Why this HAES dietitian stepped back on the scale

A lot of dietitians, and health professionals who work from a non-weight focus often recommend not weighing yourself.

Scales measure nothing other than the affect of gravity on your body mass.

You would weigh differently on the moon, in space, on Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Without anything about your body changing. So really, that number you see is a bit arbitrary.

Yet many of us allow the number on the scale to dictate how we feel, not just about our body, but our entire life. It isn’t surprising that in a world filled with fatphobia the numbers on the scale can give us anxiety and stress, or glee and delight. But giving the little metal gravity measuring box that sort of power is not good for our self-esteem, our self-worth or our self-confidence.

When it comes to your health, it is more important to pay attention to the signals your body is telling you:

– a rumbling stomach for hunger.

– the glorious ache after a good run/derby session

– the fatigue that tells you resting is your weekend plan, instead of however many hours of intense exercise you might normally do

– The light headed feeling when you’ve gone a little too long between meals 

That is what is important. Knowing your weight is not really an important matter of health for the majority of people.

So, why, you might be asking, the title? Why did you start weighing yourself again if you don’t believe we need to know our weight for any reason what-so-ever?

Maybe this story needs to start from the beginning.

I have no memory of weighing myself as a child. Weight was not a big topic in our house. Body image was never really discussed either; I can remember having negative thoughts about my body as a child (I always thought I was chubby)…

The first time I remember weighing myself I was about fifteen. It was in the Fall of a year when I’d started running and actually I’d been feeling great; energized, stronger then ever before in my life, and overall great.

Enter the scale, and a number that according to the BMI (another poor measure of health) was way too high*.

Begin dieting and an unhealthy fascination with the scale. Over my high school and early university days I weighed myself weekly, or daily in a way that was mostly just a little too obsessive. And with every change in number would be a change in mood: the number went down and I was happy. That number went up and I was devastated. So it was that I went through years of feeling up and down, up and down. Eventually enough became enough, and  I gave up the scale. Yes I weighed in occasionally; maybe once or twice a year. But over the years it became less and less.

But here’s where it got sticky for me. At first not weighing myself was protective: I was stopping myself from giving my low self-esteem and inner critic food for the fodder. I could be “feeling fat” (ie not good about myself) and step on the scale and have it confirmed – by not feeding this voice in my head I protected myself at a time I needed to grow. But. But. But. Not weighing myself never felt empowering for me. It was great when I maintained a lower weight that was socially acceptable. But when I gained weight and avoided the scale, I’d feel a similar anxiety and I knew I was simply avoiding a number that in my head still held the power to make me feel terrible and bring my good mood crashing down.

So I stepped back on the scale.

A little stipulation here: parallel to this weighing/not weighing journey I also did a lot of inner work on stuff that had nothing to do with weight. I healed a lot of the other issues that had been masked by this weight obsession. After doing all this work, when I eventual decided the denial I was holding towards the scale was actually not allowing me to move forward, I had to flip the script towards the scale. Instead of allowing the number to dictate my mood, I decided my mood (contentment, acceptance if not some form of love/like for my body) would dictate how I felt about that number. A weight above the “healthy BMI range” hmmm, interesting. On with the day. What do I have to do at work today?

The truth is you don’t have to weigh yourself at all. In fact I think stepping away from the scale is an important part of the health journey for many. If you fear not knowing what you weigh that can also be something to reflect on… what does the idea of not monitoring a number on the scale bring up? Anxiety? Why? Do you trust your body enough to not need a weight to give you permission to eat? And sometimes weighing yourself can also be an empowering step towards body acceptance: towards loving yourself at any and every size you might experience. And in the end, well, there really isn’t any one right or wrong way.