A Scale is a Tool, Not a Cursed Instrument of the Devil
One of the things that kinda drives me nuts surrounding the culture of weight-loss is this seeming demonization of the scale. I’d love for someone with actual psychical researchiculated background to put a term to what I think is going on here: humans seem to be insanely good at projecting their internal issues onto external objects as a kind of coping mechanism. It’s not US that’s being bad, it’s the thing (scale) that’s telling us we’re bad! And it’s doing us a disservice because it means we’re tossing a perfectly fine tool out the window because we think a measurement device is being a jerk. Let’s expand.
I’ve run into a couple of instances (citation needed) of an “inspirational” axiom that tells us that we’re not a number, usually accompanied by a picture of a scale with a red X over it. It’s supposed to tell us that we shouldn’t define ourselves by what the scale says. I really don’t disagree with the sentiment that in order to declare success for ourselves, we have to reach a very specific number or else you’re a failure. Except it seems to be misinterpreted more often than not -- that the scale itself is bad and not way we project our faults onto it. And, ugh, we start obsessing over it. We get closer to some goal but like oranges sprouting wings and flying away when you try to reach for them, you never actually reach it and it becomes a personal hell. You start to dread stepping on that scale to the point where you physically feel your stomach churn at the thought of it and the feeling of overwhelming guilt for all the mistakes you made throughout the week that might mean your goal has been moved out of reach yet again. This is where it gets toxic. The Scale stops being a tool for measurement and instead becomes a tool of torment.
But still, it in turn irritates me and saddens me that people discard the scale as a means of measurement in favor of something more forgiving and flexible; how an article of clothing fits as a method of measurement. This drives me nuts since that can change from day to day with temperature, humidity, how worn it is etc. etc... At this point you’re fooling yourself. Without a proper means of measurement, you start going through your wardrobe little by little… saying things to yourself like “well, as long as I can fit in this, everything is OK and I don’t need to adjust anything” which works until you get that other piece of clothing that’s ever so slightly more roomy than the one before and you say “well, as long as I can still fit into THIS one everything is OK and I don’t need to make any adjustments” and so on until they’ve worked back up to 3XL (full disclosure, before I started losing weight, I worked my way up to 5- or 6XL with this method. It took years, but that’s where I ended up using this cycle of just nudging into the next size up). And it’s such an imprecise way to measure, since it can be tens of lbs between sizes so by the time you notice something awry, you’ve lost a LOT of ground. So, it’s irritating because it’s like someone’s being mentally lazy in order to help lie to themselves. And it’s saddening because you understand the “scale hell” and empathize with the mental battle.
Well, I hope I can help somewhat in dispelling a bit of that evil. To start, what they say is correct: your worth is not based on a number that a scale tells you. You are not automatically fit or healthy when you reach a certain number. BUT. If you’re 5’11” and weigh 250lbs without an enormous amount of time embedded in the free-weight corner of the gym, you can probably stand to lose a few. How much? Well, that’s between you and your doctor, and it’s different for everyone. Sure, we hyuck up that BMI calculation and how unrealistic it seems to be, but it does provide a nice wide range. You don’t need to be on the lowest side, or even the middle… just edge in there. What’s the scale’s role here? It just a tool that spits out a quantity. It’s the most honest form of feedback you will ever get. And all you do with that feedback is use it to make adjustments for the coming week (I weigh daily with Saturday as the anchorpoint day which is the day that I’ll use to make adjustments from). That’s all really. Look at that number. Go “huh, that’s where I’m at”. Don’t assign yourself some sort of personal sin for whatever number comes back.
All you have to do is a simple calculation. If number is greater than this range, eat less and move more. If number falls inside of range, do the same thing this week as last week. If it’s less…??? Actually I don’t know about this one! I’ve never actually dropped below my acceptable range!
But that’s the thing about scales and weight. It’s a moving target. It’s a range. If you’re going to base self worth on that number, you’re going to set yourself up for the most pain in the journey. Because even if you get down to a range… your weight doesn’t sit still. You’re constantly fluctuating up and down. Just like when you’re driving a car and you get on the freeway and get in a lane… you don’t let go of the steering wheel! You’re making constant minute adjustments. And it’s the same for everyone, so don’t fret! We’re all in the same boat! So that tool to help! Get on the scale, check the number, adjust, repeat, AND NEVER DERIVE SELF WORTH FROM IT.