Of all the things I believe about losing weight or maintaining weight, this causes the most arguments. I weigh myself—every day, and against the advice of almost everyone I’ve ever asked. In fact, I named my own blog “What I Weigh Today” after this daily habit because it is, for me, the foundation of managing my weight and my health.
But the scale is sharply divisive. For every person who uses it the way I do, as a straightforward biofeedback tool, there’s another person for whom the scale is nothing but trouble.
One of my favorite writers on personal development is Gretchen Rubin, and a huge theme in her work is the paramount importance of knowing yourself. I think most men and women know deep down whether they should have a bathroom scale or not. If you shouldn’t have a scale, you know who you are. Throw it away.
Why I Weigh Myself
The main reason I prefer to use the scale is that it keeps me honest: if I’m not living in a way that’s in line with my wellness goals — eating out too much, drinking too much, splurging on every sweet that crosses my path — I’ll subconsciously avoid the scale. After a couple days, I realize that I’ve been avoiding it and that realization helps me get back on track.
I have a kind of reverse body dysmorphic disorder that comes over me like a mist at times like this. On a completely unconscious level, I will shift pants that are getting too tight to the back of the closet, or I’ll take them to the dry cleaners and "forget" them there. I will explain bad photos as unflattering lighting and angles (or evade photos completely) and explain my lack of energy as just getting older. There is no way I’ve found that is as effective at keeping me honest with myself as my scale.
Weighing in every day does something else for me—it takes the sting out of weighing myself, because the number on the screen is never a huge difference from what it was the day before. I open my blog each day with my weight, and nine out of ten times, between the time I weigh myself and the time I post my blog, I’ve forgotten what I weigh and need to look it up on my Fitbit dashboard, where my wifi scale logs and graphs it for me. The dips and spikes of normal weight fluctuations do not bother me anymore. Knowing roughly what to expect on the scale makes me less likely to postpone a doctor’s appointment because I don’t want to confront my weight, which is one of the most common reasons women give for not going to the doctor.
Why I Weigh Other Stuff
There’s another important scale in my life: The kitchen scale. The main reason I bought my two kitchen scales (one big one for most things, a tiny one to measure baking ingredients like yeast down to the gram) was recipe development. I long for the day when every recipe published includes the weights for all ingredients because it’s more precise and it makes cooking easier.
But over the years, I’ve come to love my kitchen scale for weight loss reasons, too. If I want a nice piece of cheese as a snack, the digital scale tells me in a second how much cheese I’m eating. Portioning dry pasta, which I find very difficult to eyeball, is a snap. It just makes the whole process of monitoring what I eat fast and easy—much more so than if I had to dirty measuring cups and spoons every time I wanted a snack.
My devotion to these two machines really comes down to the old idea that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Since weight management is my quest, measuring is my thing. It may not be yours, and that's of course utterly fine! There is no one right way, but for me, the knowledge that comes with the precision of the scale is power to help myself make healthy choices every day.
Loving Food While Losing Weight
Is it possible to talk about the fraught space of food, body, and weight in a healthy, thoughtful way? We think so, and we're presenting a monthlong column exploring one food-lover and food writer's journey towards finding her own personal balance. Joy Manning is joining us this month with her own stories, practical tips, recipes, and perspective on the real-life struggle between loving food and loving your body.
→ Read the intro to Joy's column: Is There a Healthy Way to Love Food and Watch Your Weight? Introducing One Food-Lover's Story