body image · fitness

Scaling down– and out!

I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with my scale since time immemorial.  I have feared it, distrusted it, felt subservient to it, and even occasionally thanked it. Overall, I have been in a lopsided power relationship with scales my whole life.

I loathe getting on the scales at medical visits.  The medical assistants at my current primary care provider’s practice don’t insist or argue with me about getting weighed, but they do sometimes ask.  It’s not their fault– it’s just a standard thing that lots of medical offices do.  When I talk with them about it, they’re all understanding and low-key.  But it still leaves me feeling weird and bad, like I have revealed some quirk that they are accommodating.  I do recognize that for some sorts of visits and health needs, weighing gives them important information (e.g. for a pre-op visit before surgery).  So I submit to it, trying to distract myself from the shame I feel at the numbers displayed.  Yes, I’ve tried not looking.  It doesn’t help.

I’ve always thought that having a scale around my house was not a terrible thing; weighing myself occasionally would allow me to note changes in weight (especially in response to various eating changes I might embark on– not diets exactly, but playing around with some shifts).  But I still found that more often than not, seeing those numbers made me angry, upset, ashamed, and demoralized.

I thought I found a potential solution last year:  I bought a scale with no numbers anywhere, that WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES tell me how much I weigh.  I blogged about my new Shapa scale here.  Here’s what I said about it:

You bring your phone (with app installed) with you to where the scale is, and weigh yourself.  It takes a few weeks for Shapa to calibrate what your average weight is, and what your weight variance is over time.  Once it does that (and it won’t tell you those weights even if you ask nicely!), then when you weigh yourself, it will give you a message and a color.

The color is supposed to tell you if your weight is within one standard deviation of what it has been, or if you’re up from that, or down from that.

Well, the first time it registered me as up in weight, with a different color and the message “try a little harder”, I felt crushed.  Soon after I stopped using the Shapa scale.  But it was still around my house, and I felt bad about not being strong enough (whatever that means) to keep using it.

Last week I finally packed up the Shapa scale and put it away.  I didn’t know when I might use it again, but I knew I wasn’t up for dealing with it.

This week, however, I decided that it’s time to get rid of scales, at least in my house.  I don’t need one to track my size and weight– I’m completely aware of which clothes fit and how they fit (or don’t).  I’m also very aware these days of how my body feels– in what ways I feel strong or creaky, or flexible, or tired, or achy or jittery.  Do I need more than that?  I don’t think so.

This is part of a developing plan of mine to attend to the body shame I have felt my whole life.  More on this anon.  This is the year where I really devote time and energy to bundling up those negative feelings I’ve been toting around and throwing them in the dumpster!  That’s the image I really like.

Yes, I know it doesn’t really work that way.  But I’m grooving and humming on the image.  I love throwing things out– it feels powerful, definitive, and liberating.

An eminently appropriate first step in this process is to throw out the scale.  (actually, it was expensive, so I may try to sell it.  but still.)

What is your relationship with scales?  Has it changed over time?  I’d love to hear from you.



13 thoughts on “Scaling down– and out!

  1. I hate scales. They’ll never say what I would like them to, so I leave the numbers to my physicians. Luckily, they don’t seem to be that concerned, even though my weight is the highest it’s ever been.

    Also, my sisters, who weigh much less than I do, are in Weight Watchers. They probably think I need to be on it with them, but I want no part of it. I saw one sister’s calendar, full of numbers other than the date…and I thought, what a way to make yourself miserable.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Julie. Yes, preoccupation with numbers on a scale has made me miserable, regardless of what it says. Like you, I now want no part of that.

  2. Bravo
    I quit weighing myself in 2014. I was newly sober and having a breakdown and starving myself to try to calm my anxiety.
    I realized it was not helping, at all, and I decided that was it. I had to eat and I did not have to weigh myself.
    It was liberating.

    Some misguided thought encouraged me to weigh myself later last year. Since then I have felt heavy and I keep playing with my meal planning. It’s taking up space in my head again.

    I think you have made a great choice. Never look back. The number is just that. A number.

    1. Thanks a lot for the support. Yes, we don’t need these numbers taking up space in our heads!

  3. I didn’t mention before: I was on Jenny Craig…granted it was 25 years ago, but that was plenty. I think the only real difference between my before and after pictures (ugh) was the difference in my hair and clothing…and I was smiling.

    I also did not mention that I have Hashimoto disease (hypothyroidism), which most certainly throws a monkey wrench into my weight-loss efforts.

  4. Kudos! I still have the scale in my house, but I rarely use it any more. The last time I checked after about 3 months away, I discovered that I was within a pound of where I had been three months before. It was liberating to internalize the fact that I don’t need to check every day and have an outside thing tell me what I already know.

  5. Hi Catherine, great post. I don’t weigh myself, though I do get weighed every six months at the diabetic clinic and I ask the nurses not to tell me what I weigh. (Took me years to work up the courage to ask that.) I’m pretty sure my weight stays the same because my size and waist measurement doesn’t change. I read your post on the Shapa scale, and did wonder if it truly could circumvent the ‘problem’ with scales. It’s mind-bogglingly expensive, so I think I can quite happily strike that off the ‘wants’ list!

    1. Thanks for your comments– the idea of getting weighed without being told the info is something I’ll do next time it happens at my doc’s office. And the Shapa scale is very expensive ($100 for scale plus $100+ for one-year app subscription). In the end, I didn’t need it to tell me if my weight had gone up a bit or down– I already knew this. and it was okay in both cases… 🙂

  6. I too have given up my scale. Unfortunately, I haven’t thrown it out or given it away. It sits like a specter in my bathroom to greet me each morning with it’s condemnation. After reading your article, perhaps I can give it a less conspicuous place in my house. I’d toss it, but my husband still uses it on occasion. I’m absolutely incredulous over hearing that the expensive Shapa scale told you “Try harder” when you gained some weight. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of that kind of scale? In any case, we don’t need an inanimate object body shaming us. There are more than enough live humans to do that for free.

    1. Thanks, Vicki, for your perspective on this– in this sense, Shapa is worse than a regular scale, as it editorializes about what it knows about my body weight. Yes, its designed to motivate us, but it did the opposite with me. I confess that I have a real scale in my study, underneath a cabinet. I keep it for weighing luggage, packages, but it doesn’t bother me.

  7. bodyweight is a shitty measurement to check body composition. As a sport professional and strength coach, I think is an irresponsibility to keep using it in our field with our students. Even more, when you made promises based on that. It just reinforce pressure over the body image which is already high. As a curiosity, a funny indicator of your bodyweight is bodyweight tasks as for instance push ups or pull ups haha. We need points of view like yours in fitness! Go on!
    Greetings and love from Spain.

    1. Thanks, David, for your comments– it’s great to hear this from someone in the fitness profession.

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