Weighing in on the Scale Issue

This is, I hope, the first, last, and only post I write about weight.

I’ve heard that owning a scale is a bad idea. I haven’t heard any concrete reasons why it’s a bad idea, but I gather that there is something about owning a scale that causes people to obsess over their weight, or maybe they think using the fit of their clothes is a better measure for whether they are losing/gaining too much, or possibly they think that without the scale they are simply free of that number.

Is this the truth? Am I missing something? I’ve had in-home access to a scale nearly my entire life and I haven’t had any of those problems. At least not exactly. Actually, now that I think about it, it was when I didn’t have access to a scale that things got a little bit out of control. True, there were other factors that contributed to the gain of more than a dozen pounds in a few short months, but I can’t help but think that if I’d had a scale, I wouldn’t have let it get to the “more than a dozen” point. Being able to step on a scale whenever I fear I might be headed down that road again keeps me from heading down that road again. I kind of feel that it keeps me from obsessing over my weight because I can step on the scale, know what it is, know where I stand, and act accordingly.

That goes for both sides of the issue: if I see that I’ve gained a couple of pounds, I change my eating habits. If I see that I’ve lost a couple of pounds, I change my eating habits (even though part of me wants to find out how low I can go). I have a family history of weight issues/eating disorders and it would be easy for me, I think, to say, “The thinner the better.” But being able to keep track of my weight keeps me honest with myself: thinner is not always better, maintaining a healthy weight is more important than fitting into a size 0.

I have no scheduled weigh in time. I don’t step on the scale daily, or weekly, and perhaps not even monthly — except when I’m pregnant. I’m not someone who gains weight easily and I’m not really someone who loses weight easily. (Easier than most, possibly, but it hardly just melts off — unless I’m breastfeeding, or training, or breastfeeding and training.) My body seems to like being at a certain weight, and it just so happens that the weight it likes to be at is a weight I feel good about. Sometimes my mind forgets that and starts playing tricks on me. It tells me that my clothes fit more snugly than usual and such. And then I start to get anxious. Maybe a little sad. I worry. I become distracted. (More than usual, I mean.) And that is when having a scale comes in handy. I can quickly and easily calm my troubled mind simply by stepping on it.

Plus it is super convenient when you have to make sure none of your luggage weighs more than 50 pounds before you head off to the airport.

Or maybe I’m totally off-base. What are your thoughts about having a scale in your home? Good idea? Bad idea?

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6 Comments

  1. I pretty much agree with every single one of your points in this post (including all the personal factors) so there’s not much to say. I like having my scale around for all the same reasons, especially the luggage. It confirms that my body just kind of hovers around a certain weight no matter what, and if my belly seems flabby, I still weigh exactly the same as when it’s toned, so I better do something else to fix that flab than worry about weight.

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    lizzie Reply:

    Heather, I just wonder if there will be a time when our bodies suddenly decide that they want to weigh 10 more pounds. I’ve heard of such things . . . .

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  2. Well, timely post since this subject has been weighing on my mind… (did you see what I just did there? eh? eh?) Anyway, I do have one. Always have and always will for similar reasons you mentioned. However, over the last few weeks I have noticed that I have suddenly gained like 7 pounds??? WEIRD. It’s probably isn’t even that noticeable, but my clothes are slightly tighter. Is this the universe telling me that I am, indeed, getting older and can no longer eat like a middle-schooler and get away with it? At any rate, this unforeseen disaster has luckily coincided with the new bike path from Laie to Kahuku… you better believe I was out there at 6:30 this morning and I will be from here on out. So, yeah, my scale has made me obsessed with this sudden weight gain, but in this case, maybe that’s a good thing…

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    lizzie Reply:

    Stephanie, you make me laugh. I think it is good that you caught it early, and hooray for the bike path. I’d love to see what that is like! Maybe in a few years . . . .

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  3. I keep my weight in check much better when I have a scale. If I don’t I always seem to gain a few pounds….so I agree that having a scale is a good thing.

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    lizzie Reply:

    I agree with you, Melissa, as long as it doesn’t become an obsession, of course.

