Don’t Use a Scale

September 19, 2011

In the past 18 months I’ve lost approximately 60 pounds. I say “approximately” because I don’t know for sure. I don’t own a scale. And what is the significance of this statement? It is that, despite our common obsession, I don’t care how many pounds I weigh, and neither should you.

Last time I weighed myself (on a novelty coin-operated scale at a movie theater that has since been demolished), I was 240 pounds. I stepped onto that scale out of curiosity. In the subsequent weeks and months, I counted calories and logged my exercise to the point where I could estimate how much weight I was losing per week. I could also see the difference when I stood in front of a mirror each morning.

And isn’t that the point? Aren’t you trying to lose weight to look better?

So why does it matter if you’ve reached some arbitrary numerical milestone? Are you trying to drop to a lower weight class so you can challenge for a new championship belt? Are you a finely tuned athlete that can’t chart his/her progress without measuring body fat to the nearest .001 percent?

Here’s another clue: if you can’t tell that you’re losing weight just by standing naked in front of a mirror, you’re not. Not really. And that means you’re going about it the wrong way.

So what’s the harm, you say? Why can’t you see if you’ve actually dropped that 1 1/2 pounds you were hoping to lose this week? The harm is that you might see a number on the scale that you don’t like. You could overlook the long-term goal, panic about an empirical result that doesn’t match how you feel, and change your weight loss plan for the worse — either by doing something unhealthy, or by giving up altogether.

Dieting is 100% mental. And anything that isn’t at least psychologically-neutral is counter-productive.

The simple fact is that without taking into consideration your age, your gender, your height and your body type into consideration, the weight is entirely meaningless. It’s just a number. You say you’re 175 pounds. Sounds great, if you’re a man of average height and build. But if you’re a woman who’s only 4’10”, that’s a problem.

Consider Gina Carano‘s situation. She’s a famous MMA fighter who is 5’8″ and 145 pounds. Many women would cringe if they had to say those words outloud: one hundred and forty five pounds. But I assure you, 90% of women who weight 105 pounds would kill to look like Gina Carano does. We should all look as good as Gina Carano. Whether we’re male, female, or in-between.

If I could, I would never even consider how many pounds I weigh — it just doesn’t factor the decisions I make about my eating and exercise habits. But unfortunately, people who bump into me after not seeing me for a few months are desperate to know how many pounds I’ve lost. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a good problem to have.

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