Scrap the scale: There’s a better way to measure health

Jennifer Hudson, recording artist, actress and former Weight Watchers spokesperson, steps on the scale every day to help maintain her weight, according to USA Weekend magazine (March 25, 2011). It’s not uncommon. Many people weigh themselves daily or several times a day, sometimes going to great ends to get a good “read” by making sure they have an empty bladder and aren’t wearing heavy clothing or jewelry.

The problem is that weighing yourself can do more harm than good.

Sure, there are times when it’s necessary to be weighed—a medical checkup is one. But other than that, weighing yourself isn’t helpful. Think about how you feel when you step on the scale. Do you really want an inanimate object telling you if it’s going to be a good day or a bad day?

Consider this

Consider the reasons why weighing yourself is not in your best interest:

  1. Is the scale measuring what’s most important? Instead of your health and how you feel internally, the scale focuses attention on weight. “You can’t weigh your worth or wellbeing,” says Judith Matz, LCSW, co-author of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care. “Who you are is much bigger than the number on the scale.”
  2. Are you giving away your power? An inanimate object should not have the power to rule your attitude and behavior—in essence, your life. “When people weigh themselves often, it’s not a neutral act,” says Matz. “It comes from a negative place: A place of judgment and shame: An attitude of ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘Something is wrong with my body.’”
  3. What does the number really mean? The scale measures the weight of all body tissues, not just fat—and muscle weighs more than fat. Weight loss is often due to loss of muscle and water. Also, body weight normally fluctuates a great deal due to variables such as hormones, food eaten and fluid status (hydration; water retention).
  4. How do you react to the number on the scale? Do you celebrate or seek comfort? “If the number goes down, you feel you deserve a reward for your hard work and deprivation,” says Matz. “If the number goes up, you feel disappointed, angry and upset and may turn to food for comfort.” The number on the scale—whether perceived as “good” or “bad”—can lead to overeating. But consider this: If dieting doesn’t work, it’s the diet’s fault, not yours. “There is only a 2-5 percent chance that dieting will work,” says Matz.
  5. Does the scale cause obsessive thoughts and behavior?

Weighing yourself frequently may lead to fixation about weight, food and eating. In some people, it may increase the risk of disordered eating such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. “The obsession takes up mental energy—it’s exhausting,” says Matz.

“Think of what you could do in the world if you weren’t so preoccupied with weight and food.”

A better way: Get feedback from your body

  • Scrapping your scale opens the door to acceptance of your body and offers the opportunity to work on listening to your body and allowing your body to naturally guide eating. Here’s how to connect with your body’s wisdom:
  • Live an active lifestyle doing things you enjoy.
  • Appreciate your body for all it does for you.
  • Make conscious choices about what you eat and drink.
  • Eat mindfully: Eat sitting at a table, relax, and focus on how the food looks, smells and tastes.
  • Connect with your hunger and fullness cues. Aim to stop eating when you feel the first signs/
  • sensations of satisfaction or fullness.
  • Get a handle on health by how you feel physically and emotionally. • Concrete feedback may include blood pressure, distance or number of steps walked, waist circumference, fasting blood sugar, energy level and stamina.

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Written by Karen Giles-Smith. Karen is a registered dietitian, freelance writer and health/wellness coach based in Mason, Michigan. For more, visitTheWellnessWriter.com and AtEaseWithEating.com.

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One thought on “Scrap the scale: There’s a better way to measure health

  • April 18, 2017 at 10:17 am
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    That makes sense. But tell that to the physicians and insurers who seem to make that number on the scale super important. I dread going to the doctor every year because of that number — and I only have about 15 pounds to lose.

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