your scale to gain a whole new sense of your health.