Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning to tolerate the bathroom scale

The bathroom scale and I didn’t have a problem until the day my coach began to weigh my teammates and I. She weighed us on a physician’s scale in the equipment room. Actually she measured us as well, but the number that mattered was the one on the scale. After a family trip to Florida, my weight dipped and the following week it jumped back up. At that point my coach discussed with me about going on a diet.

So there it began; a fear of the scale escalating to a history of scale avoidance.

I can easily avoid the scale, for months. When my therapist asked me to weigh myself, it took me three weeks to step on the vintage Borg scale to confirm that my weight was over its limit and another five months to find out my actual weight. I was so anxious about the number on the scale, I joined TOPS (a nonprofit weight loss group) to ensure that I weighed myself on a weekly basis. (I’m sure I’m not the only dieter that feels that accountability is necessary.)

That first weigh in on the cold Monday evening in March was a shock, but I was thankful that I was lighter than my final weigh in before I delivered my second baby. I hid my feelings of distress by joking about all the darn baby weight to lose. The TOPS member warmly smiled and replied that we’ve all been there and not to worry, I too will lose the baby weight.

I discussed the weekly weigh-in results with my therapist. She pointed out that your body can easily fluctuate a few pounds up or down. A quarter pound increase is not a reason to distress; a two pound gain can equate to a missed or late bowel movement. “Your body decides to dispose of weight or keep it and decides where to put it. What you want is an overall downward trend; don’t worry so much about the week-to-week results.”

In May, I decided to kick up the effort to actually lose weight. Interestingly, this coincided with returning to work following a year-long maternity leave. I admit it’s easier to see my weight, my number; I’m no longer shocked (sharing that number with everyone is another matter entirely) by seeing those three digits on the scale.

As the summer progressed, a curious thing happened. The need for accountability; to weigh in somewhere other than at my house that seemed so critical only months ago was no longer important. I decided to continue to weigh-in at TOPS until this week, when I weighed in at home for the first time with a borrowed Salter digital scale.

Today, I’m feeling better about the scale, it’s a tool showing a number; one method of measuring progress. But I know I can easily slip back into scale avoidance. I missed the October 3rd weigh-in at TOPS and ate a few rich meals over the Thanksgiving weekend. I was worried about the number. Have I gained weight? I was apprehensive about gaining weight and losing ground in my long journey.

In the end, I weighed myself and kept the results inperspective. Sure the number was loss. But I changed the weigh-in day (Wednesday instead of Monday), the time of day (after I wake up instead of 6 pm) and the attire I’m wearing (a pair of socks instead of well, an outfit).

A final thought from Yoni Freedhoff. I’m going to keep in mind the next time the scale freaks me out:

The thing is, scales are truly frustrating devices because they don't simply measure caloric intake vs. caloric expenditure. Scales also measure clothing, water retention, constipation, time of month, and time of day differences.

Here are two things you need to know.
Firstly, there are 3,500 calories in a pound, and while bodies are definitely not mathematical instruments whereby, if you do or don't eat 3,500 calories, you'll see a pound change on the scale, bodies do obey the laws of thermodynamics. Weight is mass, and mass is energy. If you step on a scale on a Wednesday and it's 3 pounds heavier than Tuesday, unless you consumed the caloric equivalent of at least 19 Big Macs more than you burned, the scale is weighing something other than true weight. You can't gain mass without putting in the energy.
Secondly, your weight doesn't matter.
What do I mean by that? To put it simply, what moves the number on the scale is not the act of standing on the scale, it's what you're doing and choosing during the times you're not standing on the scale. It's your lifestyle and your choices that change your weight. You need to determine how you're doing by evaluating what and how you're actually doing by asking yourself questions such as: What have your dietary choices been like? How's your fitness? Are you being thoughtful? Are you organized and consistent? 

Here are the links to his blog postings on scale addiction and gravitophobia (irrational fear of the bathroom scale). Along with his blog at, Yoni also has a blog called Weighty Matters.

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