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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

The Self Worth Number

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Each week I am bringing you honest and real accounts from my journey from here to there in my journey of health. I’m not exactly sure where there is just yet, mostly I hope to bring you thoughts and insights on health, obesity, being plant-strong and whatever else happens to be on my mind.

This past week I had a doctor appointment, this was a new doctor, which always makes me a little nervous. I always feel as though I should wear a shirt with all my stats on it, let them know where I’ve come from. Non the less, this was an appointment that included a lot of medical history questions, so I knew I’d get to that.

The nurse brought me back. She was really friendly and joked about getting the worst part over with, and then lead me to the scale, which was in a large bathroom. I’ve had some doctors not weigh me, but this one was going to. I didn’t bother taking my shoes off or my light jacket or the keys in my pocket, and stepped on the scale.

Incidentally I had the chance to weigh myself a few days before this appointment at the gym, so I had a pretty good idea what the scale would say. And then I stepped on, and it read 9 pounds heavier than I thought it should.

NINE POUNDS. I started to panic. How could I have gained 9 pounds in a few days? The nurse took the weight down. And I wanted desperately to stop her, and ask her to try again. It could not be right. She then instructed me to give a urine sample and left me in the room with the scale. Like any normal person, I immediately tried weighing myself again. Still 9 pounds. Naturally at this point I decided that my shoes weighed 9 pounds, so I took them off. 8.3 pounds. I then decided it must be my keys. 8.3 pounds still. Must be the light jacket. 8.1 pounds. MUST BE MY CLOTHES.

I wish I were kidding. But hey, I promised to be honest with you.

7.7 pounds.

I even attempted to move around on the scale to see if I could get a lower number.

As if the nurse would ask me if she should change the number.

“Are you ok in there honey?”

I forgot I was supposed to be doing the sample thing. Got out of the room, got my blood pressure checked (110/72). Went through a bunch of questions. And all I kept thinking is that I somehow managed to gain 7.7 pounds. In the course of 3 days.

Now, logic, reason and common sense should have told me that gaining 7.7 pounds in 3 days is impossible. It would take A LOT of calories, more than humanly possibly to consume. And yet, as the nurse asked me questions, I obsessed over gaining 7.7 pounds, somehow. I went through my appointment, the doctor congratulated me on my success so far. I didn’t care. The only thing I could think about was the scale.

All of this, after talking endlessly that we should not focus on the scale. Yet, there it was. At that moment I didn’t care about my improved A1C or my great blood pressure or my cholesterol numbers being fantastic. I didn’t care that I have reversed nerve damage from T2 diabetes or that I’ve managed to get off of 15 medications in the past few years. All I cared about was that 7.7 pounds.

As I drove home I couldn’t shake it. I kept thinking about what people would think if they found out I gained 7.7 pounds. Would people notice? Finally, I got home and decided to take a walk. I kept thinking I should go buy my own scale, or check on other scales. And then I stopped myself.

I knew better than this, and the truth is I AM better than this. I am better than letting a number get the best of me. More so I’m better than not being logical about this. Difference in scales, excess water, just eating more food can cause big fluctuations in scales.

Weight loss is about an overall trend. It is not a day-to-day adventure in how much you should hate yourself that day. This is why I normally do not weigh myself. So how often should you weigh?

If you are at an ideal weight, I don’t think you should weigh yourself much. Maybe every few months, doctor visits, just to make sure you are at the place you want to be. More importantly though is your numbers that matter a lot more. What is your cholesterol? Your blood pressure? What is your A1C? Those are the numbers to check in with and find out if they are where they should be. When you weigh too much you start to set up a dangerous pattern of behavior that is no longer about your health, but instead about a number, a number that can fluctuate even in the healthiest person.

And what about if you are trying to lose weight? I suggest weighing yourself once a month (or less). Weight loss should be a pattern over time. Some months you will lose weight, some months you will stay the same, some months you might go up slightly. What you want to see is an overall trend moving down. That’s all. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop the agonizing idea of how much weight you should be losing in a day, a week or even a month. Look at your weight loss as a trend that you watch over a year.

