Part 3 in a series. Part 1: Does checking the scale help with weight management?
Part 2: Is the bath scale a taboo or a tool? Readers weigh in on weighing in.
Part 3: Be present with your poundage: How to weigh mindfully, get out of fear of the scale, and use the bath scale to help you lose weight. 4 Steps to breaking scale phobia.
In Does checking the scale help with weight management? we learned that research tells us the answer is yes.
That being said, if you are doing fine on weight management without a scale in radar’s distance, thank you very much, then keep doing what you’re doing.
Yet if in your heart of hearts you are struggling with either your weight, or your relationship with the scale, or both, no worries, help has arrived. It is possible to cultivate detachment from the numbers that allows you to use the bathroom scale objectively for your purposes of weight management. I’ve done it and so can you. Here’s how.
How to end the fear of the numbers and make the bath scale your friend
When my struggle with the scale – let alone my weight – was at its peak, the power of the scale was in direct proportion to my emotional investment in the scale. Think about it. It’s not the scale itself that creates the turmoil – it’s your reaction to it.
And reactions can be changed. It’s the secret to the whole weight loss game, actually. But I get ahead of myself. Let me stick to the scale for now.
As my weight ramped up in the direction of its high mark at 189.5, which I eventually discovered the truth about anyway, I tried the avoidance tactic. You know, the “It just makes me feel bad so I won’t check in with it” philosophy. If this is born of detachment, that’s one thing. But for me scale avoidance was symptomatic of the power of the scale. And as long as the scale held the reigns of power, real freedom could not exist.
Freedom and peace with food, eating, and my body was what I wanted. Every step along the way was measured against this vision. The first step was to learn to become present with the numbers rather than running in fear.
This opened new doors of freedom. It’s simple. Not easy at first. Yet with a little focus and specific strategies you will experience a rebirth of attitude when it comes to the scale – and end its reign of power in a way far superior to denial of the numbers.
In the ongoing review of the literature, it has also been strongly underscored that people successful at health and weight loss have several elements in place. One of these elements is utilizing specific measures that can be tracked. The purpose of this is so that you can recognize your progress.
Weighing can be one of these measures.
Personally? I decided 13 years ago, when embarking on what resulted in my 50 lb weight loss, to become friends with the scale. I had a few reasons for this:
Why I weighed as I lost weight and still do so today
- I knew my experiences would be valuable for others down the road and recording progress was going to be important to the teaching and coaching process.
- Being ‘afraid’ of the scale gave it more power than I wanted it to have. Rather than run from it, I decided to walk right through it by cultivating a new attitude toward the scale. I practiced not letting the discomfort of scale anxiety rule my behavior. It is, after all, simply a habituated response. In this fashion, it became an important tool for measurement. I learned that daily sodium and volume intake could jump or drop things by 2 or 3 lbs. One argument against weighing once a week only, because what if you hit one of those days?
- As I was experiencing a slow, healthy weight loss, it showed up faster on the scale than it did in the mirror or my clothes. The scale actually provided me with the positive feedback that was valuable for my success. Some months I’d lose 6 lbs, some only 1/2 lb. Yet as I was graphing and tracking it over time, and I learned to walk through the middle of the anxiety of the scale and make it my friend, I could be confident of the trend.
These personal experiences coupled with the results from research as in the linked article brought me to my current philosophy about the scale. I encourage people to use it and get a new relationship with the scale rather than give it the power to rule their behavior.
How to be positively present with the poundage
There is a way to weigh mindfully. Truth be told, this is my number one secret for making friends with the scale. Read that again. I learned to practice my meditative skills to walk right through the anxiety and tension around scale readout – and so can you. Want to learn how? Here’s the mini lesson.
- Recall. Right now, call up the idea of weighing yourself. Picture yourself approaching or stepping onto the scale. Got it? Do you have an emotional response? Anxiety, fear, dread, excitement? Don’t judge it, we’re just observing things.
- Shift. Now, shift your attention to where you feel that reaction in your body. Does your chest tighten up? Is there a lump in your throat? A brick in your belly? Again, don’t judge it, and don’t push it away. Or run away from it. I’m asking you to be completely present with the physical sensations of that emotional reaction to the scale.
- Watch. Keep watching the sensations in your body. Several things may happen at this point. Your mind may want to replay the scenario of approaching the scale. It may want to run away – as fast as it can – and think about something else, something less painful. It may want to help you escape those painful sensations that I’ve asked you to look at in your body. Observe these impulses dispassionately. Don’t judge them, either. They are just there and can’t hurt you. You will learn this quite quickly. But you can’t learn it if you aren’t present with it.
- Practice. Mastery of anything is simply practice of that which you are trying to get better. Being peacefully present with the scale readout will not come through avoidance and denial of the scale. They will be yours only by practicing being present with same. This will take heart and commitment. The rewards are so worth it.
