Weighing Yourself: Yes or No

Stacy Nelson

Woman weighing herself after getting out of bed. Unsplash - alan KO

As a holistic nutritionist, I don’t believe in following rules. My job isn’t to tell you what to do, but it is to guide you towards a deeper listening to your own body and its cues, so that you can know exactly what it is that you need.

Notwithstanding, the last time I chose to step on the scale I thought, Why are you doing this?

I had been having a conversation with myself surrounding what that number means, and I didn’t even know it.

The number on the scale has been upheld as a valuable health metric and a powerful tool for body weight awareness. Although the exact number may be unimportant, weighing enthusiasts believe that simply knowing the number promotes self-regulation and awareness of your body’s weight trends. This awareness translates into increased motivation and more attuned weight-related behaviors, they say.

Other people feel strongly that weighing yourself is a destructive habit with significant negative side effects. A person’s weight is only one piece of the whole-health picture, and an unreliable one at that. Weight changes every day and throughout the day by three to four pounds. It’s affected by several factors including hydration, hormones, and muscle tissue. And it’s pointless to track a moving target.

Girl drinking water

Those who oppose weighing say it’s also bad for mental health. Self-esteem needs to be unconditional, and weighing harms self-confidence due to judgment about that number, whether it’s “good” or “bad”.

The number on the scale might mean there’s a goal weight involved, and goal weights by design tend to lend themselves to the illusion that when they’re achieved, everything in life will be perfect. Until then, something is lacking. And goal weights change, so there’s that moving target thing again.

But… could both points of view be right?

Some people can weigh themselves without risking self-esteem. They weigh themselves the way they brush their teeth, with neutrality and the awareness that their weight is just a number. Most people who weigh themselves regularly say they’ve become desensitized to the scale and wouldn’t think of assigning it meaning that it doesn’t — and shouldn’t — have. It doesn’t affect their internal compass or the choices they make for the rest of the day.

For other people, however, stepping on the scale is a source of anxiety and depression, and can trigger feelings of worthlessness or shame in a culture that emphasizes weight and assigns value based on it. Their response to the scale is significant and reactive.

Even when the number is “good,” there’s a judgment attached to it, and their day plays out differently because of it. They may dress differently, eat differently, and interact with others differently, all based on that number on the scale.

So as for weighing yourself, I’ll ask you, Why are you doing this?

Only with self-awareness and reflection can you determine if you should be weighing yourself. Does the scale help you identify normal weight fluctuations, or do you react? Does weighing yourself motivate you to make good choices about your health, or does it trigger anxiety and disordered eating?

An even deeper curiosity: is the scale a tool that improves your self-regulation, or is it an external device that undermines internal signals of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction? Can you take notice of the number and move on? Or maybe you’re unable to pay attention to your body’s cues and eat mindfully because you’re holding a number over your own head.

I might respond to these inquiries one way; you might respond in another way. In reality, everyone will answer differently, to a greater or lesser degree. There is no one right answer.

The truth is that weighing yourself is one way to gauge health, but it’s not the only way, nor is it the most important. If the scale triggers you, find another metric to assess your wellbeing. Energy levels, quality of sleep, your digestion, and your relationships are excellent indicators of how you’re feeling. And how you feel is the cornerstone of good health.

Female running up the stairs for her daily movement

Your weight is not a marker of your worthiness, your value, or your progress. It is only what it is: your weight.

We can assign other meanings to the scale and make it about control, but those meanings are by our own design and hardly objective. And weight, despite our best efforts, is ultimately out of our control. Even the words “out of control” can elicit an emotional or psychological response from many people. If those words are a trigger for you, the scale might be a trigger, too.

Consider that you might be giving the scale too much power. (If you’ve given it any power at all, that’s too much.)

Why do you weigh yourself? Why don’t you? What meaning have you assigned to the number on the scale? These are highly nuanced questions that need to be met with kindness and gentle curiosity. Attunement requires you to be in dialogue with yourself about what you really need, and it’s necessary to uncover what that conversation is really about. It’s not really about the weight, after all; it never is.

It’s prudent to practice being receptive. Analysis is part of being receptive. Sure, you can analyze weight as a metric, but there are other kinds of inquiry that ask you to go within and define for yourself what works for you. If weighing causes you more anxiety than motivation, it’s not right for you.

Dig deep. Because the conversation you don’t know you’re having is the one that’s weighing on you.

Stacy Nelson, AWP, CYT, RM is a Holistic Nutritionist, a certified yoga teacher, and a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and the San Diego College of Ayurveda. She has also studied at Rutgers and Stanford Universities. She lives in southern New Jersey. To find more check out her website (https://wellbystacynelson.com/)

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