Vent Sesh: Stepping Away from the Scale

As part of Feel Fit February, Erika and I agreed to follow Alyson’s lead with a “vent sesh,” a regular feature on her blog in which she gets real about a particular topic. Judging from the length of this post (thanks for sticking it out) I had no problems getting real about today’s vent sesh question:

Why is it important to move away from the scale? 

If I’m to be honest about this, I have to admit that I alternately agree/practice and don’t agree/don’t practice this concept. So I’m going to argue both sides of the coin here, based on my own personal experience doing both.

On keeping a regular date with your scale:

For Feel Fit February, I have agreed to not step on the scale, and believe me, I’m fine with that. That’s actually my default approach, because I usually feel really bad when I step on the scale and see that NUMBER I HATE staring back at me. See, I’m exceptionally good at deferment and denial in this department.

In fact, I have all these “rules” about when I’m even permitted to step on the scale, because what it might display scares me so much. For example:

digital scale
via Google Images
  • I cannot weigh myself at any other time but in the morning, after waking and going to the bathroom.
  • I cannot wear anything but my wedding band when I weigh myself. And I cannot have wet hair.
  • I cannot weigh myself on a Monday…actually, Friday is best, because I don’t indulge during the week, so I’m leanest by Friday.
  • I cannot weigh myself after ingesting anything more recent than eight hours ago.
  • When weighing in at the doctor’s office, I step on the scale backwards and ask the nurse not to share the number (because stepping on the scale there breaks all of the rules above).

What do all these schizo rules tell you about me and the scale?

Um, WE ARE NOT FRIENDS. Well, we are. But only when the scale replies with 133. Or 130. Or even better, the virtually unattainable 128. And anything other than those numbers generally makes me feel like a big heifer, because being in the 120s seems easy breezy for the rest of the 5’7″ female population. Erm, the last time I weighed 120, 125, I was in high school. And drinking Slimfast for lunch.


You know what happens when I stay in defer and deny mode? When I don’t step on the scale for weeks or even months? I gain weight. Like 20 pounds’ worth from 2010 to 2012, after being at that happy, skeletal 128. I hate accomplishing a goal, then only seeing that success in the rear-view mirror, especially when it’s a big ass mirror. I have yo-yo’ed like that, for years, and it’s not good for my body or mind. I feel weak and bloated, I shy away from blog photos and pool time, I feel insecure. And talk about cranky. You have no idea.

My body’s natural weight when I work out and eat healthy, indulging a little on the weekends, is about 135, 136. I should be happy about that, but I’m not usually, because I feel and look best at 130. That’s my own struggle. And why I feel like I need a reality check on the scale, at least once a week. Sure, my “skinny” pants will tell me if I’m under, over, or just right—but when they start feeling tight and I just reach for a bigger pair, that ceases to be an effective approach.

On throwing the damn thing out:

Do I even need to give a reason for this side of the argument? Re-read that list above and it’s pretty clear that my relationship with my scale is unhealthy, and I should just pitch the damn thing all together. It causes me more mental anguish and unhappiness than anything else.

smashing the scale
via Pinterest

Is five or ten pounds extra on a fit, healthy body that big a deal in the grand scheme?

Uh, NO. Obvi.

My husband is exceptional at reminding me to count my health blessings, rather than focus on the irritating, minor health flaws we all have in some way. I have a functioning, healthy body. Many, many people do not. It’s hard to be your own cheerleader when you feel genuinely defeated because your body has its own plans. It’s human nature to not fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Right?

On my first Feel Fit February post, I received a comment from Serene, of The Elegant Bohemian, that resonated with me greatly; it’s just the kind of message that puts the number on a scale into proper perspective. We can all learn from it. She wrote:

“I’ve dieted most of my life…seriously. I remember as a HS freshman weighing 107 pounds and on a diet. So on into adulthood, I too, was obsessed with the scale and it seems like the more obsessed I was, the harder it was to get the weight off. Add to that 4 kids in 3 pregnancies and dieting and scale watching was like breathing…just a part of life. But so was the ever present discontentment and placing more value on that number on the scale than was warranted. Finally, when my mom got sick at 55 years old and, before my eyes, started wasting away from the cancer, it put my whole weight loss obsession into focus. Crystal clear. Here she was fighting for her life and there I was fighting for thinner thighs! I decided then and there it was over. She passed away soon after and between that and a divorce a year later, my weight was the last thing on my mind.”

