Why I Ditched the Scale

I don’t know how much I weigh anymore.

Given multiple decades of experience with the scale, I could probably guess. But I don’t want to. I stopped weighing myself four months ago and haven’t looked back. Given this new approach has stuck for a while, I decided to share why I did this and how it has impacted me.

I started paying attention to how the scale made me feel

I think I’ve always known the scale was probably not my friend, but I could defend its purpose as a marker of health. It’s something you track.

I was always after the elusive “good news” aka a drop in weight. If the number decreased, I could feel good about myself. Right?

This summer, I started to really pay attention to how I felt when using the scale. And I noticed, good or bad, the experience was never actually positive.

If the number on the scale increased, I felt bad. Unhealthy bad. A mix of sad, embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated, and ‘what did you expect, loser?’. The last one is harsh, and probably not word-for-word, but I’m certain I’m not alone with the negative judgments we place on ourselves – especially for something like weight since there is no one else to blame.

If the number on the scale decreased, I felt happy. Then bad. Stay with me here. I realized that moments after the initial good feelings, a new feeling would emerge – wanting more. Focusing on the next number. The pressure to continue. Or, in some cases, the disappointment that the drop is not what I had wanted. Cue all the same negative feelings that come along with a weight increase. Self-judgment and criticism abound.

Here’s a prime example.

Two and half years ago, after attempting a number of elimination diets but still feeling bloated and gassy, I tried the Whole30 program based on a recommendation. I went all in, and it was the first elimination diet that actually resolved GI troubles that had plagued me for fifteen years. When I stepped on the scale at the end – the program does not allow weighing yourself during the 30 days – I was ecstatic. I lost 15 pounds over the course of the program without feeling hungry – and while eating bacon.

Instead of relishing in how great I felt inside, I started to wonder what my next target weight should be.

However, that’s not the point to this story. It’s what happened later that is more telling.

A year later, having been newly diagnosed with autoimmune hyperthyroidism, I decided to embark on another Whole30 to see if it would ease my symptoms. It is worth noting the purpose of this round was truly health-motivated. However, I was also keenly aware of my eagerness to see how much weight I might lose this time around. When I finally got on the scale, my weight was down by 10 pounds. I was disappointed. I was actually disappointed. Here I was, feeling better, my thyroid issues were reduced, I had more energy, and yet I still felt let down for not achieving the same loss as a year earlier.

The scale robbed me of my achievements

It took me almost another full year to finalize realize how harmful the scale is for my psyche. I allowed this contraption to nullify the incredible health benefits I had gained from eating nutritious, whole foods.

I was letting the number staring up at me dictate how I felt about myself. My self-worth was being determined by a number that really doesn’t reflect true health.

I don’t recall the exact tipping point, but this summer it became crystal clear that I needed to stop weighing myself. Getting on the scale was never positive for me. I could not think of any good reason to continue this practice.

I had a few internal arguments:

Q: But, how will I know if I am sliding into unhealthy territory? 

A: Your pants.

Q: But, how will I know if I am making progress (shedding excess fat)?

A: Your pants.

Okay, so maybe these examples are oversimplifications. Gaining or losing muscle is also a factor in how your clothes fit – and body composition does impact health – but your overall weight also doesn’t tell you the status of your body composition.

The decision to ditch the scale can make others uncomfortable

A couple of months after quitting weigh-ins, I switched gyms. During my introductory session, I tried to explain to the gym staff member that I didn’t have a weight loss goal and didn’t want to weigh myself.

She seemed concerned.

I explained that I want to be strong and active. Health is important to me. But I care more about how I feel and what I can accomplish. If I can add more weight, I’m getting stronger. If a spin class feels easier, I’m getting fitter. If I can stretch further in yoga, I’m increasing my flexibility. A weigh-in won’t tell me any of this information.

She seemed unconvinced.

I don’t think she doubted that I could tell if I was improving my health, but she seemed intent on measuring. So, she suggested I take regular photographs of my body if I’m not into weighing myself.

I understood her perspective but realized for me, the practice of taking photos could be just as unhealthy as seeing my weight.

I would much rather focus on how I feel and what I can achieve.

I don’t miss it

I do not miss the scale. I do not feel like I’m missing out by not knowing how much I weigh.

I feel better. More sane. Like a weight lifted (no pun intended).

Does it mean I’ve got it all figured out? No. I still have negative thoughts when my pants are feeling tight or when I haven’t been to the gym in weeks. I still struggle. But I feel secure in my decision to rid the scale from my life.

I know this might not be for everyone. But I would encourage you to pay attention to how the scale impacts your self-worth or your self-talk. Does an increase or no change in weight ruin your mood or set a bad tone for the day? Does weight loss feel like it’s never enough or not good enough?

Is it worth it?

In my case, it definitely was not.