The Number on the Scale is Just a Number

The number on the scale is not who you are!

Maybe that should be obvious, but is it? Our culture is so messed up about weight. We are told that unless you are in the “normal” range on the BMI scale, you are unhealthy. We are judged by our weight, there is no doubt about that. However, you don’t have to judge yourself based on your weight. Please don’t.

The number on the scale can ruin your whole day. It can leave you feeling like there is something wrong with you that you aren’t good enough. It will lead you to binge.

If you get on the scale and you have lost weight, you might be tempted to eat more to celebrate. Or, if you feel afraid of losing weight, for example, if your weight is protecting you from unwanted attention, weight loss will lead that part of you to binge to keep up the protection.

If you weigh yourself and you have gained weight, you might feel discouraged or mad at yourself, a perfect trigger for a binge.

A client “Tammy” came into her session reporting feeling angry with herself. She said she had been feeling good about a decrease in binging behavior. She had been working on eating whatever she wants and on the emotions that surfaced. Her binging episodes had decreased and she was happy. She decided to jump on the scale, hoping for a positive result. That isn’t what she got. She had gained 5 pounds and felt terrible. Her critical voice went off. All her efforts and positive changes were no longer something to be happy about. She hated herself again. Just one moment of a number staring back at her through her scale turned all her positive feelings and accomplishments into self hate and blame.

After discussing it, we decided to rename her scale her “Self Worth scale.” She wasn’t ready to give up weighing herself because she couldn’t yet trust herself without the scale as a check in system. Therefore, renaming the scale to accurately reflect what it provided was her first step. I wanted to support her in acknowledging the effect that scale had on her life and how she felt about herself. Someday, I know she will be ready to never weigh herself again.

You may feel similarly. You may fear that you will gain a lot of weight, that people will judge you, that everyone will see you as having problems. Or, you may fear being fat someday and therefore being judged for it.

Either way, you weigh yourself to keep a check on how you are doing.

Like Tammy, you may actually be allowing the scale to tell you how to feel about yourself, as though what you weigh is some reflection of who you are inside.

It isn’t.

Try this exercise: write down all the positive qualities about yourself that you can think of in the next 3 minutes. Go ahead. Do it now.

Now look at your list. Despite what you weigh, you are these qualities too.

Now, write down all the negative qualities you can think of about yourself. Go ahead. Take 3 minutes to do this, although these might come to you much more quickly.

Look at your list. I’ll bet that none of these have to do with your weight. Even if you wrote down that you are fat, that has to do with how you feel about yourself, how you feel on the inside.

Weighing yourself tells you to trust the scale, to allow the scale to tell you if you are improving, if you are getting better, if you are an okay person. How can a box full of numbers determine how you are doing and feeling in your life?

What might happen if you trusted yourself? You might be wrong. Others might not agree. So what? How you feel is all that is important.

Besides, what other people are thinking usually has nothing to do with you. It has to do with them.

We all are caught in our own heads. We know more about what we think than anyone else on the planet. It is easy to begin to project what you think onto those around you and to believe that is what they think too. If you think you are fat you will convince yourself that everyone else thinks this too. You will project your thoughts about yourself onto them. You will even collect evidence that what you believe, “they think I am fat” is true.

For example, if I believe that all trees are green and I am convinced of this, I will only see green trees. If I come across a yellow tree, I won’t even see it. If I do, or someone points it out (see Anne, there is a yellow tree right there), I will say, no, that isn’t a tree that is a bush. If I believe they are all green, I won’t be able to see that one is actually yellow, but will always and only focus on the green trees. See, they are all green. You would become quite frustrated with me.

The same is true for what you think about yourself. If your belief is that you are fat and no one will like you if you are fat or have gained weight that is all you will see, all that you will collect evidence for. Anything that is contrary to this belief, won’t fit in, there will be no place for it to land inside of you. So, if your friend says you look great, you won’t believe her. You might even think she is lying. But, if that person talks about a diet her friend is on, you might think she is secretly telling you to go on a diet, even if she never says that.

Here is another thought: It is none of your business what people think of you. This is important so I’m going to say it again. It is NONE of your business what people think of you.

Their thoughts are their thoughts. If they share them with you, then it is your business too. If not, let that person have their own thoughts without you deciding what they think. It is so easy to project our own stuff onto other people that we don’t even realize we are doing it. All we remember thinking is “she knows I’ve gained weight and thinks I’m gross.” That is what you think of yourself, not necessarily what they think of you. If you want to know what someone thinks, if you want to make it your business too, then I encourage you to ask. If that person lies, it is still their business to do so.

Learn to trust yourself more than your scale.

Instead of getting on the scale, notice how you feel in your clothes, pay attention to your behavior, realize that it doesn’t matter how much you weigh. It doesn’t tell you if you are healthy or eating well for your body or doing well at your job or feeling good in your life. Your reaction to the scale actually tells you more about that. If getting on the scale changes your mood and begins a focus on your body in a negative way, this is behavior that tells you you don’t feel good about yourself inside. You are paying more attention to the scale than to your body, or to your hunger and satiety cues.

If you feel afraid you gained weight because your clothes feel tighter, then utilize that as an opportunity to feel those feelings. What if you are gaining weight, what does that mean? Perhaps it means you won’t be loved, that your partner might leave you. Those are the real feelings. It isn’t about the number on the scale. Pay attention to your feelings. Acknowledge them. Take the opportunity that is given to you. I know you are scared and you might resist it, but this will free you from making it about your body and will help you focus on your emotions that, like a child, need your attention right now.

Toss your scale. Or, decorate it. If, like Tammy, you aren’t quite ready to give up your scale (remember change happens with small steps), start by renaming your scale and even decorating it to match its new name. If you are ready to end the weighing cycle, throw it away, or make it a decorative item for your home. This is a great art project to do that will also support your emotional healing. Be creative and have fun with it. Share it with someone you feel safe with. You may also want to create a scale decorating party and do this with your friends


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