How many times do you step on the scale over the course of a day? Week? Month? Year? When you are at the doctors office, do you make sure to look at the number on the scale? Or, do you try desperately to sneak a peek on the sheet while the nurse checks on another patient, hoping you don’t get caught?
Have you ever asked yourself ‘why’? For many men and women, stepping on the scale has become an obsession, one that influences their mood and often dictates how they go about the rest of their day. Think about it, how many times have you stepped on the scale, read its number, and decided it was now mandatory to have a salad with no dressing for lunch instead of the much loved burrito, as if somehow, this choice (if one can even call it that) will reset the ‘wrong’ that appeared on the scale earlier in the day. You feel better when the number is lower, and beat yourself up if there is a pound of difference. Did you know that weight fluctuates throughout the day for a variety of reasons, such as fluid intake, digestion process, etc? Yet, there is this tendency to freak out if the scale says you are 3 pounds heavier than it was earlier that morning or last week. Have you ever stepped on the scale, read the number, and said to yourself, “I need to eat more”? Why? Why not?
Weight is just a number, yet we give it so much power over our lives. We forget that our bodies, when eating and exercising normally/healthily, has a way of regulating itself. It has a range that it likes to stay within and does its best to do so when we are not trying to manipulate it to be something we think is respectable. The number on the scale is not a true measure of health. It cannot not tell you what your blood pressure is doing or if you will be out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs. It cannot tell you the strength of your bones, whether you are nutritionally sound or have a heart of an ox.
So, why would we consciously and, even, obsessionally, choose to step on the scale knowing that it is just a number. Why do we give it so much power? Why do we let the number tell us we are unworthy or weak? Why can’t we just trust our regulating bodies, which has been around a lot longer than what fashion says is “in” or the latest diet fad?
My challenge, throw away the scale! Turn around when you are getting weighed at the doctor’s office. Distract yourself by reading a book when you feel the need to sneak a peak on the sheet. Start asking yourself, why do I care so much? Why am I giving so much power to the number? Ask yourself, “Am I afraid of weight gain, even if it means being at a healthy set point”? Challenge your stereotypes around weight and shape. Listen to your body, trust it…
-Karen McGratten HBA, MDiv Specializing in Eating Disorders