Scale Anxiety: Distinguishing Between Vanity and Health

Last week a question was asked in an online group by Carolyn W. With her permission, I am posting her question here:

“For those of you that threw out (or had someone hide) your scale, what happened? What was your experience? Did you permanently get rid of it or did you bring it back at some point? How did you manage any anxiety that came up from not knowing your weight? I’m seriously considering having my husband hide our scale. I’ve been doing some great work with movement and changes to my nutrition, and while I feel SO much better and have noticed changes in my clothing, and inches lost when I measure, the scale has barely moved and I’m in tears every time I step on it. It’s clearly not helping me, so I think it needs to go, but I’m unexpectedly anxious/afraid. I’d love to hear what others’ experience has been with this. Thank you!”

I responded with my own experience and opinion:

I lost mine four years ago…I think it got left behind when we moved. I decided not to replace it.

I told myself that I could still weigh myself at the doctors office or at the gym if I wished….or even at a friend’s house. But [I acknowledged that] weighing regularly wasn’t contributing anything positive to my life.

Think about it….unless you have a medical condition, you probably don’t feel anxiety not knowing your blood pressure or blood sugar every day. So why [do we feel anxiety about] the weight? Because of fatphobia. This fear is a vanity issue and not a health issue. (Telling myself that helped). The solution is not to try to manipulate weight, but to declare a truce with my body and fight fatphobia.

Carolyn thanked me for sharing this perspective and said that reframing frequent weigh ins from a health issue to a vanity issue was very helpful to her. Indeed, articulating it was helpful to me as well, and so I want to share more about this point.

Realizing that feeling more anxiety over weight changes than other health markers was due to vanity concerns, not health concerns, was extremely freeing to me.

Currently, I am back to weighing myself somewhat regularly when I see the scale in the locker room. I have mixed feelings about this. I tell myself it’s okay to do this. In reality I don’t think its awesome, and it’s definitely not necessary. But I acknowledge that I have behavior changes I am working on that are currently having more of an effect on my health than whether or not I know my weight. So I find it helpful to view this behavior as neutral and not sweat it right now. It takes an extra 20 seconds of my time  when I do it. I make sure to tell myself that it is not going to affect how I take care of myself today. I expect to see fluctuations. I tell myself that it’s okay to weigh myself and then get on with my day.

In order to keep it in perspective, I remind myself that I don’t know my daily sugar numbers or cholesterol or blood pressure, though I have a rough idea of what they are because they are measured occasionally. Honestly, if there was a non-invasive way to find out, I probably would be tracking that (for curiosity purposes, not health purposes). And since I don’t have a medical need to track it more frequently, I’m sure that knowledge would not be helpful to me on a daily basis, so I am glad there currently isn’t a noninvasive way to track it. I think many people have love/hate relationships with their scales and activity trackers and heart rate monitors. They can give us data without drawing blood, which can be cool and sometimes useful, but can also detract from health when we get fixated on the data, which many of us do.

Anyway, several others gave Carolyn great input as well. I checked in with her a week later, and she was really enjoying life without daily weigh ins. She said she didn’t anticipate how much easier intuitive eating would be when she didn’t have the daily fear of the next day’s weigh in.

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