Many long-term dieters despise the scale. We dislike seeing the numbers, and hate how we feel every time we get weighed. When we get weighed at the doctor, we may ask the nurse to record the number but not let us know what it is. We may simply ask if it went up or down.
One client of mine, Sharon, had been so angry with the scale for many years that she wasn’t willing to let go of her feelings. She was also angry with herself for gaining weight. For her, hearing someone say the number out loud was embarrassing and demoralizing.
After several months of working together, I asked her what it would take for her to let go of her negative feelings and become friends with her scale. Sharon thought for a minute, and then began to describe how her mother had always scolded her and berated her about her weight. Starting in grade school, she had been forced to get on the scale every week and was then chastised if her weight hadn’t gone down. Sharon wasn’t actually angry at the scale. Instead, she still felt resentful toward her mother for all the years she’d had to endure this “scale abuse.”
After listening to her story, I asked her, “Would you hate your car because someone criticized how you drove in your teenage years?” She laughed and said, “Of course not! But I guess that’s what I’m doing with the scale.”
Separate Old Feelings from Your Weight-Loss Work
Like many of us, Sharon had never thought about how strongly she was holding onto her childhood memories. Once she separated her feelings toward her mother from the weight-loss work she was doing, she was able to let go of her intense, negative feelings about weighing herself.
When we can detach our negative feelings and memories from the bathroom scale, we can learn to see the scale as merely a helpful weight-loss tool, rather than as an enemy.
Let Go of Shame and Embarrassment
In your efforts to become friends with the scale, you may have to face some old memories. Feeling shamed or embarrassed around being weighed can stick with you long past the event. Another client, Tracy, described an experience from her childhood that she’s never been able to shake. When she was in the sixth grade, the teachers were instructed to weigh all the students who were assigned to their classrooms. Remembering that awful moment, she said, “I can still see the lavender dress with white trim I was wearing that day. My mom had made it for my Easter dress, using a pattern labeled for ‘chubby-size’ girls. As each student took a turn stepping on the scale, I was horrified to realize the teacher was saying everyone’s weight out loud. My weight was one-hundred twenty-six pounds–more than most of the boys–and to this day, that number still burns in my ears.”
Memories like this can still trigger embarrassment and sadness. Over the years, I’ve heard many similar stories of how being weighed in public left people feeling ashamed. For people who went through this type of humiliating experience, it can be hard to let go of those negative memories.
At a subconscious level, you might still be recalling those awful feelings and assuming you’ll have them again. Practice the skill of reframing your negative scale thoughts. That means when you flash to those memories from years ago, say to yourself, “Those old messages don’t apply to me now. I am a strong, capable person, and I will continue to move forward in this area of my life.”
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
When you weigh yourself, acknowledge the numbers but don’t blame your scale for your struggles. Being angry at your scale won’t suddenly change your behavior and help you stay on your diet. In fact, scale anger usually has the opposite effect, causing the “screw it” response that leads to overeating.
In most cases, your weigh-in problems are not about the scale. Instead, you might be struggling with weak self-esteem, or you might have a fear of rejection if you aren’t at a certain weight.
Remember, the scale is not your enemy. It’s actually an important part of your weight-loss program. Train yourself to view your scale as an add-on to your diet plan as well as a tool for lifetime maintenance. It’s your decision whether to become friends with your scale or get rid of it entirely. Either one of these options can work. But straddling the fence between these two choices and hating your scale won’t improve your weight loss or your life balance.
Make a clear decision about which way you will go, then face the scale reading as a healthy adult. Let go of past anger and resentment and, instead, build a relationship with your scale as a great weight-loss tool.