Thursday, November 7, 2013

No Weigh

This post originally appeared on Wholify, Restoring Your Wellbeing website which is operated by Michaela Ballmann, MS, RD, CLT

I get a lot of questions being a dietitian. One that comes up pretty often is how often I weigh myself. It's such a great question and my answer has changed over time. When I was in highschool I saw a nutritionist to help me lose weight. I remember weighing myself in her office each week. I'd come in, hand her my food journals and head off into her bathroom to step on the scale. In the interest of full disclosure, I lied to her every time I reported my weight. I figured, tell her what she wants to hear so every time I said I lost 1lb each visit. (I lied on my food journals too but maybe that's another post). Why did I lie? I guess because I wanted to tell her what she wanted to hear and I was fearful of her reaction if I didn't lose weight that week.

After I stopped seeing the nutritionist, I don't think I weighed myself until many years later. Of course I'd get weighed at annual physicals but it was not something I did at home. Not coincidentally, it was during this time of my life that I really started to gain weight.

Once I made the decision to lose weight (and it happened one morning in April 1999), I still hadn't weighed myself in quite some time. I had no idea of what my actual weight was but I would guess it was over 300+. I didn't weigh myself that morning but instead I waited about 2-3 months until I noticed a difference in how I looked and felt. I remember that day as if it was yesterday and my weight was 285 lbs. From that day on for about the next 10-11 years, I weighed myself every morning. At first it was to monitor my progress and later on it became my tool to "stay on track."

Over those 10-11 years, the scale became the best indicator to what kind of day I was going to have. If it went up, it was going to be a bad day. I felt less secure, less confident, less worthy and therefore I ate less. If the scale stayed the same or went down, it was going to be a great day. I'd be more confident, more secure, and therefore have freedom to eat more. There were even times I would weigh myself more than once per day. I'd see how the weight changed after a workout, after a bowel movement or after a big dinner. Sounds crazy, right? It was crazy but I am 100% confident that I was not the only person to do this.

After I read Intuitive Eating, I realized how the behavior of weighing myself was part of my "diet mentality" and it all started with my desire to be "thin." I knew that to make peace with food, I had to reject that behavior and ditch the scale. It's scary to stop doing something that you've done every day for over a decade. My security blanket was going away but once I started not to weigh myself, I noticed that my attitude towards myself and towards food changed. I noticed that I had a little more freedom with food if I didn't have the scale as my tool to determine what and how I should eat each day. I was able to tune into my body’s signals more and more which was reassuring.

I went about 2-3 weeks without weighing myself at first and then I wondered if I was gaining weight as an intuitive eater so I decided to step on the scale. I have no idea what the number said but I know that my mind went back to it's old "less vs more" thinking. What can I say, old habits die hard. It was after that event that I really realized how much power the scale had over my behaviors and that the scale deserved to not be part of my life.

It's been about 2 years since I've stopped weighing myself and I've never felt more confident about my body. Has my weight changed since I stopped weighing myself? I don't think so. My clothes still fit and I don't notice a difference in any pictures, so I guess I'd have to say it's pretty stable. Do I still have issues? You bet! Those might never go away but that is another post.

So that's my personal story about the scale, but what does that mean for you? If you are anything like me, you might be obsessed with the scale just like I was. And you might be thinking, "There's no way I could stop weighing myself." Some of us are not ready to ditch the scale and in some cases, regular weigh-ins might be completely necessary (like for those in treatment for eating disorders) but for most, the scale is only a measure of one thing...your weight at that exact moment in time. It doesn't measure self-worth, it doesn't measure your overall health and it should never tell you how much you should eat in a day.

Saying goodbye to the scale is not 100% necessary to become an intuitive eater but it is a very strong symbol for our emphasis on body weight. It is a symbol for why we diet, why we create food rules and why we stop listening to our body. I've already removed this symbol from my mind but it’s still in my house, why I have no idea. Today, I've chosen to say good-bye forever. Are you ready to say goodbye to the scale?
Goodbye and good riddance!