I want to say it again though, your health should be what you are looking at, NOT a number on a scale.

I’ve let the scale dictate how I feel about myself for far too long. Our society is scale obsessed, and number obsessed. We have lost sight of a lot of things that important when it comes to health. The bettering of your health should feel natural, not rushed. It should feel good, not ridden with guilt and misery. There are plenty of people who seem fit on the outside who have as many (or more) health issues as someone who is obese. This is why I want to get the focus away from a persons weight and the scale and focus on the overall health of an individual.

By being so scale and weight obsessed we (as a society) send a message that the only thing that matters in health is the scale, and that is just not true. Ask the 100′s of athletic people who have e-mailed me after having heart attacks, sure they look fit on the outside, but it turns out you can be not fit on the inside all the same. When we focus on one number we do a disservice to the health of people, we take away reason and logic, and make it about a pant size.

It is time to start a path to wellness that is about a bigger than that small device sitting on your bathroom floor. Your self worth should not be determined by a number.

About the author

NatalaE2
Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.
  • Ramona Kennon

    Thanks for this Natala, I too will obsess over the number on the scale, when every other number should be telling me how healthy and vigorous I am. Thanks for reminding me of the more important numbers.

  • FlowerPower

    “Weight loss is about an overall trend. It is not a day-to-day adventure in how much you should hate yourself that day.”
    I need to write this on a stickie note and put it over the number window on the scale!!

  • justme

    I’ve had that happen and have decided that all scales are different. I used to obsess, quit eating, or worse. Now I tell them not to tell me the number. If my clothes still fit correctly, I know I’m fine regardless of the stupid number on the scale. It means nothing. Fit people have more muscle than skinny/fat people. It’s all relative; the scale number isn’t a true indication of health. If you are moving in the right direction, refuse the silly scale. Great blood pressure numbers, low cholesterol, and beautiful skin are better indicators that you are on the right track. The weight thing will take care of itself.

  • healthygirlskitchen

    “Weight loss is about an overall trend. It is not a day-to-day adventure in how much you should hate yourself that day.” I love that Natala!

  • Amanda

    Thanks for this post. I struggle over whether I should weight or not. I have come to the conclusion that if I am eating nutritious foods, around 1400 cal day, and I am exercising, that No, I do not need to weight myself. I find myself falling into the trap of letting my weight dictate my mood, obsessing over it and then subsequently binging. It is refreshing to read someone else’s viewpoint.

  • Sherry

    I really needed this today. I hate the scale, I hate being obese, I hate feeling bad about myself all the time.

  • Melissa

    Are you still speaking at the retreats? I think you might be theonly one in this movement who gets it. To be honest, I was turned off by Engine 2 for a long time, it seemed all size and weight focused and about getting skinny and “sexy”. Maybe that has changed or maybe I got it wrong?

  • OmivoreNoMore

    I am able to identify with a history of letting the numbers control now I feel about myself way too much, *but* I want to make a statement (and please forgive me if someone has already commented on this…I haven’t read them yet). One thing we were taught in scbool , and that I always try to keep in mind, is that it isn’t fair to *you* if you compare your weight as measured on one machine to another. As you have seen, you may get vastly different numbers. If you are measuring progress, use one scale consistently and go by those numbers only. The only way the scales at your new physician’s office will be reliable in tracking your progress is when you visit that office again and your weight is rechecked. Unless all scales have been calibrated, there will be a range in numbers from one machine to another. My husband freaks out every time he sees the doctor because somehow in the 24 hours since he last weighed himself at home, he has gained anywhere from 3-5 pounds. Not true, though some fluctuations are to be expected. But, when he compares his #s from home only against those, he sees consistency. As does he when he compares his #s from our Dr’s office only against those from there. Again, he sees consistency, even if those are always 3-5 pounds higher. It’s great when people refuses to let their numbers dictate who they are, but when tracking trends/progress, they are sometimes a necessary evil. Don’t berate yourself when there’s a difference. Like I said, it’s to be expected. This visit with your doctor should be seen a baseline measurement for their records. In the meantime, when you weigh yourself, solely for the purpose of gathering data, treat it as an experiment. On days you do have to ‘collect data’, weigh at the same time of the day – I usually do it in the morning after using the restroom but before ingesting any food or liquids. Hormonal fluctuations, daily intake of food and fluids, all of these things and more will yield different results on the scale. But don’t allow the results determine who you are. You are more than a number.

