I was around 11 years old when I became obsessed with the scale. It was the year I really started to put on weight, and I was not only obsessed with the scale, but what the scale said. At 11, I began this relationship with the scale. It wasn’t a healthy relationship, it was more like an emotionally abusive relationship. For years this was the pattern:
Wake up, weigh myself.
Depending on what the scale said, I would have a good day or a bad day.
Weigh myself several times throughout the day.
Depending on what the numbers said, I would continue to have a good day or a bad day.
This pattern went on for the majority of my life, until a while back when I decided to do the scariest thing I have ever done, I broke up with my scale.
This was not a decision that came easy for me, and it was so difficult to make. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what an unhealthy relationship I had with it though. On the good days, things were GREAT. My scale and I loved each other, it treated me well. I’d wake up, step on the scale and it would say something good, a number I wanted to see, and the rest of the day I’d feel great, I’d make great choices, I felt wonderful about myself.
On the bad days? Things were not so great. I’d step on the scale, it would not say what I wanted it to say. I would feel miserable about myself, I’d feel like a complete loser, I would get depressed. And ironically, I’d make worse choices about what I ate or even if I worked out. It had the opposite reaction than you might think, although, maybe you have been in the same position, like I have, the scale moving up never really meant that I would be motivated to do a better job.
When I was younger I did about everything to lose weight. And I can tell you, there are countless ways to get the scale to move in the direction you want it to go, however, it is not an indication that you are becoming healthier.
For a while I binged and purged. I lost weight, I would step on the scale and feel great about myself, because I was losing weight, and I kept it up, because I kept having results. When that stopped working and I started to get sick, I had to start eating again, and I gained weight, and I became even more depressed, so I’d try something else.
I’d try any fad diet that came along to try to get the scale to move in the direction I wanted it to. In the meantime, I was making myself more and more sick. I was going up and down with my weight constantly. Little did I know I was also causing the building blocks to the out of control diabetes that I’d get.
This was the pattern, for so long. And there came a point in my life, not too long ago that I decided I had enough. I couldn’t take this relationship with the scale anymore. I couldn’t take the defeat that I felt when it didn’t go the way I wanted. The thing is that weight loss is tricky, it is for all of us, especially those of us who happened to be born with higher fat stores. Our brains are great at finding calories, and seeking out higher calorically dense foods, it is what helped some of us survive (for more on that read “The Pleasure Trap” by Doug Lisle). Even when eating “healthy” food, some of us have the ability to maintain and sometimes even gain weight, it is a delicate balance at times. All of that aside though, I had to realize that my weight was not the only factor of my health. And that scale did not always indicate what was happening in my body.
Imagine for a moment if we stepped on the scale, and instead of a weight it said “Well, hello gorgeous, you are looking beautiful today. Today, your blood sugar is lower, your blood pressure is lower, your endothelial function is greatly improving, your cholesterol is lowering, and you are eating in a way that will ward off many diseases! Now, go on with your day, and make wonderful, healthy choices.”
Instead, we focus on one number. One number that can fluctuate greatly day to day. We let this number dictate how we feel about ourselves. Worse yet, we often let this number dictate if we will stay on this plan or not. We get one number that we don’t like and we’re ready to abandon it all, or at least, for me, that is what happened time and time again.
The scale is one measure of health, but it in no way is the only measure, and I’d argue that it’s not even the most important measure. We get 100′s of e-mails from people who are at their ideal weight who have heart disease, who have T2 diabetes, who have high blood pressure and other preventable diseases. Put my blood pressure up to any person who eats a standard american diet and is thin, and I can guarantee that mine will be better, as an overweight person following a plant-strong diet.
It’s time that we looked at the whole picture of health, not just one number, not just one day, not just one indicator. As you continue on your plant-strong path, as you adjust, the weight will come off, it might be harder for some than others, and that is ok. Some people might need to fine tune more than others, and that is also ok. However, the important thing is that you remain focused on what is happening on the inside, just as much as what is happening on the outside.
You will not go off course if you get rid of your scale. You will start to feel a freedom that you might not have felt for a very long time. In fact, I’d say you are more likely to do better without it, as you judge your overall health by how you are feeling, and what your various bio-markers say. As for weight loss? Your clothes will start fitting better and chances are you will feel different physically. When I was at my highest weight I could barely walk without a tremendous amount of pain, now I can workout up to 2 hours per day (I do 4, 30 minute workouts) and feel great about it. To me, that is a much better indicator of how I am doing, than a specific number on a scale. For years I let the scale be this negative influence in my life, something that controlled how I felt about myself and how I took care of my body. Not anymore. Throwing out my scale was the healthiest thing I ever did for myself. Even at the doctor, I ask not to see my weight, I figure if something is alarming, they will let me know.
The truth is, I am eating this way for the rest of my life. When I decided that this was for life, and not a diet, I no longer needed my scale.
It might be time to break up with your scale. You deserve more than that.