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> Back to Self-Care Excerpts List

Self-Care Excerpt from Don't Weight

To Weigh or Not to Weigh, That Is the Question

(This is long, but worth reading - you have probably lived it!)

Let's look at how a focus on your weight would likely affect you:

At any given time of the year, an astonishing 15 to 35 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight. Think about a time when you were trying to lose weight. You may think about today, yesterday, or a decade ago. Remember getting on the scale (at a group meeting, a doctor's office, or in your own home.) Logically, there are three possible outcomes on the scale:

  1. You lose weight
  2. You gain weight
  3. Your weight stays the same

Of course, how you react to the scale depends very much on your eating before the weigh-in. Logically, there are three possibilities to describe your eating while trying to lose weight:

  1. You stuck to your eating plans
  2. You blew your eating plans
  3. Sometimes you stuck to your eating plans and sometimes you did not

Let's look at the likely reactions to weighing yourself, depending on how hard you worked on your eating plans.

Possibility #1. You stuck to your eating plans. First, we will look at the most frequent experience in the beginning of weight loss plans. After doing just as you planned for the week, you hopped up on the scale, and you lost weight. For the first week it probably was not that hard to do. You were psyched. You probably paid a lot of money for this plan. Even if you did not spend a penny, at the very least you had invested emotionally in this plan to lose weight. Now, after the first week, the scale told you that your weight was down. Good. All your efforts were worth it. You would stick to your eating plan. (But ... sometimes ... when the scale gave you good news ... didn't you just have to celebrate and eat something "illegal"? Oh, yeah, that will be talked about in possibility #2 and #3. Let's get back to possibility #1, sticking to your eating plans.)

Later on, however, the story changed. It became more and more difficult to have the willpower to stick to your eating plan. You did stick to it though. And, after all that effort, you needed a reward. You had worked too hard and you needed to see results on that scale. How would you feel if you saw that you had lost two pounds? Good. You probably would feel satisfied that your efforts were worth it. However, you and I both know that the human body does not react to caloric deprivation with sustained weight loss every week. The body adapts to the lower caloric input and eventually weight loss plateaus. It always does. Every time.

How would you feel when the scale told you that, after being so "good" and watching what you ate all week, you had lost only a half-pound, or stayed the same? What if, after all that effort, you had actually gained weight? It happens. It actually happens quite often.

If you did not get the results you wanted, what do you think weighing yourself would do to your motivation? Would you redouble your efforts, eating less and exercising more until the scale gave you the results you wanted? Many people do exactly that. This is not the most common reaction. But for the few who do take this path, this is often the beginning of an eating disorder. Or, would you react like most people do after working hard and getting no results? Most people lose their motivation and quickly or gradually stop working on losing weight. Unfortunately, since most people inexorably link healthy eating and exercise to weight loss plans, most people also give up on their healthy lifestyle when they give up on weight loss.

Possibility #2. You blew your eating plans. Next, we will look at another frequent scene as an approach is made to the scales. How many times have you been waiting in a line to be weighed and wondering if you "got away with it"? What if the scale "catches" you and reports that you did not lose any weight or even that you gained weight. How would that make you feel? Would this focus on the external measurement on the scale help you to tune into your inner self and figure out WHY you blew your eating plans? Would it help you understand yourself, your needs, or your life any better? Or, would this reprimand simply encourage you to "work harder"? However, if you worked harder, you would really need a reward when you got to the scale next time. What if, after working really hard next week, you gain weight when next you were weighed? (Oh, yeah, that is possibility #1. Let's get back to possibility #2.) So, in the next scenario, imagine that you ate a lot of foods low in nutrition, high in saturated fats and sugar. Still you lost weight. What would your reaction be to that? Would this positive report make you feel like it was fine to eat unhealthy foods? There were no negative consequences. After all, you did not gain weight. Could it be that this focus on your weight might take your focus OFF your nutrition?

Possibility #3. Sometimes you stuck to your eating plans and sometimes you did not. If you lost weight under these conditions, how would you feel? Would you feel like you "got away with it"? Perhaps you do not need to pay attention to your eating that much. Maybe next week you will "cheat" a little more and see if you get away with it. (Oh, yeah, that is possibility #2.) What if you stay the same or gain weight under these conditions? Would you need to get back on track and follow your food plan even more intently? Then, after all that effort, you would probably really need a reward from the scale when you get on it next time. (Oh, yeah, that is possibility #1.)

This is starting to sound so circular. Actually, most dieters report feeling trapped in exactly these destructive circular patterns or cycles. At times, when a dieter is temporarily in the "high" end of the cycle, things feel great. "My energy went right through the roof!" ...Temporarily. As the cycle continues, there is much pain, self-esteem bashing, feelings of failure, reduced awareness of the self, and the person becomes more and more distant from constructive motivations for healthy living. For the person who is working on an eating plan, there are negative psychological reactions lurking at every weigh-in. I have been working with people who want to lose weight for twenty-five years. I have NEVER known of anyone who had a consistently constructive reaction to the experience of getting weighed. Perhaps, there are better ways to measure the success of our efforts toward healthy living.

Yes, I recommend that you stop weighing yourself. For some of you, this will be a difficult process that requires much problem-solving and self-understanding. For others, you can just stop. Even when you go to the doctor's office, there is no reason why you should have to experience the negative effects of being weighed. If it is medically necessary to be weighed, just get on the scale BACKWARD and tell the nurse that you do not want to hear your weight. You may even choose to add that you are actively involved in a healthy living process, and it is detrimental to your process of healthy living to know your weight. If you don't know your weight, how will you know if you have succeeded?

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By Kelly Bliss M.Ed., A.C.E. author of Don’t Weight, Eat Healthy & Get Moving NOW!
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