    Disclaimer: No, I am not a physician, but I did attend medical school before I became I’ll. The above statements are based on training, my background in science, personal experiences, and are my own personal reflections. I wish you much success in your continued journey as many of us are traveling similar paths.

    Take care,
    Danielle
    aka ‘OmivoreNoMore’

  • Ben

    I think what Natala was getting at wasn’t the difference in the scale – but how she felt even though she knew better, and not letting the number determine self woth, not really a commentary on accuracy of scales.

  • Deborah

    You’re a blessing on this earth, Natala! LOVE your courage and honesty and strength!

  • mikecrosby

    100′s of athletes who emailed you after they had a heart attack? I love the article but is there a chance that could be a bit of a stretch?

    • Ay

      Jim Fixx is not an aberration. I encounter many people who exercise hard as an excuse for poor diet and lifestyle choices.

      • VeganDoctor

        Doctor here! I see it every week in my practice, athletes, people in training. They often ignore symptoms of heart disease and often do not get physicals because they think they are healthy. I am surprised it is not more!!!

        • VeganDoctor

          Mike read this article on young athletes, the number of sudden cardiac death is even rising among young athletes. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404161658.htm
          People tend to discriminate thinking that thin people are all healthy, but I have found that is not the case at all.

          • Miranda

            Another doctor here! Many of my patients who have had cardiac events would consider themselves athletes or athletic. Often they come in after the event and had no prior indication that there was a problem. This is why they call heart disease “the silent killer”. It’s dangerous to assume because someone looks thin and fit they are healthy.

          • Matthew

            I wanted to chime in as an athlete who had a mild heart attack at the age of 46, I am now 49. I was a 6 time marathon runner and had 17 half marathons under my belt, countless 5K and 10K’s, not a professional athlete, but I would have considered myself athletic, and healthy. I went to the doctor only if it was an emergency, prior to my heart attack I had not been to the doctor in 12 years. I was home from a run one day when I started to have severe heart burn it would not go away, the pain got worse, I was sweating, and thought I had a stomach flu. My girlfriend at the time insisted we head to an urgent care facility, it was then I learned I was having a heart attack, it was a small one, but definitely woke me up. I found out my cholesterol was very high after that, and had a pretty major blockage. I found Dr. Esselstyn’s book soon after and began following it, with great results.

          • Laurie

            lol I was going to resond as a junk food athlete! I’m a triathlete and I’ve been surviving on fast food, doritos and milk shakes, just found out my cholesterol is 231!!!! Time to make a change!

    • Natala

      Not at all – out of the 1000′s of e-mails we get we’ve had a few 100 athletes (or say they are athlete) who have had heart attacks. Like the story in My Beef With Meat – fittest Firefighter in the country. Just because someone looks fit on the outside, doesn’t mean they are fit on the inside.

  • Engine2Team

    Not at all – out of the many 1000′s of e-mails we have had over the past 5 years we’ve had a few 100 athletes (or say they are athlete) who have had heart attacks.

    Like the story in My Beef With Meat – fittest Firefighter in the country. Just because someone looks fit on the outside, doesn’t mean they are fit on the inside.

  • http://3eyedjohnny.blogspot.com/ 3eyedjohnny

    Thanks for this great article!