My mornings look a lot different than they used to. It’s not because I suddenly discovered the secret to getting my kids out the door faster, or because they somehow, miraculously, grew listening ears and peacefully walk their little bodies into our car without me giving them a million last-minute warnings. It’s not because I happened upon a miracle drug that gets me to sleep more than six hours a night, or because I found a way to magically slow down time and enjoy my gargantuan cup of coffee longer. Nope, my mornings look a lot different than they used to because one year ago this month I finally found the mental strength and power to step off a truly useless device that I know millions of women still slavishly submit themselves to every day: the scale.
I used to obsessively and habitually weigh myself every day, so when I found the fortitude to step off, I rightly predicted that stepping off the scale would put me in a more body-positive frame of mind (see the original article here). BUT, what I could never have foreseen is how getting off the scale also dramatically affected all other areas of my life, from my sleep to my social life.
Here are some of the surprising ways stepping off the scale has changed my life, and might shift things for you too:
- Better social life. In the past, sitting down to eat with others, be it at a holiday get-together or going to lunch with friends, caused me days off anxiety. What would I eat? What if the meal occurred later or earlier than I wanted and I had to skip a snack or have one? Anything that pushed me out of my careful eating routine would send me into some heck of a mental spiral. Now, I’m not saying I don’t have twinges of anxiety when social eating events arise, but these former pangs are thin and fleeting pulses of emotion that come and go, and, most importantly, don’t prevent me from avoiding communal eating. I tell myself that even if my “typical” foods aren’t available, I will be fine, and that navigating food flexibly is how I want to live my life.
- Better sleep. This one was particularly surprising to me, but stepping off the scale forced me to tune into my body and trust the signals it was sending me, including sleep patterns. Instead of trying to control my sleep by waking and rising at the exact same time each night and morning, I’m letting my body’s natural rhythms lead my nocturnal path. For example, I often — okay, always — fall asleep on the couch as my husband and I watch TV each night. Before, I would tell him exactly what time to wake me up to get into bed, but now, I trust my body. Whew, I’m going to write that again: I trust my body! And so I trust it to wake me up at a natural break in my sleep cycle, be it at 10pm or 1:15am, and then I’ll go back to bed. Interestingly, I recently learned humans used to sleep in two shifts. I’m guessing our ancestors were better at trusting their bodies– and I highly doubt the pilgrims brought over scales, amiright??
- More money. Stepping off the scale saves money. Really! Since stepping off the scale, I am so much calmer around food. I used to get so frustrated with restriction and deprivation that I would eat dozens of Trader Joe’s alphabet cookies or scarf down crackers like it was my job – only to then pitch those cartons of food in the trash (as if it was the cookies and crackers’ fault!). Binging and throwing away the same box of crackers or cookies each week does not a good bank account make. In the last year, I’ve only had a handful of minor binges, and I waste MUCH less food, and hence, much less moolah.
- Less fear and worry for my girls. I used to worry a lot about what my scale obsession might be doing to my kids, overtly or inadvertently. Did you know that the most recent data shows girls begin, on average, to diet at age eight? EIGHT?! And, girls as young as five take on their mother’s ideas about dieting. The scale used to HUGELY affect my mood each day– sometimes it made me feel happy and confident, but more often it made me feel insecure, disappointed and/or angry, I know my girls must have observed and internalized this to some extent, and now, well, no scale, no moodiness– at least not at the fault of a weigh in.
- Finally, increased overall confidence and mental resilience. I feel like a badass each time I resist an urge to weigh myself. I mean, right?? Think about a challenge or obstacle you’ve overcome. Now think about how far you’ve come. Our struggles showcase the power and capacity we have to change, and reinforces that we can do hard things! And you, you friend, absolutely can too.
By the way, lest you put me on some unattainable pedestal, weight obsession in our country is a BIG problem (ahem, pardon the pun). So if you’re more preoccupied with weight than you’d like to be, or weigh yourself more frequently than you think serves you, please don’t judge yourself. To give you some context of just how pervasive weight obsession in America is, let’s pause to spew out some statistics. Before the pandemic, a nationwide study found that at any given time, 1 out of every 2 American adults is trying to lose weight. But that number is likely higher now– more than 70 percent of American adults said they gained weight during the pandemic with 65% claiming it was hard to maintain their weight during lockdown.
Next month, instead of jumping on the US Weekly train and telling you how to get in shape for summer, I’ll be sharing some tools and strategies I’ve found for getting out of the scale’s sometimes vise grip. It’s not easy, but it’s possible– and I promise, you’ll still feel “lighter” in time for summer.