• Mon, Apr 9 2012

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Scale

scale cartoon

Having any feelings about scales whatsoever sort of makes me feel like the kind of woman who has a very, very sad “funny” cartoon posted on their refrigerator.

But I have all the feelings, so let’s talk about scales! And the Titanic, a little bit!

Generally, I’m firmly in favor of eating whatever you want. There really is nothing less interesting than women who are obsessed with maintaining their weight who want to ask you if you know how many grams of sugar are in the cinnabon you are about to eat. Really, think of all the women on the women on the Titanic who didn’t eat dessert that night. I bet they were kicking themselves afterwards. I mean, after they got over their loved ones being dead. But, after that, I’m sure they really regretted not living life to the fullest and eating whatever was on Rose Dewitt Bukater’s table.

Admittedly, this bon-vivant approach to eating isn’t really an attitude that goes along with being kind of neurotic about my weight. Especially since I spent most of my teen years weighing myself three times a day. During that period I learned 1) yes, you will weigh less in the morning and 2) weighing yourself three times a day will drive you utterly insane.

Your meals become immensely less pleasurable if you know that you have to jump on a scale immediately following them. Not just in a “you can’t eat dessert” way in a “wondering if you are eating TOO MUCH spinach way.” The end result is that you’ll be constantly starving and constantly terrified, and you will not realize that there is no such thing as “too much spinach”. And you’ll still weigh more at night that you did in the morning. This was particularly problematic, because I didn’t really have a weight goal I was trying to hit, the goal was just that my weight went down. Consistently. This is an example of terrible-disappearing-act planning that you should never do, ever.

After a while I realized that I was miserable, so I got rid of my scale. Which is a good thing to do if you are at an utterly insane weighing yourself three times a dayplace in your life. But that does lend itself to a whole new, equally exciting variety of worries. Not so much worries about when they weigh you at the doctor and you have to say “don’t let me see!” More worries like “if I ate a big meal, have I gained ten pounds?” The answer to that question is always “no.” However, it’s a “no” that is more difficult to confirm if you don’t have a scale to check with. Every time you eat a large meal, you are going to question how much weight you put on (the answer is not nearly as much as you think). Eventually, you reach a point where you figure that if your clothes still fit, you are probably doing fine.

This process will take a few years. Less if you’re not a control freak.

But lately, tentatively, I’ve started using the scale at my gym once a week. I’m actually surprised at how comforting it is. It turns out that your weight stays… pretty much the same. During periods where I feel like I’m having a fat day, I like stepping on the scale and realizing that I weigh exactly the same as always (or have gained one pound, as opposed to the 2 million I’ve generally gained in my mind).

It’s also helpful for keeping your weight at a realistic place. Instead of using my scale to make sure I am losing weight, always losing weight – which we’ve established is the way to go crazy – I’m trying to use the scale to make sure I stay in about the same five pound range. If I go above that range, I cut out desserts. If I go below it I… eat sugar cookies from Potbelly, mostly, and that takes care of that. Those cookies are delicious. Like “should have been served on the Titanic” delicious.

I’m curious about whether or not other people have the same conflicted relationship with their scales, and, if you do, whether you’ve found a way to let it work for you, without getting all very-sad-cartoon about things. Let’s sit around and share our feelings, now. If you were actually here, I would also bring some Potbelly cookies to share.

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  • Lauren

    I’m trying to lose about 10 more pounds of weight I gained during an awful bought of hating myself because of a man which is the dumbest thing ever. So I got rid of the man and now it’s time to get rid of the weight.

    I’m on Weight Watchers Online and that is helping me lose weight. But I find that sometimes on my weigh in days, if I know I’ve done awful that particular week, I just don’t weigh myself. It helps me from going to the bad place where gaining a pound is the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. It gives me an extra week to do better and it cuts down on the self loathing quite a bit.

    When I hit my goal weight though, which is still in my healthy weight range, I plan on weighing myself every other week to make sure I’m still on track. The within 5lbs thing is a great idea since weigh fluctuates for so many reasons, not just eating.

    Also, thank you for the imaginary Potbelly cookies, those things are delicious!

  • Tania

    I don’t own a scale, because I definitely do just the “do my clothes still fit? Good.” Thing.

    This doesn’t mean I’m not neurotic about my weight, because I look in the mirror and see a fat person (I wear size three pants…), but because I’m almost entirely certain that if I ever started paying attention to my weight enough to own a scale that I would also be anorexic and die younger than I would like to.

  • MR

    As I think you know us guys don’t pay too much attention to this. I’m normal weight and just eat healthy. Eat healthy, and it’s easy to mantain a normal weight as a guy – wine vs beer is another trick, I prefer wine so I’m not hurting on that one either. Now if your dry cleaner’s ‘honey I think I shrunk the EIC’s dress’ is your normal weight? It’s fine.

    • MR

      PS. I meant the before he shrunk your blue dress, that is in the photo you posted with that article, not after. Before your champagne diet.

  • L

    coming from someone who was seriously psychologically abused as a child over being fat, im compulsively obsessed about my weight. In college i dropped about 60 lbs (im 5’4 and was down to 140), joined the crew team, and proceeded to work out 4 hours a day 6 days a week. 2 hours on sundays…it is after all the day of rest. I would, as you wrote, compulsively weight myself 3, sometimes more times a day. The last few years of grad school/depression have killed any progress i once made rowing and i gained everything back (and then some). In the last 6 months or so, i’ve dropped about 30 lbs, and am hoping to do another 20 more to get down to 180 at which weight i know i was once perfectly happy with how clothes fit me and my appearance. i dont think the compulsive weighing is something that i’ll ever truly get over, i mean in my mind it’s like a reward mechanism, right? “oo no gain today!” or “thank god the extra half hour of cardio i did last night is reflected in this #!”

    im currently sitting at my desk digesting my snack before i head over to the gym for work out #2. sigh.

  • The Mommy Psychologist

    I don’t have a scale in my house. And I don’t want one. If I did, I’m really afraid I would be jumping on it every time I ate a meal. I never had a problem with my weight until after I had my son. I could eat anything I wanted to. Yes, I was one of those. I’m not one of those anymore. And it’s been a bit of a struggle, but I’m adjusting. No scales for me. I go by how my clothes fit. If my clothes are fitting good, then I’m good. If they are too tight, time for a run.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.” http://www.themommypsychologist.com

  • Fabel

    Every now & then, I’ll hop on my scale, but otherwise I’ll wait to see my weight until my annual doctor appointment. I’m usually the same weight within like, 3 pounds, so I’m good.

    And yeah, I got to this point after realizing that constant scale-checks were doing nothing but making me crazy.