“…dieting and scale watching was like breathing…” yeah, I get that. I replied to Serene in the comments on that post:

Your comment resonated with me on so many levels, especially since I have a most beloved aunt in the fight of her life against ovarian cancer right now. It DOES put things into perspective. I’m sitting here worried about 5 pounds? Pffft, ridiculous. I think weight issues are another area where we as Americans, especially, suffer from an inability to ever be content. With anything.

We need to stop. Stop the sabotaging self-talk. Stop the state of discontent. Just. Stop.

If you’re going to have any kind of talk in your head, make it a come-to-Jesus talk, to put things into real perspective. We need to remind ourselves that if WE were the ones fighting cancer, life cancer-free—at ANY weight—is a blessing and a miracle.

That doesn’t mean we should give ourselves carte blanche to derail or bludge. But when you’re already giving it your all in the gym; you’ve already stripped away everything you thought you knew about food and nutrition and re-learned it the real, organic way; when you know you really are 90% good, 90% of the time, that damn scale really should not matter.

Be sure to visit The Average Girl’s Guide and Style Activist today to read their perspectives.

What about you. Where do you stand? On the scale, or off?



  1. I’ve cultivated a relationship with my scale, but it tends to be more gentle. Ttypically I weigh myself 2-3 times a week to get an accurate “gauge” of what my natural weight range is. Right now I fluctuate between 196 and 199 (down about 40 pounds since August 2011). Some days I tip back over 200, and I’m disappointed. But I know that beating myself up over the natural rhythm of my body won’t make the weight go away. For me, developing this relationship has helped keep me on track; like you, without a scale, I gained a lot of weight in too short a period of time (more like 60 pounds in 3 years though).

    That being said– I’m curious to see what can happen if I let go of the scale for a month and move based on how I feel, how my clothes fit, and just making adjustments to my diet and movement.

  2. This has been a HUGE issue for me my entire life but most especially since getting pregnant. I had lost about 10lbs before I got pregnant at the end of May and it had been incredibly difficult to see the scale increase so dramatically. Being 5′ tall according to the BMI I should only weigh about 105-115lbs. This hasn’t been the case since middle school so being considered obese to begin with I wasn’t supposed to gain the normal 30lbs. I have struggled with my weight my entire life and it got to a point during my pregnancy that I had to start weighing myself every day because they weigh me at the doctors and their scales fluctuated so much from room to room I would leave in tears thinking I gained to much weight. Not to mention I have a very similar set of rules that I follow when it comes to the scale…

  3. Love this post V! You’ve nailed my thoughts exactly when it comes to the scale. It took me going back into the hospital shortly after having my daughter with trouble breathing due to post natal high blood pressure and severe fluid retention to really realize that being healthy is number one. I used to get on the scale all the time and obsess over numbers and food. After that health scare it put the whole dieting thing into perspective. Now, I only weigh myself when I go to the doctor, pull in the reins a bit when I’ve indulged too much, and get in as much exercise as I can with a new baby (she’s works great as free weights! LOL).

