One of the biggest challenges faced by our clients at Shape Your Mind is when they are asked to put the scales away and stop weighing themselves! This is completely understandable, as most people come to us with the goal of changing their weight – they often struggle initially to comprehend why on earth we would ask them not to check on the very thing that they are trying to ‘fix’. Furthermore, a large proportion of clients have become somewhat (or very!) obsessed with weighing themselves, sometimes stepping on the scales several times each day! To be asked to sit with the uncertainty of not knowing what their weight is doing can fill them with terror. So why would we put our clients through this, particularly when so many weight management programs promote (at least) weekly weigh-ins?
Let’s think about what happens when we step on the scales, particularly if we are in the process of trying to make healthy lifestyle changes:
If the number goes down we are likely to get a little buzz and might a) be motivated to restrict our intake and eat less than we feel like in order to get that good feeling again; or b) feel that we deserve to reward ourselves for our good work, usually in the form of a treat food, and eat more than we feel like.
If the number stays the same or goes up, we are likely to feel disappointed or even demoralised and might a) restrict intake further and eat less than we feel like to ensure the number goes down next time; or b) think “what’s the point?” and eat more than we feel like because we think it isn’t worth bothering to try to change.
The public weigh-in that is endorsed by many weight-loss groups can complicate things even further. It is not uncommon to hear of people basically starving themselves the day before the weigh-in to avoid public humiliation, and then going straight from the meeting to the shops to buy food to binge on.
Whichever way we respond, regular weighing is likely to result in reacting to the number on the scales rather than listening to our body’s needs – exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve at Shape Your Mind!
Even with this understanding, a common concern of clients is that they won’t know whether they are making any progress if they don’t know what their weight is doing, and won’t know if they are ‘failing’ or ‘succeeding’. We encourage people to look for other ways to measure success that are not so black-and-white and are more within our control – as you may have noticed, the numbers on the scale often don’t respond in a logical and timely manner! In particular, we suggest looking out for consistent changes in behaviour and changes in how people feel. Noticing differences in how we feel and what we can do (which result in improvements in wellbeing, health and happiness) is usually far more motivating in the long term than simply seeing a change on the scales! Besides, we will be able to tell if there has been any significant change in our body by how our clothes fit anyway, so we don’t really need to weigh ourselves constantly.
For those people who really cannot fathom giving up the scales altogether, we suggest that they space out the time between weigh-ins: starting at once per week, and then gradually spacing these out until they are able to weigh themselves once per month, then once every 2 months, and so on and so forth until there is a 3-6 month gap between weigh-ins. This will actually give a far more accurate picture of what is happening with weight than frequent weighing does, as there are so many variables that affect the number on the scales day-to-day anyway.
How frequently do you ‘weigh-in’? Do you find it helpful or unhelpful? How would you feel about putting the scales away?