Thursday, 15 May 2014

Thursday thoughts: ruled by the scales

Morning everyone!

This week I wanted to discuss how the weighing scales can rule our lives.


I think everyone can relate to this, eating disorder or no eating disorder. Most people have their own rituals for stepping on their scales, and I imagine few people can say their mood has never been affected by the number they see pop up.

For me, my scales ritual has always been that it must be done first thing in the morning, no clothes, preferably before I’ve done any exercise (I don’t want any fake weight loss from sweating!). This used to happen every day, and then often in the evening too, and even at random points in the day (you know, just in case I’d put on or lost another stone in the last half an hour…). I was obsessed with the scales.
When I started bingeing, I became fearful of stepping on the scales. The thought of seeing how I’d failed, how I’d acted in such a “disgusting” way, how large and horrible I was, pictured in scientific numbers, made me panic. But eventually my obsession would win over, I’d step on the scales, and then feel horrific the rest of the day.
Often, my obsession with the numbers on the scale was quite removed from my actual body. Yes, I had massive body hang-ups and desperately wanted to be smaller, but the scales were almost a separate numbers game rather than being associated with my looks. In my head, lower numbers meant better self-control, better looking, better determination…generally a better person. I wanted to get to a lower and lower number, and to put on weight was a massive failure. I used to obsess over the estimated weights of celebs you’d see in the magazines so I could compare myself to them (although I doubt they’re even vaguely accurate!). Yet I would never tell anyone my weight: it was a source of internal pride, not something I wanted to disclose to the world.

And to add to the numbers we see on the scale, there are all the additional statistics, such as BMI, to become obsessed with and to set yourself expectations for.

So why do we do this? I know I don’t remember the first day I stood on a scale, but I do remember in a PE class where we were allowed in the gym, and the steps machine asked me to put in my weight to help estimate the number of calories I was burning. I had no idea what weight I was, so I copied someone else’s, and wondered whether I should know what my weight was (and if I should be obsessing over it as much as the other girls). However I have no idea when I started weighing myself regularly. 

Messages get ingrained in our heads from an early age. And it’s not only “you should know how much you weigh”, or “you should be this weight” - I feel it’s starting to become that the only state we should be in is one where we’re losing weight. I often think there's this perception that even if you’re slim, you still have to be seen as trying to lose weight, to keep going and going. And what’s the easiest way of us measuring where we are? The scales of course!

But scales are not even accurate! Many different things can affect the number on the scale, other than our weight, such as hormones, the amount of water our bodies hold on to etc. (this article from Greatist is a brilliant demonstration of this). And check this out:


That muscle and fat WEIGH THE SAME AMOUNT. Muscle is much denser than fat, and therefore if you have the same volume of muscle and fat in front of you, the muscle will weigh significantly more than the fat. So actually, if you start working out, gaining muscle, you could lose body mass but stay the same weight. And if you’re not aware of this fat v muscle weight issue, you’re going to get frustrated that your workouts don’t seem to be working. You may panic, you may train harder, eat less, all to budge that number on the scale. And most likely you will be training TOO MUCH and eating NOT ENOUGH. All of this doing damage to your body. So, the scale is not some wonder machine. As humans who learn maths and science we see numbers as factual and accurate, something we can use to make comparisons – and this is not the case with scales. 

Another example, these women all weigh 154lbs, yet look how different their bodies are, beautiful each in different ways:


The scales do not tell us everything. 

We all need to step back and start actually thinking about what the numbers mean. We need to know that the scales can fluctuate around 7lbs without us gaining or losing any real weight. 

We need to ask ourselves SO WHAT? So what if the number on the scale goes up a couple of pounds? The real thing we should be measuring ourselves on is our health. Are we eating a diet that supports our body? Are we eating enough to give us all the nutrients we need? Are we moving our bodies enough? Are we hydrating with water? Are we giving our brains a break from all the stupid mental stresses we put on ourselves, including stressing about our body imge?

So we need to stop obsessing over the scales. The scale no longer needs to be something we see more than our old school friends, or something that dictates how we feel in a day.We are so much bigger than this. No one cares what the number on that scale says, so long as we are HEALTHY!


My aim is to one day throw my scales away. I want to get to a point where I can listen to hunger signals, and eat intuitively, and let that regulate my weight naturally. Since I started working away from home I have not had scales available to me everyday (although I originally did consider lugging one with me!) And you know what? It's helped me to realise life is possible without knowing your weight everyday (although it was definitely strange for the first few weeks going about my business not knowing my weight that day). Yes, I still feel a larger sense of apprehension when I come to weighing myself when I get back after being away (it’s often the first thing I go and do), but overall I do feel like I have more freedom from the scales. 

I'm going to practice more of the positive thinking  I've shown in this post, and hopefully with the help of a therapist I will eventually get to the point where I throw that scale away. Are you ready to throw away yours too?

Have you ever given up the scales? What's your view on weighing yourself daily?

Hope you all have wonderful days.

E x

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