Decide whether to weigh every day, 3 times a week, two times a week, or once a week. The only problem with once a week is that it may be a day that the scale has jumped because of that salty burrito you had for dinner last night.
And remember, no one is forcing you to weigh here. Personal preference take precedence. But at the same time, an objective look at fears and denial just may turn this whole thing around for you. It did for me. It takes getting out of your head and into your body in a whole new way – for a whole new you.
Looking forward to your thoughts below.
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Just quickly, I really REALLY love the toe sockies!
Laura-Grayce, aren’t they adorable? And don’t you love the scale readout?
Yes – I do. I’m sure you knew I’d love those sockies!! So – now, I think of you every morning that I step on that doggone scale!
I hope it is a good association! Think of me as your guardian angle. And let me know if you find the socks somewhere!
The socks I’m sure you can get on ebay,or etsy – the scale and I are really locked in a debate on whose the boss right now. Scale seems to be winning. NOT a good thing.
I like the idea of not giving the numbers too much emotional power. I learned the same thing with my diabetes numbers – it’s only a number – now I will try applying this to the scale! Great series, Lani!
TD – I love that you have a personal experience against which to compare. The way I see it, we are always being challenged by one thing or another to face rather than flee from. It is a practice we can cultivate if we so choose – liberation!
wow Lani, talk about inspiration, how come when i read what you write it makes so much sense? ummmm thanks heaps it has given me another direction to look at, instead of letting that scale rule my moods i will just have to take you approach on it, i am going to print this out and read it to myself every morning and the last thing before i head to bed, it will get drumbed into me that way and eventually become second nature to me. It is so good knowing your experiences as it sure helps the rest of us, so thanks for sharing. With the salt/sodium issue , does that mean that it makes you gain fat when it is included in your diet? it is just that every day i make a pot of veggie soup and i use some low salt vegetable stock, so maybe i should throw that away if thats the case, it is just that it gives a little flavour, anyway cheers Lani and thanks
Anna, thanks for your wonderful reflections! I appreciate it more than you know.
As for the sodium, not fat weight, it’s water weight. Our bodies always seek homeostasis and with a flood of sodium – as in when you eat salt – the sodium
concentration, or salinity of your blood goes up. This inspires you – via thirst – to drink more water. Your weight according to the scale then goes up as your body is holding more water to balance the excess salinity in your body from your sodium intake. After a day or two, given a drop in sodium intake and drinking plenty of water, you release the excess water and weight goes back to normal. Make sense?
Basically, when you’ve got a high concentration of salt in your blood, your body has no choice but to hold onto that water to restore homeostasis, or normal salinity.
yep know all about homeostasis, thanks Lani, was just being inquisative about the water or fat, so does that mean it is still acceptable to have the low salt stock for flavour? or should i tell my patients to give it a miss, or is there something else you could recommend? Cheers Anna
Low sodium always a good idea, as we get sodium in foods naturally and can barely help but get a little more if we use condiments or use any packaged products at all, let alone seasoning our food. Those very sensitive to sodium have to be particularly careful, so for patients they should check with doc for specific levels personally.
ok thanks Lani, have just got home from work Lani and have something i want to run by you if thats ok, i had a new lady come to me and she isnt a vegan but has been told she is borderline for diabetes. She bought a book with her of her weight and wanted to know where she is going wrong, just wondering if you think her calories are to low? i looked at her chart and for the last month, her weigh has increased everyday, yep she weighs every day, anyway some days it was even up by 1 kilo, she wants to go vegan for her health but is worried as her diet now is only(this is why i said maybe to low in calories but not really sure if that is right) she had no breakfast, for lunch she has a huge plate ful of about 6 different veggie and 1 steamed chicken fillet and then nothing until tea time and she has the same again maybe with more veggies and a huge plate of salad green. When i work out approximately the calories it was about 1000, what do you think as she should be losing with that amount and she said that she uses the bathroom heaps with the tons of veggies she eats, anyway Lani will be interested to hear what you think as you are the expert, cheers Anna
First thing is, people are notoriously inaccurate about reporting what they eat. Is she putting anything on the vegetables? On the salad? She has been gaining every day for a month? Up for a total of how many pounds?
Has she talked to the doctor? Gaining every day without any stabilization if the diet is really this sparse is reason to check with a physician.
yes Lani have talked to the patient about any thing else she adds into her diet but she says she never uses anything , she only sreams her meat and veg and uses black pepper and fresh herbs. She recently has had blood profiles done, nothing specific shown. She has gained 5 kilo(not sure what that is in pounds ) yes within a month, the only the thing i could come up with was not eating breakfast and not eating enough, she seems to live on mainly vegetables, no potato, corn or peas only a few starch veggeis like pumpkin, carott and swede amd then the rest all green veggies, so not sure why the weight gain is happening, cheers
Odd scenario. I would direct her to her doctor on this one.