I was in a spin class the other day and one of my favorite instructors was telling us about his new year’s resolution. It was all about not letting his weight define him. He said, “I weigh 250 pounds and I’m in the best shape of my life, and I’m not letting my weight control me anymore!” He’s 6”5’ and clearly super healthy up there teaching spin classes, and just a bigger person. I loved that he’s come to a place of acceptance of his weight and body! And it got me thinking about why we care so much about what we weigh.
Now just out of curiosity, I got on my scale, wondering where I had landed post-holiday… and honestly was a bit humbled! I was over 150, which is a little higher than normal for me. I guess I hit the Christmas goodies hard. And truthfully, I immediately was like okay, gotta reel it in. But then…I was like let’s take a step back. I’m healthy, I’m working out regularly, my clothes fit…sure I may be carrying a little extra fluff from Christmas. So why do I care that the scale is reading 152 right now? Why does this number matter so much to me, to all of us?
Weight is One of Many Health Measurements
If you think about body weight very objectively, it’s one of the very common ways to measure health. But it’s just one of many measurements! If we’re assessing true health, we should be looking at a whole lot more than what that scale says. Other measurements include labs, waist to hip circumference, how our clothes fit, daily habits, daily energy levels, and how we FEEL on a day to basis. AND there are a lot of factors that impact our weight including hydration, menstrual cycle, timing, salt intake, and more.
I talk about weight with my clients pretty frequently. Thankfully, I work with awesome humans, and while, sure, most would like to lose a little weight, their overall goal is true health, rather than just a number on the scale. And typically, when we make changes that support overall health, weight usually comes down anyway. But the truth is, the number on the scale is just one piece of the puzzle when we’re looking at overall health.
I think most of us know this, but why is that number on the scale so triggering to us? Why does it still hold a certain degree of importance to me?
Why do we care so much about our weight?
- Society: Different weights are thrown around a lot in society or the media. I can certainly remember growing up reading magazine articles about how much Jennifer Lopez or Jennifer Anniston or Marilyn Monroe weighed. So of course, subconsciously as women, we’re thinking, well if that’s what this beautiful celebrity weighs, then I guess I should weigh that too.
- We like Consistency: It’s a number that has been presented to us our whole lives. At home, doctor’s appointments, and even our driver’s license. I think as humans, we like consistency and fear change. It can be hard to watch that number creep up over time, even though that’s an entirely natural thing.
- BMI: I’m sure we all remember that (traumatizing) chart that tells us what we should weigh for our height. I have always been on the higher end of the normal level and felt like I had a dirty little secret whenever I entered into the “overweight” zone.
But there are lots of reasons why we shouldn’t care so much about the number on the scale:
- Again, it’s not an overall picture of health. Other factors are sleep, energy, mood, mental health, and more. Weight is just an arbitrary number without context
- We’re all so different! Look at two people who weigh the exact same and you’d probably never know. Our heights, frames, muscle mass, and even bones are different.
- It’s completely normal to gain weight over time. Our bodies change, women literally grow humans, our hormones and metabolism change, we may grow more muscle and become fitter and weight could increase. It’s much more unlikely that your weight would stay consistent throughout your lifetime, so let go of thinking that you’re going to weigh the same you did in college.
- BMI was developed by an astronomer (not a doctor!) back in the 1830s and is basically an oversimplified ratio of what you should weigh based on your height. It’s outdated, and we really just haven’t found a better system.
- Your self-worth is not dependent on your weight. Read that again. You are not better, more beautiful, or more worthy of love if you weigh less. And the people who truly love and appreciate you don’t care at all what you weigh. Periodt.
So should you care what you weigh at all? Should you even have a scale?
If weighing yourself has the power to ruin your day, dictate what you eat, force you to exercise, or make you feel bad about yourself, it’s time to break up with the scale. Maybe not forever, but for now. If you feel negative about yourself after seeing how much you weigh or that you’re obsessively weighing yourself, it’s a sign that the number has a little too much power over you, and you need to focus on other factors and measures of health!
However, if you can jump on the scale, see a number, and take it with a grain of salt, knowing there are a lot of factors that impact weight AND it’s just one of many tools to measure health, then it could be completely fine.
The Grey Area: Your Happy Weight Range
Ultimately, I do believe most of us have a happy weight range. This may be a number that fluctuates 3-5 lbs in where you are comfortable in your own skin, you’re eating healthfully but not restricting, and moving your body normally. It may take a while to find that range, and it may take a while to accept that it is indeed your range, but it’s all part of our personal health journeys. Anddddd it may change over time.
There have been times in my life when I needed to avoid the scale completely because it really negatively impacted my behaviors and how I felt about myself. Now I use it as more of a check-in, seeing if I am in that comfortable range.
So, would I like to see 140-145 on the scale? Sure. Do I feel worried or like I need to lose weight since I am outside of that comfortable range? Not really. Logically I know this is probably just a few extra holiday cookies hanging around, and that I’ve been a little less active than normal the past couple of weeks.
How to Care Less About the Scale
So if this is what my body wants to weigh, that’s honestly fine, because who really cares what the scale says if I’m living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle? What would I have to sacrifice in order to see that 140 or even 135? I would have to skip meals and do hours of boring cardio and make myself physically uncomfortable in an unhealthy way to be thinner. And I’m just not going to do that because I’ve got more important things to do than be obsessed with food and I’m not very fun to be around when I’m hangry.
So, hopefully, that gives you some food for thought when it comes to the number on the scale. As you can tell, I’ve had my own journey with it! I think we all do, and it’s just one of those things that we have to deal with because of the world we live in. The key is to focus more on overall health, using other measurements and staying consistent with healthy lifestyle habits in order to focus less on the scale. My hope for you is that you find peace with your body and your weight and embrace more of what makes you happy and healthy.