The scale

Stepping on a scale never seemed controversial to me when I decided to get serious about losing weight. It is though. There are so many people who will tell you looking at the number on the scale is counter productive, and there are better ways to gauge your progress. These anti-scale folks tell you to use the way your clothes fit, or measuring tape to see if you’ve lost inches, and of course the way you feel.

I’ve used all those methods to judge what’s happening with my body, but nothing beats the scale in the end. It’s not controversial. The numbers on the scale don’t tell you everything, but they tell you a hell of a lot.

Lost inches are great and important. I love when my clothes fit just a little looser, and I know that where I’m at now, they probably are better at letting me know where I’m since I don’t have many pounds to lose. The way my pants or shorts fit give me better information about the way my extra fat is sitting on my body on any given day. I can even tell sometimes when I wake up in the morning that I’m down a pound or so. I really feel it.

Those things are great, but I would never trade in my scale for any of them individually or all three.

As I’ve written before, I didn’t know how much I weighed as I gradually got bigger and bigger. I’m not crazy. I knew I was fat, and I didn’t want to know how much I weighed. With very few exceptions, fat people know we’re fat. We don’t need to be told though it seems as if people are lining up to remind us in case we forgot. We didn’t forget, so go about your business.

I vaguely recall an old pink scale in my house growing up, but I doubt I used it in high school more than a few times. I knew I weighed too much, but I didn’t want to know the exact amount. I wasn’t the typical girl going on and off diets with regularity. I tried a few things, but I didn’t really know what to do. I do remember once my mom telling me I should try to eat 800 calories a day and then learning how many calories were in a single piece of pizza and knowing that was beyond impossible. I still don’t know where she got that ridiculously low figure, but she didn’t have to worry about it always having been thin and being a regular exerciser.

In college, I gained weight, but still I never broke down and stood on a scale with the exception of a couple of doctor visits. I must have blocked those incidents from my memory, because I don’t know exactly how much I weighed in college. I was bigger than my friends, but I don’t know by how much exactly. That’s not to say it didn’t matter. I didn’t think about it as much as I do now, but I wished I were thinner. I still didn’t bother to figure out a way to achieve that goal.

It was only in my first year of marriage that I bought a scale and stood on it. That moment was a shock to the system. But it was an important beginning point. I tried to get on the scale once a week so that I had time to make progress before the next weigh in, but I’m not very patient. Plus, when you’re in a plateau, it’s very infuriating to be at the same weight week after week or even up a pound or two. So I transitioned to every day.

Some people will tell you that weighing yourself every day is obsessive and unhealthy. To all those people I say “nuts to that!” Losing weight takes a bit of obsession first of all, and also all of us have to do that which works for us. I cannot say this often or loudly enough. Not everything works for every person. When you find something that helps you, then use it! Don’t let other people tell you that you’re doing something wrong when it is the thing that works. (Unless you’re doing something crazy like swallowing tapeworms or becoming bulimic. In those cases, stop it, and stop it right now!)

There were periods where I stopped weighing myself. Those periods are better known as the times I was regaining weight. I don’t mean to say that just by stepping on a scale I dropped weight. Rather I didn’t step on the scale anymore, because I had given up for some reason and didn’t want to know anymore. For me, knowledge is power and not knowing what I weigh is a pass to eat whatever I want, because without a number on a scale, it’s like nothing is happening to my weight.

Obviously that isn’t true. But psychological symbols are important. Sometimes I can get a little too crazy and overweigh myself such as when I weigh myself at other people’s houses during parties or pull out a scale at Wal-mart just to check. I know it’s weird, but it’s just my thing. I’m always happy to find myself at a hotel with a scale in the room, but that doesn’t happen much. I just don’t like to go too long without that measurement.

I will not tell you that you have to weigh yourself daily. The clothes fitting or not fitting is a pretty good daily measure too. But it is a good idea to know your beginning weight and check periodically. Don’t pretend weight gain isn’t happening just because you don’t know the number. Know where you are even when it’s not where you want to be. Even on Monday morning, and I know how disappointing Monday morning can be after a weekend of dining out, but it keeps me honest with myself at least. I’m not telling you to let other people see your number, but knowing your number is the first step. Your weight isn’t everything, but it matters. You know it as well as I do. Besides, knowing that you will be stepping on a scale may be the only thing between you and that donut…

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