  4. Oh Vahni! I just want to give you a hug! Man! Have I been there with the scale thing! Except I would weigh EVERYTIME after going to the bathroom! How’s that for obsessive?! I’m so glad that you’re bringing up this topic in a very healthy and encouraging way….we ALL need to be reminded to be thankful for a healthy functioning body. I’m so glad my earlier comment struck a chord with you! Looking forward to reading more! Big hug girly! Serene

  5. First, let me say, I commend you for sharing your numbers. I hate talking about mine. Hate.
    I go through phases with the scale. Sometimes it is my greatest motivator, sometimes it is my greatest critic. Glad to know I am not alone in this debate…

  6. OMG! Your “scale rules” are identical to mine!!! As is the number…if it is 133/135 I am happy…skinniest when I cheered for NFL was 128…(haven’t seen that in close to a decade, ha) Right now I am still 141- ARGH- ramping up the fitness to get rid of those pesky 6/7 pounds…but TRYING not to put to much pressure…its not healthy – its all about striking the balance. Or so I tell myself on the daily….

  7. Fabulous post V, and what a great concept for February! I live by a set of similar scale rules to you, though lately I’ve been more in the “defer and deny” frame of mind. In the past (many, many moons ago when i was quite younger) any sort of stress in my life always resulted in an unintentional fast of some sort. I’d eat less and I’d lose weight. It seems the older I have gotten, the more I turn to food when life’s little (or biog) stresses come my way.

    As a result, if I am stressing I tend to run away from the scale because I just KNOW that number is going to be higher than I’d like. Which in turn stresses me out. Which leads to more food and more stress. It’s a vicious cycle I am trying to break this year. I think reading these types of posts is going to be a huge help in getting myself back on track. Looking forward to more!

  8. In my early 20s I suffered from anorexia and then, since I like to do the full program, followed that up with bulimia. I was in a psych ward for the better part of 2 years followed by another 2 years of intense therapy……it took me until now,, 17 years later, that I am able to handle a scale responsibly again.

    As I a now approaching the late 30s, I realized that hmmmm, some clothes are staying at the tighter end of the spectrum, so I decided to attempt to weigh myself once a week to see if I can track that. And I am doing fine with it.

    By the way, I have about 90% of the same rules. Friday mornings are best, no wet hair, no food, first thing in the morning, naked;)

  9. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the honesty of this post. I think a lot of women have a complicated relationship with their scale, and most of us avoid even talking about it. Like you, I have the same rules minus the doctor’s office one and the Friday one.

  10. I honestly have pretty much the same rules as you! Apparently (after seeing the other comments) I am not alone in this. 😉 I always turn away from the scale at the doctors’ office, and the nurses always make a face at me when I tell them to not tell me the number. I just don’t want to know if it is going to bug me the rest of the day potentially.

    For me, I’ve had to reconcile the fact that numbers aren’t everything. For a long time, I didn’t really work out much, and I was “skinny fat,” so to say. Then, when I started hitting the gym for weight training regularly, I gained about 5 pounds but I looked SO much slimmer and toned, of course! It really can mess with your head to focus solely on the numbers: feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin is always the goal!

  11. I don’t own a scale, but I go to weight watchers once a month, at least, to get weighed. Over the holidays my weight crept up to 156 and it hurts. I worked really hard in 2011 to slim down to 150 and kept it there for most of 2012. Now I’m trying to get back to that fabulous number. 150 is so PERFECT. Just the look of it is delightful. Those three little numbers. Sigh.
    For me 150 pounds is a really good, healthy, slim, attractive weight. I know it’s do-able and I’m sick of being overweight. Before I went to weight watchers I was about 175 pounds. It felt yucky, that extra twenty pounds. I don’t ever want it to come back.
    Anyway, I don’t really have a problem with the scale. A bigger number and I sigh. A smaller number and I jump up and down with joy. I like being smaller. It feels good. I refuse to apologize for something that makes me happy, even if it is vain and silly. Don’t care. Like 150.

  12. This is SUCH a hot topic, and I sincerely appreciate you all sharing your perspectives. Funny how many of us are much more alike than we think!

  13. I just linked to this post on my own blog – thank you so much for sharing these thoughts!! It really helped me organise some of my own thoughts about the issue. I’ve just completed a Whole45, and I’m trying to work my way toward a healthy relationship with my scale – it ain’t easy, and talking about it makes me feel exposed and vulnerable, BUT I look at posts like this and I realise how important it is that we do. Thank you!!

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