When is it Time to Say Bye to the Scale?

the scale - image of woman with hands on the side of her head, looking forward with serious expression, with a red tinted rectangle covering her head and chest, and blue tint on hands

My personal relationship with the scale goes back even before my arrival on earth. My mother and aunts didn’t remember the events. They remembered the number on the scale during that event. I was always fascinated it wasn’t the year, feeling, or the people around them focused on. But the exact number on the scale. 

One of my pet peeves was around the dinner table when they’d comment, “that was 20- 30 pounds ago.” After many years of my own personal therapy, being a licensed marriage and family therapist, and eating disorder specialist, this is still one of my pet peeves.

Measuring life by the scale

I didn’t have the language for my experience in those moments. But later it became clear they were measuring life and time by the scale. This concept was fortunately and unfortunately passed down to me. And exacerbated by medical professionals.

My family isn’t alone or special in this concept. We all have either heard or are able to relate to the idea that “if I only weighed…” the gates of happiness would open and the world would make sense.

I personally held a toxic relationship with the scale.

At its worst, it measured my worth, dedicated my mood, and went as far as to control what I was going to do that day. I said bye, many years ago.

Redefining your relationship with the scale

I’ve had many clients who’ve worked through their own external measures and want to redefine their relationship with the scale. I recall a client trying to “break up” with her scale. She proudly brought it into our session and we threw it away together. She’d done amazing work and after many sessions, this was the turning point for her recovery.

A week later she came in devastated and told me she went into Target, placed batteries in a scale, and weighed herself. Right there in aisle 9. I looked at her with compassion and praised her honesty. As she looked at me confused, I told her this was the first time she’d wanted to redefine her relationship with the scale. She could have purchased one or twenty scales that day but she made the choice not to. Instead, she chose to discuss it in session and look at other coping skills she’d developed. Progress wasn’t her giving me the scale. It was her trying something different and being honest not only with me but most importantly herself.

Whether we’re seeking validation, increased self esteem, control, or self worth, the scale will not provide any of these emotional needs.

The metal box

I’ve had many folks become confrontational when I challenge their beliefs about the metal box. I usually ask them to describe someone they admire or aspire to be. If they’re still speaking to me, they’ll engage. No one has told me that they admired a person for their size in jeans or what they weighed.

My hope is for individuals to remember experiences, feelings, events, and not the number on the scale. 

(Last Updated: June 6, 2022)

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