“I don’t know what I weigh” is something that I have not truthfully been able to say for at least 18 years. If you throw out an age between 15 and 32, I can tell you how much I weighed at that age. If you mention a significant life event, I can tell you how much I weighed when it happened. I have been acutely aware of my weight for all of my adult life, no matter how thin or heavy I was.
Three times in the last week I’ve reassured friends that what the scale said didn’t matter, that they were doing the right thing with their diet and exercise, and that their bodies would respond in kind but that they shouldn’t worry about a few pounds here and there on the scale. Every time I say that, I am being a hypocrite.
When I was heavier, I would weigh myself every few days. It didn’t much matter what the scale said because I never changed what I was doing based on the numbers, I just felt better or worse about myself that day. If I weighed over 155 pounds, I would feel fat. Under 155 and I thought I was doing okay. You would think that losing weight would make me less reliant on the scale for reassurance but that wasn’t the case. Once I started losing weight, weighing in had even more impact. If I was really “good” for a week and didn’t lose any weight, I felt deflated. If I was “bad” for a few days and put on a couple of pounds, I would resolve to get those pounds off (and then some!) as quickly as possible. I’ve learned that no matter how much or how little you weigh, you’ll always have a “magic number” stuck in your head and staying under that number will be a constant battle as it’s sure to be a moving target. Reach a new goal? Move the magic number down. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Over the last couple of years I started weighing myself every day – sometimes multiple times a day – even when I knew I would see an increase because of a “cheat day” or a change in my workout. I know my body so well now that I can tell you what I weigh within a quarter of a pound based on what I ate the day before and how my stomach looks and feels. It’s an unhealthy obsession and it needs to stop. And I know I’m not alone.
I’m not advocating people completely disregard what they weigh, and I know weighing in is something I will never give up permanently. However, I – and millions of women out there – are adding unnecessary stress to our lives by obsessively weighing ourselves.
When you stress about anything too much, you increase your cortisol level, which in turn can stall the weight loss you are looking for. Cortisol is a hormone our bodies release in response to stress. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, decreases bone formation (leading to osteoporosis), contributes to insulin resistance, increases blood pressure, and much more1. Persistent lack of sleep, problems at work or in your relationship, money worries, restriction of calories, and excessive exercise can all raise stress and therefore levels of cortisol. With how much stress we have just from our daily lives, adding on more stress about a few pounds on the scale just doesn’t seem healthy.
So, I’m going to break the daily weigh-in habit. For the entire month of March, I will not step on the scale. I will continue to eat responsibly and workout normally, but I will not know for sure how my weight is fluctuating. My hope is that I will become comfortable knowing that I am eating a healthy diet and living a healthy life so I won’t need to obsess about the fluctuations I see on the scale. I hope that this will be a long term change and I will just use the scale to periodically check in, and will rely on how I feel rather than a number that can arbitrarily change.
I also hope to inspire some of you to join me. Even if you are on a weight loss journey, skipping a month of weighing in will not derail your progress. If anything it may enhance it. Trust in yourself. Trust that you are making good choices and living well. If you join me in this challenge, reach out on Twitter or in the comments below to let me know how you’re doing.
1. Bowen, R. (2006, May 26). Glucocorticoids. Colorado State Vivo. Retrieved February 28,2012, from http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/adrenal/gluco.html