Aside from politics and religion, weight is one of the touchiest subjects to bring up. It's such a personal matter, and yet many people think they have the right to comment about someone's weight, whether it's weight loss, weight gain or something else. Especially for women, the pressure surrounding weight can feel crushing and demoralizing. Sound familiar? Maybe it's time to break up with the scale.
Society has definitely normalized weighing yourself every day; it's easily grouped with daily habits like brushing your teeth and combing your hair. While stepping on a scale isn't inherently a bad thing, is it really necessary to do every day?
To get more insight into why people sometimes have a rocky relationship with the scale, I talked to a dietitian and a therapist for expert insight. Whether you should avoid weighing yourself daily is complicated. According to registered dietitian Alana Kessler, it's a personal decision. "Some people find knowing their weight to be motivating and nontriggering, while others find weighing themselves to feel more like a judgement day and can trigger limiting beliefs like unworthiness and shame," says Kessler. Keep reading for more guidance from Kessler and therapist Kate Rosenblatt.
Your weight changes every day, and that's normal
You may think you weigh a certain number, but the truth is that hardly anyone weighs the same day after day. "In general, weight fluctuates up to 3-4 pounds daily due to water weight or lack of moving bowels, so I don't feel weighing oneself daily is necessary or a good measure of true weight loss," says Kessler.
It seems pointless to try to track something that is essentially a moving target. If you have a "goal" weight in mind, you might hit it one day, but then the next day it might change. Then what? It's a slippery slope when your goals are set on something that is ever-changing and naturally fluctuates.
Weigh-ins reinforce an unhealthy sense of control
It's normal to crave control when life is hectic or feels overwhelming. But it's easy to overfixate this need for control onto your body, or exercise and food.
"I want to validate that it is perfectly normal to want to feel some sense of stability or peace when life feels a bit unsure, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to meet this need," says Rosenblatt. "To the extent you might find yourself turning to an unhealthy coping mechanism, like ritually weighing yourself and basing some of your self-esteem on the number that day, it might be time to explore healthier ways of coping."
It can harm your mental heaalth
"Weighing yourself daily, or regularly, can be harmful to someone's self-confidence because it can almost create this false narrative of 'My self-worth is conditional: I am either good or bad based on the number on the scale,'" says Rosenblatt.
Your sense of self-esteem is essential for your mental health and overall well-being. "Having low self-esteem has been shown to be a risk factor in the development of an eating disorder, or disordered eating, so it is crucial to ensure we're building a solid foundation of a strong sense of self that is not conditional on, ideally, most anything -- like the number on the scale," says Rosenblatt.
On the other hand, some people can weigh themselves daily without running the risk of knocking their self-confidence. This is why, again, knowing what works for you (and whether the habit is healthy or not) takes self-reflection.
Weight isn't the most important (or reliable) health metric
Weight is not the end-all-be-all of health. Too many people think that someone who looks thin is inherently healthy, and someone in a larger body isn't. This is just not true. You can't tell a lot about someone's actual health status just by looking at them.
"There are many things that contribute to the number on the scale -- including bone density, muscle mass and water weight," says Kessler. Understanding that many factors are at play when it comes to weight is key to a healthier perspective and learning not to look at weight as directly tied to your choices or level of fitness.
"However, even though we know this -- the weight indoctrination is hard to break and can become a source of anxiety and obsession -- even to the point of becoming less 'fit' because muscle weighs more than fat and can increase the number on the scale," Kessler says.
What to do if you feel like you need to break up with the scale
If you're trying to lose weight, find another way to measure your results
Notice how your clothes fit. Do they feel looser or more comfortable? Take stock of how you feel physically. If you're feeling better and more energetic as a result of eating nutritious foods, working out and taking care of yourself, that's more than enough reassurance that you're on the right path.
Let only doctors or medical provider weigh you
"Many of my clients have found it helpful to only get weighed by their doctor or dietitian, in lieu of having a scale at home," says Rosenblatt. "Many of these clients have shared that they eventually felt a sense of freedom by having that boundary around either not weighing themselves anymore, or not knowing their weight. You can request your medical provider not tell you your weight, if it feels too triggering to know."
Write a goodbye letter to your scale
"If you have tried to stop weighing yourself, but find it difficult to do, I have also worked with clients who found longer-term effects from having a proper goodbye 'ceremony' with their scale," says Rosenblatt. If you feel the scale is becoming an unhealthy attachment, take the time to say a proper goodbye, and then let it go.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.