When is a scale just a scale?

For years now people have been declaring war on their bathroom scale. We have seen pictures and video of groups of people smashing and bashing their scales to pieces while establishing a sense of re-birth and enhanced sense of self.  While it is true that the scale can be an evil representation of self-hate, shame, and guilt…is it the bastard we believe it to be? Or is there a way we can reframe this benign bathroom accessory and, dare I even suggest it, use it for good instead of evil?

I know, right? You’re probably wondering if I’m really who I say I am. No eating disorder counsellor would ever suggest making friends with your bathroom scale. I’m just wondering (thinking out loud) if there is a way we can shift how we think and feel about scales.  It’s kinda like in stress management class when the facilitator asks us what causes our stress.  The answer is always us. WE cause our stress. We perceive events, people, and things as stressful.  Through shifting our perspective, we can minimize (or even eliminate) the stress we experience.  So how would this relate to our relationship with our scales?

When we get on a scale it doesn’t react by saying we are worthless, gluttonous, and sloth like…does it? All a scale does is provide us with a number. What we tend to do is place a meaning to this number. The number could represent the gravitational pull of a spinning earth, but I’m guessing that’s not where you go.  This number is translated  by us; our beliefs about it, our feelings about it, what we have come to learn about it (through faulty and problematic pseudo-science).  What if we could alter our beliefs and see that number differently?

If your eating behaviour or emotions are tied into that number perhaps a scale isn’t for you. It’s time to end that relationship and begin a new one with yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for scales. I don’t use one myself, and I don’t believe we need to use them in general. BUT…for those out there who do use them, may I suggest a check list to help guide, and even prevent, this act of weighing oneself from going to a dark place? These questions may help navigate a better understanding about the relationship you have with your scale and if you should consider ending the relationship or taking a break until you are more at peace with your body.

  1. What does weight mean to you? If your mood changes based upon a number on the scale (i.e. you implode on yourself if the number is higher), it’s time to part ways.
  2. What thoughts are present when you look down at that number? If there are any thoughts that lean towards self-disgust, shame, or anything other than “you rock” no matter what the scale says, perhaps a break up is necessary.
  3. What are your reasons for getting on the scale? If it is medical in nature (and, of course, I can’t think of why that would be…but I’m remaining open-minded) and you see it only as a number – great. If you are measuring the success of a new diet plan or your self-worth as a person in the world…back up slowly, don’t give it eye contact, and throw the scale in the trash.

The honest truth is scales aren’t useful for a wide variety of reasons, but I’m not going to judge or proclaim you must throw out your scale to be healthy. Scales are just scales; it’s the meaning we give them that gives them the power over us. We hate them because we hate ourselves. A number is just a number.  You are so much more than a number. Take some time to list all the amazing qualities that you bring to the world, to your workplace, and to your family and friends (and repeat it to yourself all the time). If that scale gets in the way of your KNOWING how amazing you are, perhaps it’s time to end that relationship (they really don’t add to the decor of your bathroom anyway).

That’s all I have to say about that (Forest, G., 1994).



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