Most women I know have a love-hate relationship with the bathroom scale. Ok, let’s face it. It’s more like a dread-hate relationship. You think you’ve been “good” for a while and you want to check your progress. You want that A+, that pat on the back that says “Great Job!” So you make sure you’re weighing at your lightest point in the day, probably first thing in the morning. You shed all your clothing, take off any excess weight like your slippers, Fitbit, rings, and earrings. Naturally you haven’t nibbled a crumb or drank a drop yet. You empty your bladder and bowels to the best of your ability. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you make sure your baby drinks as much as humanly possible that morning to drain your reserves. Now you’re ready.
You approach the scale and take a deep cleansing breath. You exhale slowly and completely as you step gracefully on the scale one toe at a time. You stand very still, thinking “light as a feather, I offer my weight to the bright white light in the sky” as your lungs slowly empty. You glance quickly down at the number and then look away and hop off before any more of that heavy oxygen fills your lungs and adds unnecessary weight.
One of two things happen – either you dance it out because you totally rock and you’re down 0.6 ounces from yesterday. Wahoo! It’s working, surely you don’t need to be so strict after all. Sweet! Then you head to the kitchen to celebrate – an extra big serving for breakfast, and maybe your favorite treat for dessert too!
OR…. Your face falls. Your heart sinks. Your shoulders slump down into your bath mat. Your determination goes right down the toilet. And then your appetite sets in. Not the one that’s hungry because it needs more fuel after your 3 mile run yesterday. No, not that one. The appetite I’m talking about is the one that wants to drown this disappointment with whatever decadent off-limits treat is within reach. That one sets in. Big time. After all, you’re feeling like a worthless human being because you’re up two pounds from yesterday. How is that even possible?!? You analyze your day. You did everything you were supposed to do, and yet you GAINED WEIGHT? Totally not fair. Now you have two choices. Either you succumb to that really strong urge to eff-it and try again Monday. Or you decide to grit your teeth, fight temptation, try harder, and insist that some day you’ll see results if you just keep at it.
That is a rough way to start the day, my friend! Today I set you free. Ditch the dang scale! It is not serving you in any way. For starters, what exactly is it weighing? When you’ve lost, have you lost fat? Or is it just water weight? Muscle? Bone? An organ?? Better rethink that celebration dance, schedule a CT scan and make sure all your parts are in there.
In the UWL Program we have been told repeatedly by Chef AJ and John Pierre to ditch the scale. JP has come up with some great analogies that I’m sharing with his permission. The first is that the scale offers us a completely useless number. It tells you the force that gravity exerts on your body. Your whole body – the bones, fat, muscle, organs, blood, contents of your bladder and bowels. Everything. So if you’ve gained or lost, it could be from any number of things. If you’ve gained, it could be that you’re gaining muscle as intended. And you’re beating yourself up and thinking of quitting your program? If you’ve lost, you may have just peed and pooped extra the night before. Great job rock star, keep it up!
Let’s think of it in a different context. Let’s say you’re interviewing for a job you really want and your potential boss says you’ve got the job. (Go you!) But she’s never discussed salary. Naturally you inquire about the payment and she says, “You’ll get paid a 25 lb bag of money every Friday. Ok?” Is it ok? Well it depends, doesn’t it? On what’s in the bag. Is it pennies? Quarters? Dollar bills? Hundreds? 25 lbs of money is as meaningless as 150 or 200 lbs of human. The specific make-up matters a whole lot. In all seriousness, the number on a scale means very little. And when it changes, it means even less. We just don’t know exactly what’s changing.
Now, let’s talk about the emotional reaction you had when you saw the number. Good or bad, it probably affected you. It affected your behavior for the next few hours, which may have even set you up for trouble for the whole day. Whoa. That’s kind of scary. That little devilish device has affected your behavior and even your future results. At whose consent?
What if you made a habit of getting dressed in the morning and before you got in the car and drove to work, you knocked on your neighbor’s door and said, “Hey, do I look OK?” And then you went to the next door and the next door and the next door. You work your way through the entire neighborhood asking everyone their opinion before gaining the confidence you need to hop in the car knowing you look all right. Validation issues much? We can all recognize that behavior as problematic, right? That person really needs to find some confidence in her own ability to choose clothing that is appropriate and flattering and makes her feel good. Who cares what everyone else thinks? Who says the neighbors have any better sense of style anyway?
So back to that scale… When you step on it, aren’t you really looking for validation? Are you guilty of evaluating your self worth based on the number on a scale? Since when does gravitational pull from the Earth have anything to do with success? You weigh and walk away feeling either good or bad about yourself, but neither feeling is based on anything meaningful.
If you have a habit of weighing yourself, even sporadically, I challenge you to stop it completely for 30 days. Just put your scale in the basement. Even better, have your spouse hide it in storage. Just get through the month without weighing yourself. Instead, focus on how you feel. When you need to evaluate whether your program is working for you, evaluate whether your clothes are any looser, or any more flattering, or whether you just feel slimmer. How about thinking about your energy level, your mental clarity, your emotional balance and stability? Have you had an easier time making it through your workout routine or simply walking around the house? These are all really important factors that should not be overlooked. They are all much more meaningful than a number on the scale. When you stop focusing on that, you’ll find the time and energy to evaluate the other feedback mechanisms at your disposal.
Focus on the things that are going right in your life. Think about your loved ones and how grateful you are to have them. Think about the things you have that you usually take for granted, like some kind of electronic device that brings my random thoughts to your own home at the click of a button. When you wake up in the morning, think about the good you can do in the world . That, my friend, makes you a rock star. And that is a much better way to start the day.