As a chronic dieter and disordered eating recoverer, I know well how body weight and the scale can severely mess up your self-image. I used to step on that devilish little black box every single morning without fail to “keep myself on track”— which I’m deliberately putting into quotations because I now also question what “track” I was trying so hard to stay on. If you can relate, and, in honor of World Mental Health Day on Sunday, October 10th, I want to give you a 10-second strategy for drastically helping to end your weight obsession: Step off the scale and STOP actually weighing yourself.
I’ll repeat for those of you diehard scale-steppers–and I was a daily weighing devotee for yearsssss: Step off the scale.
That’s right, friend.
If you’re one of those rare women who don’t give a crap about what the scale says: AMAZING. I admire you and praise you. But, if you’re like me and the estimated 3 out of 4 women who have tried dieting in their lives, then hear me out.
For a long time, I thought the scale was useful in helping me to lose or maintain my weight. And I’m not saying it’s not important to feel comfortable in your skin. I absolutely believe it is, and that all women deserve to feel like beautiful badasses when they get dressed and/or look at themselves in the mirror.
But months ago something snapped for me. The scale and worrying about the number became exhausting AND for whatever reason, all of a sudden felt silly. I started to wonder: What does that number even tell us? When did people start to care about the scale (if you’re wondering, check out the history of dieting and weight obsession in this book, recommended by my sister, Amy Patton, a registered dietician)?
Furthermore, why do we as a society place such importance on the scale knowing that a million and one things can affect the number it beeps back at us? Indeed, it’s probably not news to you that everything from muscle mass to bowel movements or err, lack thereof, sodium intake, hormones, and the list goes wayyyyy on friends, can affect your weight.
Again, let me say you do YOU. But, if you’re resonating with any of the above, here are three signs you may want to step off the scale for more mental wellness and happiness:
Consider stepping off the scale if:
- The number affects your mood. Seeing pesky poundage creep up makes you feel crummy — OR makes you feel elated when it goes down— and those emotions stick with you throughout the day. Many people experience mood shifts, often toward depression or anxiety, with frequent weighing.
- The number affects your actions— e.g., what you eat or wear or do for exercise that day. You see a low number and feel like you have “permission” or wiggle room to eat a little more indulgently or not push as hard in your workout. Or, you see a higher number than desired so you restrict eating or make yourself sweat more. I used to be on that fun cycle every day and now that I don’t know my weight, I actually have to tune in and listen to my body. It’s HARD and has taken me years to learn to trust what my body feels like eating or how it feels like moving, but it CAN happen, and it feels amazing.
- The number affects what you see in the mirror— this one is the worst but also the hardest sign to realize. I remember some days waking up and feeling good. But, then I would get on the scale and didn’t see a number that matched how I was feeling, and thus, all of a sudden, didn’t like what I saw in the mirror as much anymore. It was like the number mentally made me view myself differently, and really, if you’re a mom and showered and got dressed at all, then that’s a win in my book.
DAMN, right? For a simple box to have that much potential power?
Along those lines, here are three things to do if you let the scale rule the day AND you don’t want it to anymore:
- Just step OFF. I know, I know, easier said than done, I know. No, really, I know. But, I promise you CAN do it and it gets easier every time you reinforce that action.
- Journal. Buy a fancy journal or go to the drugstore and fork over $.79– heck, use a post-it note if you want, but I highly recommend taking five minutes every morning to reflect on how you’re actually feeling.
- Consider therapy or find a friend(s) who wants to do this with you. If you’ve been a slave to the scale for a while, then breaking up with it is a process. As women and moms, we’ve been schooled by society for YEARS to “get our bodies back” and “get in shape for summer” — friend, that’s HARD to unsee and unhear, you know? So if you’re really struggling, don’t hesitate to seek personal or professional support (or better yet, seek both).
One last point of evidence if you’re not yet convinced that stepping off the scale might be the ticket to a more feel-good-you: In 2014, a reporter for Health Magazine agreed to document her weight for 12 hours straight, every hour on the hour. She found that she “gained” seven pounds from 6am to 6pm. Hello?! Does this not reinforce how unreliable the scale is anyway??
So, if you like stepping on the scale to see what you weigh, if it helps you feel healthy and happy, then girl, keep at it. But, if the scale makes you feel anything less than great, I just want to encourage you to really question why you’re still doing it, and consider stepping off it for a few weeks–or for good. I can almost guarantee you’ll feel mentally and emotionally lighter, and ten times more ready to shimmy into your jeans with confidence.
For more motivation on managing “on-scale” emotions, check out Becoming a Mother and Being Happy on the Scale. Or, for more ways to give yourself some self-care love this month, click on one of these self-care articles from my fellow contributors.