Eating Disorder Therapist in Rockville, Maryland. Serving Montgomery County, Maryland. Specializing in the treatment of anorexia, binge eating, orthorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercise.
Everyday, many women and men have the morning ritual of standing on a bathroom scale. If weight was truly just a neutral number for most people, perhaps you could make the case that this is not problematic.
However, in our culture the idea of weight gain is often seen as “the worst thing in the world.” We have attached a moral value to the issue of weight loss and weight gain, which shouldn’t exist in the first place.
You are not a “good” person because you lost weight and you are not a “bad” person because you gained weight, despite the messages that diet-culture may be sending you.
The following are three reasons why I think that owning a scale and weighing yourself, does far more harm than good and is generally unnecessary.
1. It’s not that accurate of a measure.
Weight-fluctuations can cause people who chronically weigh themselves to go into panic-mode. In her book entitled, Body Respect, Dr. Linda Bacon does a great job of explaining one reason why weight-fluctuations occur. Dr. Bacon states,
“Your body’s biggest component is water-about 60 percent of your weight. Physically you’re like a big water balloon: five quarts of blood and forty quarts of other fluids...In a given day, your weight can fluctuate by several pounds, primarily due to changes in body water. Considering this, you can see that your scale has limitations. The scale is not an effective way to measure substantive weight change. If you doubt this, try eating some salty foods-tortilla chips and dip will do. You’ll get thirsty, retain water, and “show” more pounds on the scale. So, from the perspective of substantive weight, those day-to-day changes on a scale-or the quick, dramatic, short-term weight loss that comes from dieting-are relatively meaningless...In other words, sometimes weight loss is just dehydration.”
Further, it’s important to note that a person’s weight is not a good barometer of a person’s overall health. You can be "thin" and unhealthy. You can be in a larger body and be healthy.
The idea that we must be a certain BMI to be healthy is a myth that is propagated by the $60 billion-dollar diet industry. There are many people who stand to make profit off of your discontent with your body.
2. You actually do not have much control over your weight (long-term).
We are constantly bombarded with the message that we have ultimate control over our weight and that our lives will improve because of weight loss. This is utterly false.
There are two major fallacies at play here. The first is the pervasive societal belief, which falsely claims that we have a large amount of control over our weight. Research shows that while our attempts to control our weight through dieting may work in the short-term, ultimately they will fail in the long-term.
Additionally, set-point theory holds that your body will work to maintain its set-point weight range through powerful biological and psychological mechanisms. Therefore, almost all people who are chronically dieting will “fall off the wagon” and proceed to regain the weight that they lost.
Dr. Traci Mann, a psychologist and researcher who has studied dieting for over a decade, exemplified this point when she stated,
“Your genes play an important role in determining how much you weigh throughout your life. In fact, your genetic code contains the blueprint for your body type and, more or less, the weight range that you can healthily maintain. Your body tends to stay in that range—which I will refer to as your set weight range—most of your adult life. If your weight strays outside it, multiple systems of your body make changes that push you back toward it.”
The second fallacy is the unspoken notion that we can control our world, our relationships, and our self-esteem, through our weight. The reality is that there are people who have healthy loving relationships, feel beautiful, and achieve success-at every shape and size.
Despite what diet-culture may want us to believe, losing weight is not the key to increased health and happiness. Instead, work to nourish your body with food and movement that you actually enjoy.
3. Your weight says nothing about your value as a person.
I often share with clients that even if you loved your body, the reality of life is that our bodies are meant to change as we age. When you allow your sense of self-worth to rest on something external (and that research shows is largely out of your control in the long-term), it is a recipe for discontent.
There are so many things about you that are far more interesting than the gravitational force of the earth on your body. At the end of your life, what kind of legacy do you wish to leave? Would you rather be remembered for your body-or for the kind of person that you were?
Ultimately, you are worthy of love and belonging, no matter what size you are. When you allow a scale to dictate your self-worth, you allow it to take away your inherent power. You are so much more than a number. Additionally, getting rid of your scale enables you to focus more on how your body is actually feeling.
No matter what you weigh or what your body looks like, you are enough, just as you are.
The Bottom Line
I encourage you to throw away your bathroom scale. I’d also urge you to stop weighing yourself and to replace this ritual with something more nourishing, such as doing a meditation, lighting a candle, or making a gratitude list.
Giving up the scale and weighing yourself, will help you to begin to free up your mental energy. Thus, enabling you to focus on the things in your life that truly matter.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety, and survivors of trauma. Jennifer offers eating disorder therapy to individuals in Maryland and D.C. and eating disorder recovery coaching via phone/Skype.
I am an eating disorder therapist in Rockville, MD, intuitive eating counselor, and body-image activist.