To many, the scale is more than a measure of weight. As we step both feet on the scale, a flurry of butterflies enters our bodies. We get seriously anxious. We grimace at the thought of finding a number that’s too high or one that hasn’t changed. These numbers may represent a lifetime of trying to lose weight, of triumphs and letdowns, of good days and bad.
To many, the scale is a symbol of self-worth. It tells us whether we’re competent, attractive, a good parent, friend and employee. If the number approaches our “ideal,” we feel like we’ve got the whole world in our hands.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
The scale may drive our mood for the day. It determines whether we’ll feel light on our feet or heavy in our hearts. It tells us whether we’ll be in a great mood, knowing we’re shedding pounds, or whether we’ll be sad and disappointed, because the number isn’t budging.
It may decide how we structure our day, what we eat, whether we work out. It forecasts whether we’ll munch on a piece of chocolate or never eat chocolate again; whether we’ll eat a sandwich or skip lunch altogether; whether we’ll tackle a grueling workout in the evening or enjoy a slow walk.
It may serve as our sense of accomplishment, our barometer for the future, predicting hope or foretelling doom. If the number is low, we’re accomplished superstars, who can do anything. If the number is high (or hasn’t changed), we’re losers, who can’t do anything right and should just stop trying.
It’s amazing that we can give an inanimate object so much power, letting ourselves get bullied. Even if we eat well and exercise, the wrong number can instantly erase our healthy habits, deem them worthless and trigger a flood of frustration (“what’s the point of being healthy, if I can’t even lose weight!”). It can make us punish ourselves by restricting our diet or forcing our bodies to endure backbreaking workouts.
So how can you free yourself from the scale?
1. Avoid the scale. It’s the easiest to do, and probably also the hardest. If you’re eating healthy and being active, stepping on the scale daily or even weekly is unnecessary. Once you stop weighing yourself so much, the act will ease its way out of your routine. If you can’t resist it, try a behavioral modification strategy: Every time you want to step on the scale, do something else (go into another room, call a friend, watch TV) that’ll distract you.
2. Think about what the scale means to you, and make a list. Take a few minutes to consider how the scale shapes your thoughts and feelings about yourself.
3. Remember that weight can be a pointless indicator (same with BMI, but that’s for another post) for your health and well-being. From US News & World Report:
For years, research by Steven Blair, CEO of the Cooper Institute in Dallas, has shown that men and women who achieve a high level of fitness, regardless of weight, live longer and develop fewer chronic illnesses than thin people who aren’t fit.
Thinness is synonymous with health in our society, so we have a tough time separating the two. However, your lifestyle is really what determines your health. It’s something you might have to remind yourself of several times a day, but it’s true!
4. Try to stop obsessing about your weight altogether. Karly Randolph Pitman, founder of First Ourselves, suggests easing up on your expectations in her post. She writes about accepting her weight fluctuations and taking good care of herself:
In my life, I relaxed my expectations by accepting my weight fluctuations. Instead of spending all my energy resisting my heavier body, or feeling frustrated that I weigh more than I’d like to, I spent my time loving and caring for my physical self. I even worked at appreciating my heavier body: How could I enjoy it now, as is, instead of looking towards some future time when I looked my “best?”
The irony, of course, is that as I stopped fighting myself, I gathered the courage to go deeper into my food issues and work towards greater healing. I felt empowered to make healthier choices, not out of some sense of disgust about my heavier body, but out of a deep, abiding love: I love you so much, I am going to take good care of you.
Do you give your scale too much weight? Any tips on liberation that’ve worked for you?