As a dietitian, it is a given that I’m going to be faced with the scale more often than I’d like. Clients, health care practitioners, the media and many more view the scale as an indicator of health, beauty, fitness, and self-worth.
The truth is the scale is nothing more than your relationship to gravity and should be given less attention and credit than it is often given. Sure, if you are worried about health concerns due to unwanted excess body fat, the scale may be a likely first step. It’s not, however, the only step or the only factor that plays a role in who you are as a person and how healthy you are or are not.
This (and so many other reasons) is why we need to break up with the scale, not just as individuals but as a culture. Leave the scale for those who really need it, everyone else, take a deep breath and say goodbye. Let’s all say it together GOODBYE SCALE!
Breaking Up With the Scale as a Culture
As a culture, we need to stop relying on the scale for so much guidance. I’m not trying to put scale companies out of business (but would that really be such a bad thing?) but I want us to stop putting so much emphasis on something that really can deteriorate our health in more ways than we realize. Having young girls step on a scale and telling them that it is important for them to watch is brutal and can impact them for the rest of their lives.
If scales are going to be used, they should be used by professionals who can also handle the emotional baggage that may be tied to such a thing. The professional must realize that they shouldn’t put too much emphasis on it and also discuss how the number on the scale as one piece of a much bigger puzzle. Perhaps we should require every time someone steps on the scale that they must immediately list 3 things that they like about themselves. This would remove the pressure of that number and refocus our attention on what really matters.
I have to admit the last time I stepped on the scale was to measure a sandbag at the gym. I wanted to see if we had lost too much sand and if it weighed what we thought it weighed. Besides that, the only other times I use the scale are when I’m checking a bag for a flight and need to make sure it’s under 50 lbs or when I was wondering if my dog was gaining appropriate weight. Yes, believe it or not as a dietitian I rarely use the scale, and I’d like to think I have a pretty healthy relationship with my body and my health.
3 Reasons We Are Breaking Up With The Scale
While I ask clients their weight, I do so as one metric of their health. I don’t stop there, I ask about medical history, food history, diet history, etc. I take their measurements, look at them with my own eyes and when necessary, dig further with bloodwork. The weight tends to be a forgotten topic, which is my goal. No one wakes up in the morning and wants to be a number on the scale. They want to be a great wife/husband, son/daughter, mom/dad, friend, athlete, musician, etc. They want an identity that has nothing to do with their weight, so we need to find a way to get rid of that concept.
Let’s find out why I think we should break up with the scale. It wouldn’t be a blog post without a list, you know? Here are the 3 reasons why I think it is incredibly important to break up with the scale once and for all.
It’s a toxic influence.
The scale can be a downright bully and make you think you are less than you are. Ever step on a scale in the morning only to be disappointed and it ruins your whole day? You are talking to a friend and you think all they can see is your weight. The truth is no one knows how much you weigh, nor do they care. If they do care, well they are also a toxic influence and it’s time to say goodbye. If the scale is treating you like a bully, it’s time to break up.
It sets you up for failure.
The scale can set you up for failure whether the number is something you want to see or not. You may step on a scale and see a number you are happy with only to then go and “treat” yourself because you are proud of this arbitrary number. How about the reverse? See a number you don’t like and you spiral out of control. Now you are restricting because you want the scale to console you and tell you what you think you want to hear. It sets you up for failure the more you rely on it. So go ahead, break up with it.
It misses the bigger picture.
Your health is a continuum of MANY factors. Health cannot be classified by one number or factor. If you were told your HDL cholesterol number and nothing else, sure you could make some conclusions about your health but by no means could you know if you were overall healthy or not. Same goes for the scale. I know plenty of healthy & fit individuals who weigh far more than you think they do and guess what, they don’t care.
Would you believe me if I told you that I am fitter now than I have been in a while (ex: fastest mile time to date was run this week + heaviest squat + most advanced gymnastics all with an RHR in the 50s, cortisol normal,etc. ) and I am nowhere near my lightest weight, heck I might be considered almost overweight to some with my height and weight. The scale misses the big picture. It misses what you are capable of, how you are feeling, how your insides are handling all internal & external stimuli and so much more. Go ahead, break up with your scale already, I’ll wait.
A Time & A Place for The Scale
Here’s the thing, the scale is not always evil. There is a time and a place that the scale is necessary. However, if you find that anytime you step on the scale your life crumbles a bit, it means it’s time to break up. For others who like a point of reference and who also document other factors of health (i.e. blood levels, fitness levels, energy levels, etc.) it may be okay to keep the scale. If you are honestly able to remove any negative thoughts, emotions or actions surrounding the scale and its output then you can stay together.
However, if you are going to keep the scale in your life, do not make it a daily habit. At MOST it should be used weekly if not monthly, quarterly or yearly. I also highly recommend that if you are going to hop on the scale to have someone (preferably a professional) who you can discuss this with. Why? Because you want to make sure that you are viewing the whole picture and not allowing it to harm your health. Okay?! Okay, good talk.
And as a friendly reminder:
“[This] scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love.”-Stever Maraboli (from the book Life, The Truth and Being Free)
So, go about your day viewing yourself as more than just a number, more than your relationship to gravity. You are so much more than that and your health is so much more than that.