Earlier this week I threw out my scale. I never weighed myself daily, but there have been times in my life where I let that number dictate my actions and the way I felt about myself.
Let me rewind to my junior year of college. I would get on the scale occasionally, see my normal weight, and go on with my day. I’m not sure why I even felt the need, but it was relatively harmless. Then, I stepped on it the summer after my junior year and saw a number I thought was bad.
It sounds silly, but I felt alarmed. I hadn’t seen that number before. I remember wondering if everyone had been talking about me. I had been to the beach the week before and now I found myself looking back at those pictures. At the time, I felt happy and didn’t think twice about how I looked. Now I felt ashamed and was picking out areas I wanted to “fix.”
I downloaded My Fitness Pal so I could try to lose the weight by tracking my food. I did this for a couple months until I was at a weight I was happy with. I wasn’t restricting to a dangerous level, but that’s one reason I share this story; I think many people can relate to this experience. It seemed harmless at the time, but I was definitely eating less than I do now and trying to make my body a size it wasn’t meant to be. (Note: I went through this process one more time senior year and after that, decided it wasn’t worth it. More on that below.)
This gets me to my next point: once I stopped tracking every morsel I ate, my weight stabilized to what is a healthy weight for me. That isn’t necessarily the weight I wanted at the time, but it’s the weight my body was happy with. It is completely normal for your body to change through different seasons of life. No size is better than the other. The outside picture doesn’t tell you anything about what’s going on inside.
You see, I experienced a lot of anxiety during my sophomore year. It was a really hard time. The next year, I was feeling so much better. As I look back on my junior year, I can’t help but smile. That summer I looked back and saw all the late night pizza I ate and the workouts I skipped, but I now realize how truly healthy I was.
During my junior year, I took care of my self and enjoyed life. I exercised because I wanted to and it helped my anxiety. I cooked meals that were satisfying and nutritious. I ate late night pizza and cookies with my friends and didn’t feel shame or guilt. Those are two feelings that definitely aren’t good for your health.
Health is so much more than a number on the scale. Once I separated health and my weight/size, I was able to focus on behaviors that are sustainable and healthy for me. For me, that includes eating intuitively, moving my body, getting enough sleep, and engaging in self-care. I do all of those things not because I want to change my body, but because I appreciate what it does for me and I want to live a long, healthy, happy life.
So why did I still have a scale in my bathroom until this week? I really don’t know. I didn’t weigh myself often anymore or let it affect my behaviors. However, that number still influenced how I felt about my body. It was holding me back from living out what I believe in.
Your body knows what size it wants to be. As I mentioned above, I used MFP again my senior year to try to lose a few pounds. Once I stopped, my body returned to its healthy weight. That was annoying at the time, but now it’s freeing. I know that if I take care of myself, I don’t need to worry about my body. I also have more time for things way more fun than criticizing my body.
If you’re not ready to give up the scale or think I sound crazy, that’s okay. I wasn’t ready for this message the first or second time I heard it. What I hope you take away from this is simple. The scale tells you nothing about the type of person you are, the relationships you have, how happy you are, or if you have a healthy relationship with food and movement. When you take weight out of the picture, you’re able to focus on what matters and engage in behaviors that improve your health- not because you hate your body, but because you love yourself and want to live a long, happy life.