I wasn't head over heels in love with scale, but we were definitely in a committed relationship.
And like any relationship, we had highs and lows. But did we?
Rewind to last year. And most of the years before that. I would weigh myself about once a week or so. Before I stepped on, I'd hope for it to be at (or even better, below) a certain number. If it was, I felt really satisfied. Accomplished. If it wasn't, my stomach would twist into a knot. My self esteem would plummet. I'd tell myself I needed to really "be on it" this week. Try harder. Eat clean and work out more. Get back down to some lower mystery number that had no real meaning but somehow validated me. It made me feel better.
"Better" back then meant smaller. Because they used to mean the same thing to me. Regardless of what was going on in my life and how I felt emotionally, taking up less space made me feel good about myself. In reality, and it's the same for most people, if the number is low, you feel awesome and then you eat more the next week because the scale said you could. If it's high, you eat less. You're basing your eating habits on the digits an inanimate object spits out at you. Be it the pounds you weigh, the calories you eat, the grams of protein in your breakfast, the number of points...basing what you eat on an external factor makes it impossible to eat intuitively. You are consciously choosing to let a number guide you rather than your own intuition.
For me, getting rid of my weekly routine was a big behavior change. It wasn't obsessive, but it was a practice I'd engaged in for as long as I can remember. I even have a memory of seeing a low number on the scale when I had the flu in middle school. I was happy that the flu had taken away my appetite and shed a few pounds. I was probably thirteen years old.
Slowly but surely I turned a corner professionally and personally and traded in clean eating/weight loss counseling for an intuitive eating approach. As I've written about countless times before, it changed my life in almost every way. Being gentler on myself about food made me a more gentle person overall. I started having kinder, more empathetic thoughts about people who I would have judged a year ago. I read The Universe Has Your Back and started getting in touch with my spiritual side, which grounded me and released my anxiety in a way I never imagined possible.
Being kinder and more curious versus judgmental about my body and my thoughts simply overflowed. I had so much new brain space, so much more mental energy. I spent so much time obsessing over healthy food that there simply wasn't much room for that curiosity before. Dieting is rooted in needing a sense of control. Intuitive eating is rooted in finding compassion. That dichotomy was personified in my letting go of the scale. I learned to release my hunger for control and quench it with compassion, to meet myself where I was at, to love myself for every reason other than being a number.
Nourishing your body actually has so little to do with food and so much to do with your mindset, your self esteem, your relationships, your trust in something bigger than yourself, your stressors, your behaviors, your sleep, your habits. All of those things intermingle to determine how we go about nourishing (or not nourishing) our bodies.
It's important to note that a big portion of intuitive eating is gentle nutrition. It's knowing that fueling our bodies with healthy foods will help us live longer, happier, disease-free lives. It's changing the perspective on giving foods human attributes like "good" and "bad." Intuitive eating isn't eating donuts all day because even for the person who loves nothing more than donuts, our bodies will not actually crave donuts all day long. And if you do, it's because you're not letting yourself fully enjoy a donut.
Not weighing yourself religiously (and dieting is indeed like a religion) doesn't mean that weight loss can't be a positive side effect of eating intuitively. Losing weight is never the goal because you can't eat intuitively if you're eating to see a certain number on the scale. Weight loss and intuitive eating are not mutually exclusive. I see plenty of people who are above their set weight due to binge eating, emotional eating, yo yo dieting, etc. Though they certainly exist, rarely do I see overweight people that are suffering from an overall lack of nutrition education. They know kale salad and whole wheat bread are healthy, but they don't know how to stop dieting and restricting. They don't have the tools to form life-long habits for stable health that doesn't rob them of joy.
