Let’s talk about the scale.
“Congratulations! Way to go! Your hard work is paying off!” – Group of women’s response to someone who said they lost a couple of pounds.
“The scale doesn’t matter! You’re strong! Muscle weighs more than fat!” – The same group of women who congratulated the person who lost a couple of pounds to someone who vents out their frustration with the scale.
While they are supporting both women in both scenarios, this is mixed messaging.
Can we stop that? The mixed messaging part? And also the “muscle weighs more than fat bit” because it doesn’t. Fat takes up more space. Science.
In November I looked at the scale and didn’t like the number. I looked at photos of me and didn’t like how round I had gotten. I didn’t like how I felt. Instead of throwing the scale out of the window and telling myself that the number didn’t matter I made a change. I changed my eating habits, alcohol consumption, and continued to be physically active. It didn’t happen overnight, but the number on the scale began to decrease.
What I remember about the support from others while 21 lbs heavier is that everyone told me I was strong and that muscle weighs more than fat. I was strong, I still am strong, but I knew deep down back then that it wasn’t muscle preventing my pants from fitting. It required honesty with myself and the scale.
I avoided the scale for a long time, maybe over a year, I don’t know. In my last memory of the scale I had gone over 1#0 and I didn’t want to feel bad knowing about it so I avoided it. I avoided it so long that I went over the next # in 1#0. Twenty pounds of avoidance, and not wanting to feel bad, while feeling bad anyway because none of my clothes fit.
Now, none of my clothes fit again, but in the other direction and I feel really good. Oh the irony.
My relationship with the scale is not negative or positive. It is a tool that keeps me accountable. I don’t fear weighing myself, and nobody should. It displays a number. Your cellphone displays numbers, do those make you cringe? Okay, bad example, 52 emails might cause anxiety, but the number on the scale shouldn’t.
When offering support to someone who might be struggling with body image, think carefully about how you word your support. Where are they coming from? Is there a change to be had? Are they healthy? What is healthy? As stated by every other positive body image activist, it is not a look.
The number on the scale doesn’t have to matter, but acceptance does. Acceptance can be “I am going to make a change” or “I will embrace this body”. It’s up to the person in need of support to decide.