A conversation in one of my mom groups got me thinking recently. The topic was of postpartum weight loss, and how one mom couldn’t believe the progress she was making in terms of her body, without the scale moving much at all.
And when I light heartedly suggested ditching the scale, her response was that “It’s so hard!”
But why? Why is it so hard for most women to step away from the scale and to start focusing more on how their bodies look and feel, regardless of that one silly number? And by no means is this an isolated train of thought, or a rarity among women. We have been programmed to rely on the scale for so long now, always being pushed to have a goal weight. We have been pushed by fitness companies to “lose that last 5/10/15 lb!”, that it has become almost impossible to think about our self worth or even our health without harping on one number: our weight on the scale.
The bottom line is that we, as women, place our value in our total body weight, but that number very rarely tells the whole story. In my experience, both personal and professional, the fixation on the scale tends to make sustainable body changes far more difficult to attain. And not only are changes difficult to make, but our own personal satisfaction, happiness, and self worth tend to be a lot harder to come by when the goal is a singular number.
There are so many factors that go into body weight, and many of these factors shift from day to day. Water retention, hormonal changes, the list goes on and on. So it is no wonder that chasing the magical perfect number can be frustrating when ups and downs can happen seemingly in the blink of an eye. When the focus is on your total body weight, logic tends to go out the window. People tend to make changes based on how they think or feel in the moment, changing strategies every time the wind blows. And on the other hand, while often the scale seems to fidget with every change, it is also too often very stubborn. Two weeks of extremely hard work in the gym can result in zero change on the scale (or even a rise in number based on reasons above), which can be extremely damaging to motivation and confidence. Feelings of “why even try” tend to creep in, even though if you could look at your body on a cellular level, you’d see that all of your hard work is making a difference!
So why do we keep going back to the scale — the one who keeps us from appreciating all of the hard work we’ve put in, the one who causes stress and negative thoughts and feelings of self doubt just by flashing one little number?
I can’t really tell you why. I can only tell you that it’s because of everything — the media, society, advertising — all telling us that a goal weight will make us happy. Telling us that those last 5 lb are what is keeping us from true self satisfaction. But it’s all lies, and when it comes to the media, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Most of the “before and after” pictures you see are taken within the same day or same week, they just utilize tans, angles, lighting, and body posture to fool you. And when you see true body transformation pictures, what they often don’t tell you is that the number on the scale may not have hardly changed between the two.
What matters more than the scale then, you ask? So many other variables. Body composition, how your clothes fit, how you feel, how you move, your energy levels — all of these will give you a much better picture than the number on the scale. I will tell you that right now I only weigh about 10 lb less than I did when I was at my highest weight in college, but the difference appears to be far more than that. I’m also considerably stronger and in much better shape than 22 year old me was, which I’m pretty proud of as I’m knocking on the door to 36. But despite all of the differences in the “new” me, the scale has not really changed too much over the years. If I were one to obsess over those last 5 lb, I’d likely not be satisfied right now, even though I’m comfortably in my pre-pregnancy jeans — and maybe they even fit a little bit better this time around?
My point is, the scale lies. The scale tells you that you’ve gained or lost, but it doesn’t tell you what you’ve gained or lost. Are you hanging onto a bit more water today due to a salty dinner the night before? Due to hormonal changes or lack of sleep? Who knows — all the scale knows is that it’s a perfect opportunity to ruin your day.
So step away from the scale, ladies. Put it away, or better yet get rid of it all together. Put your energy into 3 things: moving more consistently throughout your day, getting enough sleep, and managing stress in your life. As these things become easier and part of your normal routine, then begin to add in additional changes in diet and fitness if necessary. But don’t make these decisions based on the scale — do it based on how your clothes fit and a careful examination of how you feel on a regular basis.
Ladies, tell me. Why do we find it so hard to ditch the scale? How often do you weigh yourself — and how does it make you feel?