Take a Break from the Scale — and Be Healthier Because of It

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK/ANDREYPOPOV

My relationship with my scale used to be like a bad romance movie. I’d hide from it, tell myself whatever it told me didn’t matter, but somehow it always worked its way back into my life and messed with my mind.

I think most women can relate to this type of relationship with the scale at some point in their lives. I’m not advocating that we all toss our scales out the window — occasionally weighing yourself can be valuable — but we need to adjust the reasons we choose to weigh ourselves. 

Think about this: Why are you weighing yourself? What are you planning to do with the information? I have found from working with hundreds of clients — as well as my own journey — that we step on the scale for two reasons: to verify our self-worth or as a form of self-punishment. We let the number define us. If it’s low, our day is instantly better. We feel energized, prettier and more worthy. If the number is high, we feel fat, ugly and unworthy.

Guess what? Before you stepped on the scale, you were just as pretty or smart or thin or heavy as you were after. If you know that the number will impact the way you feel about yourself, then your relationship with the scale isn’t exactly a healthy one.

Breaking up with your scale can be empowering. Personally, after avoiding the scale for more than a year, my weight decreased, my self-esteem increased and I finally developed a healthy relationship with my body weight. I can’t tell you how much better it feels to not let a number rule my life or impact my day.

If you are ready to stop letting the scale rule your life, use these three simple steps to let it go:  

Place the Scale Out of Sight

When I want to avoid bingeing on those cookies my husband brought home from work, I don’t throw them away. Instead, I just place them where I can’t actually see them and am not constantly reminded to eat them, but they are still there when I want to enjoy some. I use this same strategy with the scale. Place it somewhere where you don’t see it or have easy access to it.

Trust Your Body

I used to fear that if I didn’t weigh myself, my weight would skyrocket. But it didn’t, and there’s a good reason for that. Before, if the number was low I felt “skinny” and often treated myself to whatever I wanted to eat, and of course my weight would begin to creep back up. When I saw my weight was higher, I would be almost too careful with what I ate. This led to deprivation, which ultimately led to overeating.

When I stopped caring about the scale, I ate because I was hungry and stopped when satisfied. I treated myself on occasion, but mostly I just wanted foods that made me feel energized and healthy. I was more in touch with my body and my needs, and my weight leveled off accordingly.

Use Measurements that Mean Something

As a nutrition professional I cannot state that the number on the scale has no value. Tracking changes in growth, development and disease status are all dependent on weight changes. However, I’ve never seen any research that says a fluctuation of a few pounds is an indication of a change in any sort of health status, negative or positive, in an otherwise healthy individual.

If you are eating well, exercising and trying to improve your health, then focus on measurements that actually mean something. The scale can go up and down for a number of reasons, but measurements like waist circumference or tracking when you can successfully bench a heavier weight or walk a faster mile are all ways to know your health is improving.

So put the scale away, focus on how your efforts to eat well and be more active make you feel and be free from determining your self-worth based on a number.

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Erin Palinski-Wade
Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, specializes in the area of weight management, diabetes and family nutrition and is the author of the best-selling 2 Day Diabetes Diet, along with Belly Fat Diet For Dummies and Walking Off The Weight For Dummies. She serves as a nutrition expert for media outlets such as The Dr. Oz Show and Prevention magazine and often works as a consultant, speaker and freelance writer. She is the co-founder of Master the Media e-course, which educates fellow dietitians on how to break into media to launch their business and brand.