You hear it everywhere, or at least I do:
“I wish I could just break up with the scale.”
“If only I could lose those last X [fill in the blank] pounds.”
“I wish that number didn’t define my day.”
“I wish I could be content with where I’m at.”
“I wish I didn’t have to count every last calorie, measure then scrutinize every last morsel of food I put into my mouth.”
Do any of the above statements resonate with you? If so, rest assured you’re not alone. These thoughts are running through minds of people everywhere. How do I know? For one, I’ve been on the receiving end of these comments first-hand: at the gym, the grocery store, the mall, out with friends. For two, I used to be one of them.
For years, I lived my life according to that number on the scale and *allowed* that number to define my day. That said, when I started lifting weights I knew the likelihood of me putting on some weight was, well, likely. To say that I was okay with the idea then of a few more LBS would be a flat out lie, but I knew that muscle had to weigh something and I wasn’t afraid of muscle. [And you shouldn’t be either! It’s a good look, IMO]. So, on July 5, 2012 a.k.a. training day #1, I made the *choice* to end my toxic relationship with the scale.
I didn’t weigh myself at all for the first six months after I started lifting as I knew myself well enough to know that any gain would send me over the edge (and also result in me quitting weights cold turkey—almost happened FYI) regardless of how good I may have looked or felt. Only once I was confident I had made amends with my body and moved beyond my disordered eating issues did I reintroduce the scale for the occasional check-in, which takes place now only once or twice a month.
That number used to stress me out in the worst way possible. And the pre-weigh anxiety? Forget it. I got myself so worked up over nothingness every time. Energy drain. Today, I’d take a few extra pounds any day if it meant a stronger, leaner physique. This was not the case a year ago. But today, that number’s just a number. I’ve accepted that weight will fluctuate some over the course of a day, and that your abs will never look as good at the end of the day as they do in the morning *sigh*… but that’s normal!! Ironically, in this last year when I’ve stressed least about my weight, I’ve actually leaned out (burned fat) and lost multiple clothing sizes without even trying. Say wha?! I was just as surprised myself when I went to change out my closet in between seasons. Sustainable nutrition and efficient exercise IS where it’s at 🙂
Below are some of the tools I used to help mend my unhealthy relationship with the scale. Feel free to share anything I didn’t mention that may have worked for you!
1. Practice NOT getting on the scale. It may sound trivial, but a habit is a habit for better or for worse. And just as my twice daily weigh-ins had become habit, so, too, would become abstaining from it.
2. Ask yourself, why. WHY does that number matter? HOW will you be any different X pounds (or sizes) from now? You lose the ten pounds, then what? Remember, that number only has as much significance as you *give* it.
3. Put it away, then bring it back. Physically remove the scale from view, at least initially. You know how you tell yourself NOT to do something, and then all you want to do is whatever that something is? Ha. That was me. My failed attempts at breaking up with the scale always began with me telling myself absolutely positively no weigh-ins, which, of course, resulted in me weighing myself more than ever. For me, out of sight meant [more] out of mind. After some time though, try returning it to its place and practice resisting the urge to weigh even when it’s there.
4. Take the emphasis off of the number. Taking measurements every few weeks is very different than stepping on the scale all day everyday, and is something I still do. I’m a fan of the whole MODERATION thing, can you tell? 😉 Instead, ask yourself questions like: ‘How do my clothes fit? How do I feel? How are my workouts?’ Or like they say at ME, “What are your biofeedback signals (hunger, energy and cravings) telling you?” [HECs will tell you a lot, in case you were wondering] The answers to these questions are much more useful tools than any number will ever be. They give you something tangible to work with.
An example, from my own struggle.
You step on the scale and one of three things happens (today’s thought process in italics):
a) NOTHING. Feel shitty. The number is the same. Could be worse, but could also be better [read: lower]. A huge relief when I thought I’d gained. I’ve succeeded in learning how to maintain my weight through nutrition, not exercise.
b) HIGHER. Feel shitty. Restrict/overexercise. Do I feel good? Do I look good? How do my clothes fit? If good, likely muscle weight. If not, I know exactly what I need to do in the way of my nutrition and exercise to get back on track. And, a pound is NOT the end of the world.
c) LOWER. Feel shitty. Could be lower. Am I losing muscle? If so, and my nutrition is on par, I look to things like sleep and stress. In the way of exercise, could be time to up the heavy weights and restorative activity while decreasing the long-duration steady-state cardio. Or, likely a combination of all of the above.
Notice the underlying feeling of shittiness common to all of the scenarios above? Nothing was ever “good enough.” If you’re going to feel like crap no matter what, why weigh in the first place? Unless, of course, you’ve mastered the art of moderation (<– this takes YEARS of practice).
5. Start a gratitude journal. This may sound silly, but write down at least one thing everyday that you are grateful for. Or, something that you like about yourself. Or both. Journaling, in general, can be a therapeutic exercise to engage in. We are our own worst critics, but actively search to find the good in yourself that so many other people see in you! Remember, POSITIVITY trumps negativity. Always.
6. Look in the mirror. If you’re happy with what you see, the number shouldn’t matter. For the longest time, I denied seeing any [positive] physique change from my new routine even though I knew I was both building muscle and burning fat. Why? Because I was stubborn and didn’t want to admit that I knew the weight training (and more balanced nutrition) was a good thing. Now I’m not going to pretend that I don’t still have fat days, blah days or days where I feel absolutely huge… because, I do. And though these moments are relatively infrequent, a shift in MINDSET has enabled me to better cope with them when they do occur.
7. Focus on fueling your body to fuel your workouts. My workouts are important to me. Important as in a priority and I don’t like sucky workouts. And if you’re not eating well, you’re more likely to have sucky workouts. Sure, today’s best may be different than tomorrow’s best but without sufficient fuel, you’re compromising those limited energy stores and thus, the quality of your workouts.
If you are struggling with an unhealthy relationship with the scale, I get it. I’ve been there 100%. But I’ve also made it through the worst and can tell you that life on the other side is so liberating! I want this for you so badly, but only YOU can do you 🙂 Good luck, and let me know how it goes!