The Scale Isn't the Problem

I had a revelation a few years ago when I stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office after almost one year of not weighing myself, and I was around five pounds heavier than I had been previously. I didn’t panic, I didn’t feel like a failure. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything.

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It’s not as though I dismissed the number and avoided reality—I heard the number loud and clear, and I watched as the nurse scribbled it down on her clipboard. The only emotion I felt was one of surprise. I was surprised by my emotional detachment to the number.

Prior to my one-year hiatus from the scale, I was exhausted from the daily hustle for body change, obsessively thinking about my next meal, examining how “good” or “bad” my eating habits were that day, how much exercise I needed to do to “undo” my weekend, how long it might take me to reach my ideal body composition, and the latest diet strategy.

I truly didn’t know if I would be able to release my attachment to my weight, size, or body composition, but I did know that things couldn’t stay the same. I couldn’t continue to focus on external validation in pursuit of inner peace and acceptance, so I tried a different approach.

I focused on defining myself by internal metrics and dove deeply into self-discovery. I spent time learning who I truly was as a person and what I wanted, how I was treating others, how I was showing up for myself, whether I spoke my mind and enforced boundaries, and what layers I had assumed from my upbringing and social surroundings.

I vowed to honor my body, to get to know her, to listen to her, and to spend my energy on who I am as a person as opposed to the external metrics.

All of this, of course, coincided with my consistent meditation practice. I explored my internal landscape, and while I was often terrified by what I found, I continued on and maintained my internal focus.

Slowly but surely, my yearning for the external validation began to dissipate, and my internal resolve strengthened. I began to feel more comfortable speaking my opinions freely, saying no to others, establishing clear boundaries (a struggle for this former people-pleaser), accepting responsibility for my projections and emotions, and showing others more grace and compassion as I bestowed the same courtesy upon myself.

Stepping on the scale that day taught me that the scale was never the problem—it was the emotion, the worth, and the validation that I attached to it.

It’s understandable to demonize the numbers—macros, calories, steps, the number on the scale. For many of us, these numbers come with so much emotional weight attached to them. Yet, those who have never struggled with their body image or obsession with food are able to have a distant and objective relationship with these measurements.  

I was wholeheartedly convinced that I would never be able to have a similar relationship with these metrics. That my mood and feelings of worthiness would always be dictated by my weight, my measurements, my activity levels, and food tracking.

Stepping on the scale that day proved otherwise. I had unknowingly put in the work to reframe my relationship with the scale—to be able to see these objective measurements as just that: objective.

When We’re Feeling UnGrounded

The process of detaching our emotions to the numbers is one that takes quite a bit of time and introspection, so if you’re firmly planted in the cycle of food and body obsession or are feeling ungrounded on your road to recovery, I highly recommend avoiding them.

I don’t track my food or weigh myself regularly, and I believe the sporadic nature of viewing these metrics allows me to continue my emotional detachment. Would I be able to maintain my distant relationship with the numbers if I was looking at them everyday? I’d like to think so, but there currently isn’t a reason for me to test that theory.

I still have days when my sense of self is shaky, my body image isn’t strong, and my mind is tempted to go down the path of controlling my food. On these days, I make it a point to avoid exposure to any of these metrics. 

Our internal state is the meaning-maker; not the numbers.

Using the Scale

The numbers no longer matter to me as it stands today. My weight is absolutely irrelevant to my priorities at the moment.

However, If I decide to embark on a journey of leaning out in the future, the number on the scale may be a valuable metric to track objective progress, not my worth. 

If you find yourself in a place of wanting to change your body and are in a stable relationship with food and your body—meaning neither have any bearing on your self-worth—then I recommend consistently checking in with yourself to ascertain your emotional detachment to the numbers.

  • Are you starting to feel anxious when stepping on the scale?
  • Does the number on the scale affect your mood?
  • Do you view yourself negatively if the number is higher than expected?
  • Do you view yourself as a better person if the number is lower?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, then I recommend taking the scale out of the equation and reconsidering your body goals. Chances are, there is still work left to do internally, which is perfectly normal and understandable.  As a general guideline, I highly recommend spending more time and energy on your internal relationship with yourself and your body before pursuing any form of physical change.

Undoing years of conditioning and reframing thought patterns can take an equal number of years, if not more. And if you never want to step on another scale or pursue any form of body change again, that’s ok tooJ

At the end of the day, the scale only depicts an objective measurement of our bodies against gravity. It tells nothing of our worth or our value, yet we have been conditioned to subscribe our value to the number.

Perhaps our goals shouldn’t be to damn the scale or to vow to never step on one again, but to rather feel the exact same way about ourselves regardless of the results. That’s standing in our power, and it’s a true testament to where we’re placing our value.