This is the actual, real-life scale that sits in our main bathroom. And I haven’t stepped on it since January of 2016.
Now, I realize that I’m not the first person in the fitness world to share the fact that they broke up with the scale, but I believe that my story—like all of our stories—deserves to be told.
My mid-twenties were unencumbered by a scale. I was happy. I was out of a dysfunctional marriage, I’d found love again, and I was just generally happy. I had a promising career. Life was pretty sweet.
It was probably the first time since puberty where I didn’t care too much about what I weighed. I was physically active—which to me seemed like a good predictor of general health—and, moreover, I just felt good.
That is until one day, during a family picnic at the beach, I was taken aside by someone. They had noticed I’d gained weight, they said, and they were concerned about me. I should be careful, they admonished.
I felt fundamentally insulted.
My retort was that I was stronger that I’d ever been and leading a healthy lifestyle, but all that I said was met with raised eyebrows and a very skeptical look.
I think saying that I didn’t end up enjoying that beach day is an understatement. As angry as I was about the comments, I also ended up plagued by doubt: did everybody talk about me gaining weight? Was it something they’d actually discussed?
A couple of weeks later, those insidious thoughts still plaguing me, I broke down and purchased a scale.
I love data.
Lists, schedules, spreadsheets: you name it and it’s something that I not only like, but very often have perfected and brought to another level. That’s just one of my (very many) quirks. And while it can be very useful, organization-wise, it can also become detrimental if combined with high levels of perfectionism.
So, what did I do once a scale arrived in my life? I began tracking, of course! Every single morning, I’d step on the scale, and then minutely record that day’s number.
Being one of the very first inputs of information I’d get upon waking, that number had quite a bit of influence on that day’s mood. And so I sought to make it go down.
When it did, it was pretty elating. It felt almost virtuous. When it didn’t or—gasp!—if it went up, I felt like a failure.
Years went by. Over that time, I perfected my system, creating a complex spreadsheet with exportation formulas to look at my overall weight throughout the year, get monthly averages, etc.
By then I knew enough to understand that micro-variations are absolutely normal, and nothing to beat myself about. Still, I kept tracking.
Even when I tried to convince myself not to be destroyed when the number went up, it affected me. The number going down always felt like a little victory.
The scale can only tell you what you weigh, not who you are.
I could lie and tell you that I stopped using the scale voluntarily, but it wouldn’t be accurate. Truth is, life got in the way.
The difference is, this time, I let it.
And… well, this is where I’d love to tell you that something interesting happened, but actually, it was a whole lot of nothing.
I didn’t change the way I eat. Clearly, stepping on the scale every morning wasn’t “reining me in”—I just like how I eat and it helps me feel good, so why change it?
My clothes also still fit me as they should. Not even a smidge tighter. They may be a bit looser, actually—or maybe they’re just stretched out… I still haven’t figured out that bit, but since I dislike shopping, I’m keeping things as they are.
So, as I said above, a whole lot of nothing.
Oh yeah, except one thing: I don’t start my day with a number. And I’m really ok with that.
The scale is still around, in its same spot in the main bathroom, we mostly use it to weigh suitcases prior to travel.
I don’t harbour any ill feelings towards it; it’s really just an inanimate object. It doesn’t hold the power to make me fee good or bad. That’s something for which I take full responsibility.
I also don’t resent that person who made those insidious comments to me, so many years ago. I now understand that whatever they said had much more to do about them than it did about me. That’s always the case.
These days, I work with a very different scale. It consists in three extremely simple, yet fundamental questions:
How do I feel in my body?
How do I feel in my mind?
How do I feel in my heart?
The answer to these actually gives me much more valuable input than any number could. It tends to change on a daily basis because that’s the fabric of life: every day is different from the ones that surround it.
By taking time to check in with myself—as honestly as possible—instead of concentrating on a somewhat arbitrary series of digits, I choose where to direct my energies.
And that, my friends, is much more powerful than any number on a scale will ever be.
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