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  4. OK. I better add this this “discussion.” I don’t own a scale, I never have, and I don’t plan to get one–although, I will say that the last time I was headed to the airport I really wished we had a scale!

    I do not own a scale for some of the same reasons you mentioned. For me, getting on the scale is too stressful. I used to go to a gym, back in my single days when I had discretionary income, and I would weigh myself on a weekly basis. For a little while, I did it more often and I found that the more often I was weighing myself the more my thoughts focused on weight and the more anxious I felt. The less I got on the scale, the less I thought about it and the less anxious. And now, I the only time I get on a scale is when I am at the doctor/midwife’s office.

    My belief is that the number is just a number that can become more than a number, it can begin to take meaning about the person I am, if I let it into my thoughts. I’ve found that I’m much healthier physically and emotionally when I look at how well I am balancing my life, regardless of my weight. So, for me, not having a scale is just a little piece of my attempt to stay balanced….

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    lizzie Reply:

    I definitely appreciate this perspective, Lindsay. In another comment, my sister said that she is having issues with a weekly weigh in as well. So it sounds to me as though weighing in regularly does have a tendency to lead to anxiety and obsession over weight, when the focus should be more on how you feel about your body and your health in general.

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  5. I can’t tell you how perfectly timed this post is. Yesterday was Monday, and it was my day to weigh-in. Not good. Not that the scale said anything that was not perfectly in the realm of possibility, it just didn’t say what I wanted it to say. And it bugged me. It was just a little knot in the back of my brain that kept gnawing away at me. I later talked to someone about their weight, and I got into a mental tizzy. How could I weigh what I do, doing what I’m doing, and they can weigh what they do given their circumstances? How is that possible? How is that fair? I then vented a small part of my frustrations to a friend of mine and she said “Abby. You have different bodies. It’s okay.”
    And it is. It’s okay. I got home and talked to my roommate who’s been hearing all about my weight goals, who knows where I’m at and where I’d like to go, and I was able to honestly say that my weight goals are not important. My health goals are. So I’ve decided to not weigh in regularly, but to continue working on living a healthy lifestyle, and let my body weigh what it will during the process. That’s fine. It’s what it’s going to do anyway, and there’s no reason to let that get me into a mental tizzy.

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    lizzie Reply:

    Abby, it does sound to me like weekly weigh-ins might be a bad idea, not just for you, but in general. I know you’ve been working hard and as long as you are feeling good and trying to focus on your health, then it probably doesn’t matter too much what the scale says. This month’s Runner’s World has some tips for healthy eating that I think you might be interested in, things like not grazing, or measuring portions occasionally to see if they are getting out of hand, or making sure your food is colorful (and not with food coloring).

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  6. In a bit of a different take, I’m starting to wonder if the scale while I’m pregnant is bad for me. As of 27 weeks, I had gained 19 pounds…and started to flip out. Not that 19 pounds is crazy, but I worried where I’d be at in 3 more months. So I’ve started watching what I eat. Not DIETING, but just asking “Am I actually hungry?”, and have not gained any weight in two weeks. But this also concerns me. Did I let the number on the scale affect how I’m caring for my unborn child? I don’t think so, but I’m still working through this one.

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    lizzie Reply:

    Katy, I personally don’t think you need to feel bad about trying to take care of yourself (mentally and physically) while you are pregnant. I know that some people say, “I’m pregnant, I’m going to eat whatever I want.” And that works for them. I was not somebody who could do that. I was very conscientious about what I ate and I think I ate a lot more healthfully when I was pregnant. I did not gain a lot of weight either pregnancy. I don’t think that watching what you eat and keeping up those habits of asking yourself if you are really hungry are something you need to abandon because you are pregnant.

    This link is about extreme dieting while pregnant: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/starving-for-twoa/#more-6313
    This one is about new weight gain guidelines for pregnant women: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/less-weight-gain-for-pregnant-women/ (it may not effect you since I don’t think you were overweight to begin with)
    This is about exercising while pregnant and birth weight: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/execise-during-pregnancy-lowers-babys-weight/

    I hope these are helpful as you work through this.

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