Everybody hates stepping on the scale, and for good reason: it’s an asshole.
A scale never says, “Here’s what you weigh, and I know it’s not exactly the number you were hoping for, but you’re still gorgeous and healthy and strong!” It never explains that a few of those pounds are actually due to water retention, or apologizes for ruining your day. It just displays a few numbers, and in that awful moment of truth, confirms — at least in your mind — the three words you toss around in there on a regular basis: You’re so fat.
It’s a scenario that anyone who’s ever attempted to lose weight will recognize. You decide you need to drop a few pounds (or a few dozen), and you go hard because this time you’re gonna do it, damn it. You stick to a barely-tolerable diet, trying to convince yourself that these two-ingredient banana and egg white pancakes you’re eating are just as good as the real thing (news flash: they aren’t). You pass up fast food and sugar and chomp (miserable but determined) on carrot sticks instead of ice cream and cake at birthday parties. You work out more in two weeks than you have in the past two years.
Then comes the moment when you prepare to step on the scale, to see the fruits of your labor. You have to take a dump first, of course, because poop probably weighs a ton. You pee while you’re in there, naturally, and remove any items of clothing that might add unwanted heft, and you exhale as deeply as you can because, you know, extra air. You don’t want that number to reflect one single unnecessary ounce, like oxygen or bodily fluids (damn it, maybe you should’ve blown your nose, too). Holding your breath, you step on the scale.
And there it is to digitally destroy you: a number that hasn’t budged. Or at least, not as much as you thought based on your hard work and determination.
You want to throw it through the nearest window, but instead, you start breathing and stop sucking in your gut and slump over and squint angrily at the stupid number. I’ve been busting my ass, you think indignantly. I did all this hard work for nothing? You feel defeated, like there’s no point in trying, because let’s face it – trying is hard. So you say “eff this” and run back into the open arms of Ben and Jerry.
Your hard work is wrecked, and all because of a stupid number that makes you judge yourself so harshly that you can’t see beyond it.
See how unfair this is? The scale is not your friend. Weight can fluctuate a few pounds – like, up to five – in a single day. From your intake of salt and water and carbs to where you are in your menstrual cycle to gaining muscle mass, there are many influencing factors. And yet when we see that number, we tend to think in black and white terms: we’re fat, or we’re not. We suck at dieting, or we don’t. There’s never an in between, and for someone who’s trying to lose weight, seeing the “wrong” thing on the scale is psychologically detrimental.
So, ditch the damn scale. Step on it at the beginning if you must, so you can have a baseline number, and then stash it in the deepest recesses of a closet somewhere (like, at somebody else’s house … in a neighboring county). Because it’s time to focus on the non-scale victories, the things that a number could never tell you.
There are plenty of them, if you pay attention. For me, I was stoked when I could squeeze between two closely-spaced clothing racks at the store and not take a half-dozen shirts off the hangers with my bulk in the process. Or when I could open my car door in a parking lot and not worry about whether it would open wide enough for me to squeeze out without door-dinging someone’s shit. These may be things that other folks might take for granted, but for me, they were huge accomplishments worth celebrating.
A scale can’t tell you when your clothes are fitting better, when you no longer feel like a sausage stuffed into a casing. When you can drop an “X” or two from your clothing size. When you can get up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. When you simply lean forward to tie your shoes, instead of coming in from the side because your belly’s in the way, and you’re no longer out of breath.
A scale doesn’t know when your cholesterol levels go down, and your energy levels go up, and you finally have the stamina to take a longer walk or a longer run or an entire exercise class. A scale cannot possibly measure the value of being able to play with your kids at the park – or the ultimate victory, finally being able to sit in a swing.
Your weight is a number. But your health, your happiness, your self-confidence … those things can’t be measured in digits. And if those are the most important things, the things you strive to improve by focusing on your overall fitness in the first place, then why are you measuring your success by the one thing that matters the least? Screw that scale.