Once upon a time I performed a little experiment on myself: I threw away my bathroom scale.
I should probably back up a little.
Growing up I was one of those people who (at least) daily stepped onto a scale. I couldn’t tell you at what age it started (hopefully not too young), but I can tell you for sure that by the time I was in 9th grade it was daily. Of course that was right around the same time when I really started to worry about my weight.
I was a student in a prestigious ballet conservatory, and as any ballet dancer knows: weight matters. I tried not to worry about it, but I definitely was reminded daily that how much I weighed would be major factor to my success as a “potential” ballerina.
For the most part I’d like to think I had a fairly healthy relationships with my body, all things considering. I still remember the day I had to go into a parent-teacher meeting with my mom and ballet teacher. I was 14 years old. I had just gone through a major growth spurt. I weight around 120 pounds, and at 5’6″ I didn’t see any problems with my weight.
The meeting went well. My teacher told my mom that I had improved more than any other student. She told my mom that I had a future in ballet if I continued the way I was heading and that the only thing holding me back was my weight.
Yep. This woman told me, as a 14 year old with no weight problem, that I would “really benefit from losing 10 – 15 pounds.”
TEN. TO. FIFTEEN. POUNDS.
My mom and I both sat there and graciously nodded our head. (We can be quite diplomatic when we want to. These days I probably wouldn’t be so gracious. Let’s be honest, I’d probably kick her.) As soon as we were out of the building my mom turned to me with a concerned look. ”Soooo…. what did you think about that meeting?” I could tell she was carefully choosing her words, not sure how I had taken this woman’s “advice.” I looked at her, smiled, and said:
“Let’s go get some cake.”
See? I had a pretty good sense about my weight. And while I knew this woman was crazy for her suggestion, and I knew that I didn’t have a weight problem, I also now know that her words planted a little seed inside of me that would turn into a subtle demon that I would have to battle for many years.
The Battle of the scale
From that point on I got on the scale every morning. I couldn’t help it. All of a sudden this ideas was placed in my head: Maybe I do need to lose 10 – 15 pounds. I worried each day when I saw the number go up, relieved the day I saw it go done.
I’ve heard that some experts recommend that you should weigh yourself daily (or at least consistently) if you are trying to lose weight. Maybe that works for some people. But for me, my scale became the master of my self image. I had a specific number that I wanted to be and if I wasn’t there, I didn’t feel up to snuff.
Back to my experiement
During my graduate studies I was doing a lot of reading and research on body image as part of my thesis work. I remember reading article after article about women’s struggles to be a certain weight… to look a certain way. Out of no where, the thought came to me: Get rid of your scale.
And I did.
And it was good.
No, it was great!
It took me a week or two to “let go” of my need to know how much I weighed, but before long I started to notice some amazing things:
- I become more aware of how I felt instead of worrying about some number.
- I started listening to hunger cues instead of worrying that I might gain a pound. (As a result, I probably ate less because the “I-don’t-care-anymore-and-just-want-that-doughnut binges” ceased.)
- I stopped counting calories and started seeking out food my body needed.
- I stopped picking apart every flaw or bulge and started seeing myself as a whole person. And guess what? I felt prettier because of it.
- I felt less obsessive, less controlled by some magical number that really has no meaning to healthy living.
And something else remarkable happened:
I lost weight.
How do I know? Well, contrary to what every diet plan out there tells you, there are other ways to measure improvement besides looking at some number. You can always pay attention to how your clothes fit. You can measure yourself with a tape measure. You can have your body-fat analyzed. Heck, most of us can tell by looking in a mirror or just by the way we feel! (You can also wait until you are pregnant and have to get on a scale. Not that I’d know anything about that.)
But even better than focusing on losing weight, you can instead focus on living a healthy life. Stop worrying about size. Yes, there is such a thing as a “healthy weight” just as there is such a thing as an “unhealthy weight.” But unless there are some major hidden issues, most of us will come to our own version of “healthy weight” when we are living a healthy life. If we focus on nourishment, getting rid of toxins in our life, and staying active we are probably on the right track more so than falling for some sort of fad diet that is trying to shove us into a make-believe perfect number or size.
I mean, there are plenty of unhealthy skinny people out there.
Besides, consider the following image posted over at Everyday Paleo:
See. The numbers mean nothing. NOTHING.
Do you need to throw your scale out?
Maybe, maybe not. Have you ever:
- set a specific number that you wanted to “be” with regards to your weight even if “being” that number doesn’t feel good?
- waited to weigh yourself first thing in the morning, naked, after going to the bathroom for the “best” results?
- been upset at the numbers on the scale and then avoided certain (or all) foods for a period of time?
- instantly felt uglier when the scale showed that you were up a pound or two from the day before?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you might also benefit from throwing your scale out.
What do you have to lose? Better yet, what do you have to gain? How about letting go of stress and the obsessive worry of seeking out some number? How about empowerment from living real healthy practices based on how you feel? How about a better relationship and connection with your body? How about feeling more beautiful, confident, and FREE?
Sounds good to me.
What about you? Are you a daily scale watcher? What helps you stay on track?