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What Is Weighing Yourself Really About?


What an interesting discussion I had with a client about why she weighs herself. It turns out the answer is more complicated than either of us expected. It seems like there are two possibilities: one is to see if weight-loss progress is being made and the other is to enjoy a reward for the work put into becoming a “normal” eater.

Naturally, it’s important for people to feel they’re moving toward success. In terms of progress, there are many ways to measure advancement. Why we choose the scale rather than other methods is more about culture than anything else. We’ve been told by society over and over that low weight equals beauty and by the medical establishment, that weight equals good health and that we should weigh ourselves often.

The scale has long been judge and jury on those subjects, the arbiter of whether you were good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, a success or failure. They surely were when I was growing up. This was long before the Health at Every Size Movement which teaches us that high weight doesn’t necessarily equal disease and death and that accepting size diversity can teach us to value ourselves beyond weight. 

The question is why, now that there are better ways to measure progress, we continue to rely on the scale. The answer is that our culture still pushes over-reliance on it. We’re told if we don’t weigh ourselves, we don’t care about our bodies and that we need the scale to ensure we don’t let ourselves go or lie to ourselves about how well we’re doing with food. We’re brainwashed to believe the that weight-loss is the only valuablehealth measurement. Nonsense! We can assess progress by observing our eating.

The deeper, more unconscious reason we weigh ourselves is the need to feel rewarded for all the hard work we’ve put into improving our eating. We want a prize for all the cravings we’ve denied, the deprivation we’ve suffered from saying no to food, the time spent at the gym, and the mental cost of reigning in non-hunger food urges. What we’re looking for on the scale is a reward that we believe can’t be experienced any other way. 

We are so used to tangible, external rewards in the way of compliments, promotions, “likes,” money, etc. that we forget that “nothing tastes better than pride.” The fact is that pride is the magic replacement we need in order to stop depending on the scale to feel good. Pride provides the dopamine hit from a job well done and is far headier than the rush we get from the scale because we can carry it around within us all the time. Try looking inward rather than at a number the next time you want a feel-good buzz.