Photo: James Wojcik/Trunk Archive
I should know better than to set foot anywhere near my scale after a particularly decadent meal topped with a glass or two (or three) of wine. And yet, I can’t help myself. I unfailingly hop on that electronic demigod every morning and, more often than not, spend the rest of my day feeling depressed, anxious, and just plain uncomfortable. And then suddenly, the other day, I realized that I don’t have to. So I broke up with it in the most violent way possible: I tossed it into the recycling bin.
According to Dr. Susan Albers, a clinical psychologist and expert on mindful eating and body image, I am not alone. “I have clients who get on the scale five or six times per day,” she tells me. “It’s sad because it has so much control over their lives.” I totally get this. When I’m down a pound or two, I feel in control, attractive, and confident, even when I’m fully aware that it’s only water weight and that my clothes fit the same way they did the week before. Seeing that number go down is definitive proof (in my mind, anyway) that I am in control of my destiny, damn it! Maybe that’s why it’s so stressful when the needle goes in the wrong direction. Albers says that in situations like mine, the scale becomes a weapon rather than a tool.
Some studies have shown that people trying to lose weight lost more when they weighed themselves daily, but Albers recommends against this strategy, particularly if, like me, you’re in a maintenance phase. “If you can do it, I recommend getting away from the scale,” she says. Weigh yourself “no more than once a week — same time, same place. Or, instead use a comfortable piece of clothing that doesn’t shrink in the wash. When you put it on you can get a sense of where your body is at, but it won’t cause the same kind of panic that a number will.” She also suggests setting a weight range for yourself rather than focusing on one single number, so you have a bit of leeway. Hmm, so perhaps a more civilized breaking off of relations with my scale is in order, rather than unceremoniously dumping it in the trash. (Full disclosure: I went back and got it after an hour.)
Like a certain A-list couple, I’ve since decided to consciously uncouple from my scale. I haven’t given it up completely, but it’s been about five days since I hopped on, and I haven’t yelled at it even once. I’ve eaten handfuls of salty pretzels without anxiety and have, I guess you could say, chilled out. I still crave the positive reinforcement of seeing a “good” number, but I’ve realized that number doesn’t actually mean so much. Baby steps count, right?