The dim light on the scale flickers into action. Digital numbers whir before my eyes and settle down to zeros. In a pile on the floor around me are my shoes, belt, pants, shirt, bra, panties and any other thing I can think of that might throw the results off by even the smallest amount. That goes for my jewelry and even my hair band. I suck in my breath and gingerly place my feet on the cold glass plate. The disc inside the scale responsible for reading your weight begins the dreaded measurement. I am still holding my breath and dare not look down. I am in the grip of fear because I don’t think I want to see this cold, uncaring number. This is how much I hate the scale!
So you had a bad week. What started out as an eat-clean plan to rock out a tight, lean body weighing five pounds less has crumbled in front of your eyes. Though you trained your butt off and ate so tight you are exhausted from chewing, the scale has the audacity to point out you have indeed gained two pounds! How is this possible? You refused the birthday cake at work, toted your cooler about like a good little girl and you took the confused looks from others who wonder why you enjoy raw broccoli while they devour sticky doughnuts. You are one of the Sisters in Iron, but your ego is shot as the scale rips out your heart.
Every woman knows that scale moment. Every woman has stood naked on the darned thing, risking her very soul to learn something she would prefer to leave in the vault. How much do I weigh? How much weight have I lost? What does that number mean? Am I fat? Am I skinny? It’s enough to make you run for the Ben and Jerry’s and never look back.
When I was an awkward high school student wearing a green polyester skirt and a brown blouse (can you visualize this?) I had a certain relationship with the scale in my home. The white metal thing sat next to the commode in the upstairs bathroom and everyone in our house knew when the bathroom door was shut that the very important business of weighing oneself was occurring behind that door. Weight was an issue that crept up frequently for me because according to the preaching of Home Digest and my mother especially, “A girl should weigh a certain amount and not more.” That amount would be predicted by your height of course. So at five foot seven in grade 11 the idea was to keep to a weight of about 120 pounds. The battle to stay there or under it was waged in oatmeal, carrot and celery sticks on a daily basis. While all my friends ate ice cream sandwiches and french fries, I resigned myself to get lunch over with and move on to academics. Now that was something I was good at.
I didn’t have a weight problem in my teens and maybe the scale helped me with that for a while. But I did have a problem with my self-esteem, always wondering if I was good enough or thin enough based on that stupid number on the scale. A bad day of a weight gain of just one pound would throw me off for several days to come. Talk about depression!
With a little maturity and a few more decades behind me I still balk at the scale. The last time I stepped on a scale was a few months ago during my annual checkup. Does the doctor realize how much I detest this? And she doesn’t let me strip naked either! And I can’t forget the joys that came along with the daily weigh-ins when I was competing. It was a few years ago but that torture lingers. Can you relate to the dreaded experience?
Then I bring myself back to reality. The scale may serve a purpose but I believe that purpose is to give us a little reality check once in a while. Daily weigh-ins are for boxers and wrestlers. Who needs ‘em? Deciphering what your scale reading means in relation to what you are doing is what really matters. If you did eat clean and follow it up with heavy lifting you might indeed see your weight increase by one or two pounds. A figure competitor might rejoice over that number because it means she put on muscle mass. Take solace in knowing that one pound of resting muscle has a far more voracious appetite for fuel than the same pound of resting fat. I’ll take muscle over fat and weigh a bit more any day because I know how wonderfully muscle shapes my body and kicks my metabolism into high gear.
Let’s take it one step further. If you know you have done your homework by eating clean and training and you feel and look thinner but the number on the scale doesn’t match, stop yourself from attending the pity party and try on your favorite jeans – you know, the ones you couldn’t fit into before. Chances are your shape has changed enough that you will notice a difference and that difference will be reflected in your clothes.
I am at a point now where I don’t bother weighing myself regularly anymore. The scale just doesn’t have much to teach me. When I look in the mirror during a training session I can see for myself if I have cuts or rolls. Total weight means something entirely different to me now. My weight – whatever that number is today and I couldn’t tell you if you asked – is a combination of what my tone is and whether or not I am strong enough to lift, run hills in preparation for a half marathon or simply be a happy, physically active and healthy individual. I thank my doc for her once-per-year revelation and leave the rest to my skinny jeans, size 28, inseam 32, thank you very much. Well okay, I might get a little help from a mirror now and then too.
Let the scale be a small part of what you do to get yourself in shape. Use a measuring tape, favorite slim-day clothes, skinny jeans or your partner’s eyes. Take a photograph of how you look and let that guide you if you are not a good judge of yourself. Then put down the chocolate bar you thought you were going to eat and go for a walk with your dogs in the cool morning air. Pencil in a date on your calendar to train your legs. Drink water along with your favorite eat-clean meals and take back your life and your confidence. “Scale, are you listening? I am done with you!”
I am always listening.
Depending solely on the number on the scale for an assessment of what your physique looks like is a lot like counting calories when you are eating doughnuts. You are focusing too much on the number and not the overall picture.
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