My friend Brooke* called me the other day to catch up. I hadn’t seen her for a few weeks, and she was telling me how she had been traveling for work and had just come back from vacation with her family. She said she had been eating and drinking the whole time and was ready to get back to our workouts.
Then she started to say something about not having seen “that number” for a while. I cut her off mid-sentence and said, “Holy s***, did you WEIGH YOURSELF?”
There is literally nothing worse than stepping on your scale and being blindsided by the number. Which is why I was so horrified that my friend subjected herself to that after having a few not-so-healthy weeks.
But why do we weigh ourselves? Why do we want to know?
What does it even mean?
If you’re dieting, the only marker of your success is what your scale says. So, you weigh yourself. And if you’ve spent the better part of your life on a diet, you have conditioned yourself to keep weighing in, whether you’re on one or not.
This would be fine if we were all able to objectively assess the number and use it as a way to determine what’s working and what’s not. But this isn’t what we do.
Instead we use the number as a measure of internal worth. If the number is too high, you are disgusting, lazy, and out of control. If the number is low, you are a success and finally good enough. We use the number to decide how we should feel about ourselves. I weigh 140, therefore I am a failure. I wear a size 6, therefore I am good enough.
In reality, how much you weigh is simply an indicator of how you’re currently living — what you’re thinking about and what you’re consistently doing. And these things can easily be changed. So from that standpoint, weighing yourself is just a simple check in to assess whether what you’re doing is working or not.
If you’re looking at it this way, then weighing yourself can be empowering. You’re taking charge and assessing things so you can decide where to go from here. But if you’re using the number you see to make a moral judgment on yourself, then weighing yourself is the worst thing you can do.
It’s about the emotional attachment you have to the number you see. A number is just a number — it’s meaningless until you give meaning to it. Think about it. If you don’t like the way you look but you step on your scale and weigh ten pounds less than you thought, you would probably be happy. On the other hand, if you feel great about the way you look and weigh ten pounds more, you probably wouldn’t be.
I can go on and on about how weight is nothing but a number, but trust me I am attached to certain numbers just like you are. The truth is, I would never weigh myself unless I knew I was going to be happy with what I see.
I hate to admit this. I really do. After all, I’m sitting here preaching about how it doesn’t matter. But the fact is, I still struggle with letting any number past my cutoff put me into a complete depression and then react by eating to make myself feel better. (This is why I’m doing all of this, by the way — because I know how hard it is to struggle with these things.)
So, should you weigh yourself?
The reality is that thinking about how much you weigh is part of the dieting mindset, which tells you that your outer self is the only thing that matters. And if you keep working from the outside in, you will never get anywhere. However, if you focus on how you feel, you will start making intuitive decisions that lead to a healthy life — and therefore a healthy weight. If you’re doing this you have no need to weigh yourself.
But since I know you may not be that far on your journey — and clearly, I am still walking on mine — the answer is this: if weighing yourself motivates you to continue, no matter what the number is, then go ahead. However, if the number has a death grip on you and will totally derail you, don’t.
I know I wonder constantly about how much I weigh — while also not really wanting to know. I stare at my scale every single day and think about it. But I don’t weigh myself, because I’m too afraid of what I will see. (Sadly, just the fact that I’m too scared to step on the scale is enough to make me feel like a failure. Maybe after I publish this post I will finally get rid of it.)
It takes practice not to be desperate for that euphoric feeling you get when you see the number that tells you you’re finally good enough and that your life can begin. And I suspect it takes a lifetime not to think about it at all. Whatever you decide, just keep going.
*Brooke is awesome and also hysterically funny. Check out her blog: http://www.truegrit.biz