Don’t Measure Your Self-Worth
By Michelle May, MD
Do you allow a number on your bathroom scale to make or break your day?
The scale doesn’t measure your self-worth. It simply measures the weight of your tissues (including your bones, muscle, and fat) and substances just passing through (like water, food, and waste). Your weight can fluctuate dramatically depending on time of day, hormones, when and what you ate, and other factors—none of which have anything to do with your value as a person.
When you’re losing weight gradually (clearly the best way), you may not see significant changes in your weight day to day, and perhaps even some weeks. Further, when you exercise you’ll build muscle and lose fat; although the numbers might not change, your body composition is improving. If you’re depending on the scale to tell you how you’re doing, you may feel discouraged and tempted to give up even though great things are happening on the inside.
If you’ve ever said any of these things to yourself, you already know how weighing yourself can sabotage your efforts:
- I did so well this week; I deserve a treat!
- I was so good but I didn’t lose any weight. I might as well eat.
- I don’t have to weigh in until next week so if I overeat now and I can make up for it later.
- I ate badly this week and still lost weight. I guess I don’t need to be as careful.
- I only lost a half a pound. It wasn’t worth it.
Take the Weight Off Your Shoulders
- Be honest about how the numbers affect you. If weighing yourself backfires, put your scale under the sink or out in the garage.
- Decide how often you need to weigh yourself. Some people prefer to be weighed only when they go to the doctor but for most, once a week or even once a month is good.
- You never need to weigh yourself more than once a day. If you do, you’re playing games by measuring meaningless physiological fluctuations.
- Let go of old benchmarks. You may never again reach your wrestling or wedding day weight but you can live an active lifestyle and make conscious choices that serve you now.
- Don’t weigh yourself to confirm what you already know. When you’ve been mindful of your choices, don’t take a chance that the scale will give you an answer you didn’t expect and derail your confidence.
- Don’t use the scale to punish yourself. When you know you’re off track, focus on the changes you’ll make rather than beating yourself up.
A man I met at a conference recently said, “I don’t need a scale; I have pants.” I smiled at the simplicity and accuracy of his method of monitoring himself. A few ounces won’t make a difference but a few pounds will determine how comfortable he feels. Look for other ways to assess your health and progress too:
- Resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, or fasting blood sugar
- Minutes of walking, steps on your pedometer, or pounds of weight you’re able to lift
- How do you feel? Tune in to your energy level, mood, and stamina
A scale is an external device that doesn’t accurately measure what’s going on inside your body or your head. Focus on the process because meaningful change takes place from the inside out.
Does the scale help or hurt you?
This excerpt is from Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle (download chapter one). Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshops that help individuals break free from mindless and emotional eating to live a more vibrant, healthy life.