Many of my AnneTheRD clients are surprised to find that I don’t own a scale. The last time I had consistent access to a scale was 10 years ago, when I was living at home briefly after college. I’ve told this to a number of my nutrition counseling clients lately who I’ve been encouraging to ditch their scales, and they are shocked. Not only shocked that I don’t have one, but shocked that, in the end, it hasn’t made any difference in my weight. But the area in which it has made a big difference? My happiness and self worth. (Related: I co-host a 6 week intuitive and mindful eating virtual group program for those interested in working to build healthier relationships with food and their bodies.)
I’m certainly not a traditional dietitian – I don’t give my clients rigid meal plans, I encourage them to stop tracking their food/calorie counting if they are when they come to me, and, most importantly, I encourage them to ditch their scales, no matter if they are working on weight loss, maintenance, or gain.
For many of my clients and people in general, I find that the scale has become a sort of evaluator of self worth. Each morning, they step on the scale and let it tell them how their day should go. If the number is low or where they want it to be, they feel happy. In control. Like the day will be a good one. But when the number is higher than they’d like (which, it’s worth mentioning, isn’t even accurate/indicative of true gain or loss – weight fluctuates all the time for a lot of reasons!), suddenly that number becomes something else entirely. It now represents their failure. They are out of control. Worthless. Not in charge of their own lives. They now feel uncomfortable in their own skin, even if a few minutes earlier they were feeling strong and confident. Negative self talk ramps up. A good day is now a bad one, and that sentiment carries them through the day. Maybe their normal, healthy breakfast is now no longer okay because of that number, so they decide to cut back, even though they’re still hungry. Maybe that leads to overdoing it later, guiltily. Maybe this perceived failure translates into being unable to cope with stress at work. Maybe it means that something that normally wouldn’t be a big deal does become a big one.
I work with my clients using the Intuitive Eating approach, and a big part of this is encouraging them to break up with the scale. No matter how hard one works on being intuitive or mindful around food, or how much they work on self care and stress relief and positive self talk, if they are letting a number rule their lives, they will ever make progress. Recently, I’ve had success convincing a few of my clients to trash their scales. Not just hiding them upstairs or in another room – but truly getting rid of them. A few days later, they have emailed me, shocked. “I had no idea how much of my self worth was tied to that number,” they say. Or, “I’ve been able to focus on how I really actually feel rather than what a number tells me I should feel.” Or, “Intuitive eating and positive self talk have become much easier.”
I think a lot of my clients expect that if they ditch their scale, they will all of a sudden gain 20 pounds and not realize it. Or that they will be totally out of control. But actually, it’s the opposite. Since when do we need a machine to tell us if we’re where we want to be? If we feel strong and healthy? If we can kick butt at our workouts? If we’re a good friend, or doing well at our jobs, or being a good spouse/parent/whatever? You don’t need a scale to tell you any of that. When I broke up with the scale 10 years ago, guess what? Nothing happened. I didn’t suddenly lose weight, or gain weight. But I did stop worrying about it. Instead, I was able to more clearly focus on how strong my body was and how it was powering me through some awesome workouts, what foods made me feel good, and so many other things that are way more important than a number on a scale.
Don’t let a number tell you if you’re worth it, friends. And even if you aren’t ready to ditch the scale for yourself, if you have children, do it for them. No matter how much positive body image talk you share with them, they will pick up on your actions. How long will it be until they start tying that number on the scale to their self worth, too? And how can you tell them not to if you’re doing it yourself?
What are your thoughts on the scale? Anyone want to join me in ditching it? And if you already have, have you found it’s made a positive impact?