To Weigh or Not To Weigh?

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July 14, 2015

As a culture both women and men are often emotionally connected to their scale weight/ body weight. We let it define us. It tells us whether we are “good” or “bad”. As it fluctuates often our mood and well-being fluctuate too.

Scale weight is measured at the doctor’s office as part of a physical exam, and is commonly used to assess weight loss success. Body weight is needed to determine appropriate dosage of some prescribed medications, and I even use it to calculate aerobic fitness when performing a Clinical Fitness Assessment.

But what does that number REALLY tell us?

It actually doesn’t tell us much at all. Scientifically speaking, as the quote states attached to this article, body weight is simply our gravitational pull on earth. That’s it, nothing more. Yet we somehow attach ourselves to a specific number for which we are constantly striving. If we can’t achieve or maintain that number it can be riddled with shame, guilt and/or a sense of personal failure.

The National Weight Control Registry (a database of people who have lost considerable body weight and kept if off) states that 75% of registry members weigh themselves at least once a week. This is considered one of several helpful strategies in keeping weight off long term, using that feedback to stay in touch and in tune to what’s happening physically.

The question is, however, “Is weighing-in a good idea for everyone?”

To help figure this out, ask yourself if you have an emotional response when you weigh yourself? Do you step on the scale with trepidation? Do you react with any type of negative feelings or negative dialogue with yourself? Do you joyfully respond and give yourself permission to have a treat if the number goes down?

If not, you are likely fine to continue to use the scale as an objective check in. But, if so, it might be helpful to step away from the scale, at least for the short term in an effort to break the emotional reaction cycle and practice alternate ways to be in tune with changes in your body.

In addition, here are several strategies that may be helpful:

1- Use an article of clothing from your closet. Pick a shirt or your favorite jeans that you can put on but don’t quite fit. You can get them on and button them up but might not feel too comfortable wearing them all day long.

Every few days try this article of clothing on and use it as a gauge. It won’t be long before you realize it fits comfortably and you can wear it that day!

2- For health, put more emphasis on clinical measures including Waist/Hip Ratio and Percent Body Fat. These are still numerical values but they don’t carry the long history of emotional ties. They provide a medical basis for weight change related to disease risk factors rather than for aesthetics or body image.

3- Begin to address Body Acceptance. Talk to your health care provider about what is reasonable and achievable. Consider the weight that your body has been able to maintain for a year or longer as an adult and use that information to guide your goals. Think more about what your body can do and treat it well for being strong and capable.

4- Use the scale at most once weekly. Body weight fluctuates from morning to evening and from day to day. To account for these normal shifts and variances, use the scale only once weekly as well as using a body weight range rather than a set specific number.

Weighing-in is a personal choice. It’s totally up to you to decide what will be best, but it can’t hurt to experiment a bit and see how you feel when trying these strategies. You never know how liberating it might be!