Every day, tons of women and men have the morning ritual of standing on a bathroom scale. If weight was truly just a neutral number for most people-then perhaps you could make the case that this is not problematic. However, in our culture the idea of weight gain is often seen as “the worst thing in the world.” We have attached a moral value to the issue of weight loss and weight gain-which shouldn’t exist in the first place. You are not a “good” person because you lost weight and you are not a “bad” person because you gained weight-despite the messages that diet-culture may be sending you. I think that owning a scale does far more harm then good and is generally unnecessary-here’s why.
1. It’s not that accurate of a measure.
Weight-fluctuations can cause people who chronically weigh themselves to go into panic-mode. In her book entitled, Body Respect, Dr. Linda Bacon does a great job of explaining one reason why weight-fluctuations occur. Dr. Bacon states,
“Your body’s biggest component is water-about 60 percent of your weight. Physically you’re like a big water balloon: five quarts of blood and forty quarts of other fluids…In a given day, your weight can fluctuate by several pounds, primarily due to changes in body water. Considering this, you can see that your scale has limitations. The scale is not an effective way to measure substantive weight change. If you doubt this, try eating some salty foods-tortilla chips and dip will do. You’ll get thirsty, retain water, and “show” more pounds on the scale. So, from the perspective of substantive weight, those day-to-day changes on a scale-or the quick, dramatic, short-term weight loss that comes from dieting-are relatively meaningless…In other words, sometimes weight loss is just dehydration.”
The statement above sums up why freaking out over daily fluctuations in weight is utterly pointless. Additionally, it’s important to note that the scale doesn’t reflect anything about your body’s composition or how healthy you are. Ultimately, a person’s weight is not a good barometer of a person’s overall health.
2. You actually do not have much control over your weight (long-term).
We are constantly bombarded with the message that we have ultimate control over our weight and that our lives will improve as a result of weight loss. This is utterly false. There are two major fallacies at play here. The first is the pervasive societal belief, which falsely claims that we have a large amount of control over our weight. Research shows that while our attempts to control our weight through dieting may work in the short-term, ultimately they will fail in the long-term. Additionally, set-point theory holds that your body will work to maintain its set-point weight range through powerful biological and psychological mechanisms. Therefore, almost all people who are chronically dieting will “fall off the wagon” and proceed to regain the weight that they lost.
Dr. Traci Mann, a psychologist and researcher who has studied dieting for over a decade, exemplified this point when she stated,
“Your genes play an important role in determining how much you weigh throughout your life. In fact, your genetic code contains the blueprint for your body type and, more or less, the weight range that you can healthily maintain. Your body tends to stay in that range–which I will refer to as your set weight range–most of your adult life. If your weight strays outside it, multiple systems of your body make changes that push you back toward it.”
The second fallacy is the unspoken notion that we can control our world, our relationships, and our self-esteem, through our weight. The reality is that there are people who have healthy loving relationships, feel beautiful, and achieve success-at every shape and size. Despite what diet-culture may want us to believe-losing weight won’t necessarily make you any healthier or happier (if you’d like to read more on the research behind this I’d urge you to read Health at Every Size by Dr. Linda Bacon).
What if instead, you focused on loving your body now and honoring it by eating mindfully and finding enjoyable movement? Ultimately, that is the real recipe for health and happiness-not dieting and the fruitless pursuit of weight-loss.
3. You are allowing a piece of metal to dictate how you feel about yourself.
I’ve witnessed how upset people can get following the experience of stepping on a scale. There are people who cry over their weight on a frequent basis. This is upsetting for a variety of reasons. As a culture we have gotten it all wrong. Allowing a piece of metal to dictate how you feel about yourself is likely harming you in the long term. When you allow your sense of self-esteem and self-worth to rest on something external (and that research shows is largely out of your control in the long-term), it is akin to boarding a sinking ship.
There are so many things about you that are more interesting then the gravitational force of the earth on your body. At the end of your life, what kind of legacy do you wish to leave? Would you rather be remembered for your body-or for the kind of person that you were?
Ultimately, you are valuable and worthy of love and belonging-no matter what size you are. When you allow a scale to dictate your self of self worth-you allow it to take away your inherent power as a human being. You are so much more than a number. Additionally, getting rid of your scale enables you to focus more on how your body is actually feeling-which is a positive thing.
So if you need to measure yourself in numbers-measure yourself in the number of good deeds that you do for others, the number of items on your daily gratitude list, or in the number of times that you tell the important people in your life that you love them. No matter what you weigh or what your body looks like-you are beautiful and amazing-exactly as you are.
I got rid of scale over a year ago-and I’ve never felt better. I urge you to take back your power and get rid of your bathroom scale (or at the very least, work to decrease the amount of times that you weigh yourself). I promise that in the long run-you’ll be happy that you did.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW is a mental health therapist, body-image activist, and wellness enthusiast. Jennifer’s writing has reached thousands of people through a variety of websites including The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and Eating Disorder Hope. For self-love, body-positive, anti-diet inspiration, connect with Jennifer on Facebook.
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