Ditch the Scale.

Recently I have had quite a few people send me messages with one main theme: the scale is not reflecting the work they feel they are putting into their food and workouts. I can so relate to this one. So much so that I finally tucked my scale into the closet and haven’t looked back since doing so.

I was at least a weekly weigher, if not daily when I was REALLY obsessive about the number that continued to show up. We can all relate, right? You have a few good workouts, maybe you ran extra miles, ate PERFECTLY, so next step is to get on the scale to see your hard work and dedication reflected in a number form.

But then it doesn’t. Or maybe even worse, you gained a few ounces or a pound or two. WTF?! What gives?!

I have had this roller coaster of a relationship with all things measuring since I can remember. I can recall being in middle school when guys started noticing the ladies developing some shape. I was definitely one of those ladies since I was already pretty heavy into BMX racing (and dance and power tumbling…), and if there was a nice benefit from that it was very shapely and very strong legs and butt. It was noticeable, or so they would tell me. While others were thin and slim I was already developing muscle and ‘consequently’ gaining pounds.

By the time I graduated high school I weighed around 150 pounds at 5 foot 4 inches tall. By traditional calculations (BMI) I was considered overweight. Never mind that I could bench press 120 pounds as a sophomore, which is what I weighed at that time. (For the record, body fat percentage is worth paying attention to and overall body composition as ONE measurement of health, not THE.) 

Weight has always been something I have paid attention to, but I also know how incredibly deceiving it is. As a young adult I quit racing bikes, started my career, and took time away from the gym. I didn’t have a healthy diet by ANY stretch of the imagination, but by simply no longer working out I dropped to about 125 pounds. A very soft 125 pounds, but again, I hadn’t been so light since my early years of high school! You know what wasn’t much different? My jean size. I maybe dropped one size around the waist. I do remember the legs being baggier, which makes sense with losing the muscle mass in my quads from no longer racing or anything else I used to do. Muscle is denser than fat and takes up less space pound for pound.

You know when you go to the tag agency to get your drivers license and you have to tell them how much you weigh? I used to fudge mine, too. 

Fast forward to mid-twenties and into my thirties. As my personal life would go in and out of turmoil my weight would follow suit. The crazier my personal life was the lower my weight would go. The happier I became the more I would put on, but I would also stay within my range, and again, would wear the same size jeans no matter what number would show on the scale. As Tag and I started dating in the fall of 2011 I started to see a little weight gain reflect on the scale. I could feel it, too. I also trained and completed my first half-marathon around that time. I always struggle with a little weight gain during a training cycle. After Tag and I had been dating for a year I decided to really clean up how I was eating and started paying closer attention to my calories. It took time, but between my workouts and my food choices I started to see my desired results!

Then tragedy struck. After Tag died I really couldn’t eat. Everyone would try to get whatever they could down me, even if that meant peanut butter cups and bagels. By this time I had dropped 10 plus pounds and was hanging around 138-140. My goal had always been 140. If I can recall, the lowest my weight went during that time was 136. Then it started to creep back up again as I went through all the stages of trauma and grief. Tag and I lived together, so the hardest time of day for me was the evenings after work. I basically lived in front of my refrigerator. I became a hardcore snacker and grazer. Eventually my weight crept up to 160 pounds. Still 5 foot 4 and now 1/2 inch. I could see it in photos. I felt it in my clothes. I started to obsess again about this thing. Problem was at this stage in my life it wasn’t in my control. My body and my emotions were the ones driving this one and until I had been through the healing on the inside nothing I did on the outside made a difference.

Seriously, I obsessed. MyFitnessPal because my best friend. I paid for a meal plan and accountability from a guy who was anything but supportive. He set unrealistic and unattainable (weight) goals for me. I ended up firing him and ending that downward spiral that wasn’t helping matters.

You know what did help?

Letting go. Realizing it wasn’t up to me during that time. Instead of focusing on the number that kept popping up on that scale I needed to focus on nourishing my body with good food. Food that also provided me fuel for the running therapy that was helping me heal. I needed to love and accept where I was and work out because it got me out of bed in the morning, not because of the weight showing on the scale. I needed to respect myself, what I had just experienced, and extend myself grace and love. I needed to embrace this phase of my life and not fight so hard against the process.

Two years after Tag passed a new year was approaching. By this point I had gotten into teaching group fitness and now was adding my second certification, which happened to be strength training of sorts. The new year came, the first one I actually looked forward to since his passing, and by the end of the month ten pounds dropped. They DISAPPEARED. I hadn’t changed anything with the exception of adding in a different kind of strength training.

My point is this. In my experience the scale never shows us what we expect to see. Instead it derails our progress and throws a bunch of negative self talk through our brains and emotions, which only sabotages our efforts further. Even when the scale would reflect what I would want to see I would turn around and treat myself because I had 'deserved' some sort of reward. Another thing to remember is as women our bodies change daily in a rhythm with our cycles. Weighing daily or even weekly is in no way an accurate picture because of that alone.

My questions for you are these:

  • How are your pants fitting?
  • What’s the quality of your sleep like?
  • Are you managing your stress or are you going through a stressful season?
  • Is your skin clear or are you having breakouts?
  • How about your energy levels?
  • Are you able to give your all in your workouts? Are you working out?
  • Do you respect what your mind and body do for you each and every day?

I challenge each of you to ditch your scale. Make intentional food choices. Get to bed so you can get seven to eight hours of rest every night. Skip the sugary and processed foods and drinks. If you really want a burger and fries or some ice cream then have it. And savor the shit out of it. Then move on. Don’t beat yourself up for wanting some delicious, not-so-healthy food on occasion. Make healthy food choices a priority and allow yourself to listen to your wants. This goes back to making intentional food choices. If you find yourself mindlessly wandering in your kitchen, pantry, or grocery store maybe take a few minutes and ask yourself why? What’s really going on in your life that has you grabbing for something? Stress at work? Issues with a relationship? Parents? Friends? Understanding what is behind our behaviors can help us overcome them. Mindlessly eating was a way for me to keep myself busy in the evenings as I was getting accustomed to being by myself again. It was an activity that comforted me during that time.

The holidays are quickly approaching. We should all enjoy this time with our friends and our families instead of stressing about numbers. Life is too short. At the end of the day and at the end of our lives we aren’t going to be remembered for what the scale says about us.

I'd love to know your story and experience in facing the scale and what helps you or what kinds of struggles you have.