In the newly released second edition of her book, Eating Mindfully, clinical psychologist and weight loss expert Dr. Susan Albers provides readers with easy-to-use techniques for managing emotional eating, controlling cravings and creating a healthier relationship with food. Here, she demonstrates how focusing on the numbers can work against you when you’re trying to lose.
When you succumb to your scale, you turn over your sense of control to something outside of yourself. When the scale presents you with a number you don’t like, you may judge yourself too harshly. This can jeopardize your psychological balance because you become dominated or literally weighed down by your self-critical judgments. Rather than judging yourself, it would be more helpful to think about weighing yourself psychologically.
So if you have a love-hate relationship with your scale, it’s highly recommended that you break up with your scale. Hide it for a while. Tuck it in the back corner of your basement. Stop letting a piece of metal become not only a measure of your weight but the measure of your worth—and a strong determinant of your mood and well-being. Here are 10 reasons why you may wish to seriously consider your relationship with your scale:
1. If you have ever had a day when you were feeling great and then you stepped on the scale and your day was permanently ruined, then it’s time to realize that your scale is taking on the role of an abusive partner. A scale can make or break your mood in an instant. Stop letting the scale play head games with you.
2. If you really want to know how your weight is impacting your health, get a tape measure. What really matters is your waist circumference. According to information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), high waist circumference is associated with an increased risk of health problems, like Type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. On average, if you are a male, your waist should be less than 40 inches. If you are a woman, less than 35 inches, according to the NIH.
3. Your weight alone is a poor indicator of your health. You can be very thin and unhealthy (be malnourished or have osteoporosis or high cholesterol, for example) or overweight and healthy (no heart disease, good cholesterol, etc.). Don’t get lulled into believing that your weight can determine if you are fit or not. Get a complete physical by your doctor to determine how healthy you are.
4. A scale doesn’t tell you about your strength and endurance. Can you run a mile? Can you touch your toes? Can you walk comfortably? These things are what really matter to your life. Not being able to do these daily activities tells you a lot about the state of your health.
5. Use your clothing as your guide. Your clothes help you to have a better perceptual awareness of your body. Numbers on a scale do not. Your scale may tell you that you’ve lost five pounds—but how do you “know” it? Your clothes help you to sense it. Without even stepping on the scale, clothes alert you to whether you have lost or gained weight.
6. A scale does not measure your body fat-to-muscle ratio. As you become more fit, your muscle mass goes up and therefore your weight increases. A scale is not sophisticated enough to know the difference. Therefore, if you need to know more about your body, get your body fat composition evaluated by a personal trainer at a sports clinic or wellness facility.
7. A scale doesn’t consider your healthy weight range. It only gives you one number. Within a day or two, your weight naturally goes up and down depending on things like your water intake, salt consumption, premenstruation and other factors. It is natural for your weight to fluctuate a little rather than stay on one exact number.
8. A scale cannot measure your self-worth. So if you use your scale for punishment or reinforcement, if you reward yourself when the number is down and penalize yourself when it is up, then stop. A scale should not have that power over you.
9. All things cannot be quantified—though we as human beings love to count things, to see our progress in numbers. Instead, focus on the process of eating mindfully rather than the numbers on a scale. If you are eating healthfully, your weight will drop.
10. Scales are not all the same. Don’t be surprised if your weight at home is different than what is recorded at the doctor’s office. Scales are machines. While relatively on target, for the weight obsessed, even a pound of difference can throw you into an unhealthy tizzy.
For some, a scale is a helpful tool. For others, a scale warps your emotional relationship with your body. If this sounds like you, I hope this has convinced you to rethink your relationship with your scale.
Reprinted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Eating Mindfully, by Susan Albers, www.newharbinger.com.