I have a client who couldn't for the life of her stop weighing herself every day. She couldn't bear the thought of not knowing, of being out of control. I told her over and over again that as long as she was basing success and happiness on the scale, she would never succeed. It meant she was still choosing dieting over eating intuitively. I told her that it's not up to the scale to dictate how much she weighs. It's not like we don't weigh anything until the scale says so. We know if we've gained or lost weight based on how our clothes fit, based on how we feel. But since in control is such an integral part of dieting, sometimes the thought of not having visual confirmation from an inanimate object like the scale, the Fitbit, or a daily calorie tracker is too much to bear.
It was a back and fourth battle of wanting to not feel the need to weigh herself, but also dying to know what she weighed for the fear of gaining weight. She thought if she didn't weigh herself, she'd certainly gain weight. When she finally accepted that the scale is just an object and not actually dictating her weight or self worth, she stopped. Because ultimately, knowing the number, regardless of whether it was higher or lower than she'd hoped, made her eat based on that number, not her intuition.
Talking to so many other women about the importance of not weighing themselves validated my own personal need to not weigh myself. Explaining over and over again to those struggling with basing their self worth on the scale that it would never bring them authentic joy was just saying out loud what I myself needed to hear. So I went cold turkey.
I hadn't weighed myself in a couple weeks. I still had the urge to know, but I didn't let myself. Now it's been almost a year. I can confidently say that stepping on the scale sounds foreign now. When I went to the doctor, I thought about them reading my weight out loud and how it would affect me. I kind of didn't want to know. I wanted to continue my quest of not knowing. It was so damn freeing. When they read my weight, it was higher than it used to be. And guess what? I wasn't phased. Of course it was higher! Did I gain 25 pounds solely from not stepping on the scale? Of course not. I didn't lose control. I felt better than ever. I was choosing life and authentic joy over trying to obsessively control my body size all the time. And it felt so incredibly liberating.
Not weighing myself didn't ever sound like that big of a deal to me, but I've realized it symbolized a lot more than just knowing a number. Letting go of the scale was like lifting a 50 pound weight off me. How ironic is that?
Your words hit home for me, alllllllll the time. Definitely such a blessing! Thank you for your openness, Alexis 🙂 so so so grateful for brave, confident, strong women like you!!
I remember I used to weight myself after I ran, after going to the bathroom, etc. I would get SO pumped to see the number on the scale plummet. It has been over 4 years since I have owned a scale and voluntarily stepped on it, without being at the doctor's office. I have never been happier in my life and I truly enjoy ALL foods. This post gets me and so do you <3
Nicole @ Laughing My Abs Off says
What a great post! I, too, broke up with my scale right around the time that I committed to gaining back the weight that I hadn't ever needed to lose. I still remember getting on and feeling so accomplished when the weight dipped lower and lower, even though everyone was telling me they were worried about how thin I was getting. I don't know what it is about numbers, but they really do activate some obsessive part of our brains, especially those of us with perfectionistic tendencies. Better to just stay away and live life the way it was meant to be lived, number free.
Thank you so much for this reminder Alexis, and thank you for being such a wonderful role model <3
I love this post and the message you spreading! One criticism though, numbers of any kind are so triggering. I was right with you until you said you had gained 25 pounds when you weren't weighing yourself. I am a dietitian that works with patients with eating disorders, and I struggle with not weighing myself. As a professional that teaches intuitive eating I feel like I should be past this and have been challenging myself in this area. Thank you for the inspiring message!
Alexis @ Hummusapien says
Hey Katie! Thanks for your kind comment. Of note, I wrote "Did I gain 25 pounds solely from not stepping on the scale? Of course not. " I wasn't saying I had actually gained 25 pounds, but rather explaining that the act of not weighing myself didn't leave to the major weight gain that so many people fear it would 🙂
Hmm I guess the wording was confusing, since you had just said your weight was higher.
I read this a couple of times and wasn't sure either. It can be read as having gained 25 pounds, but it being due to other factors as well as not weighing in. My conclusion was that you probably hadn't gained that much, but only because of how little your photos have changed!
The rest of the post is so positive, and an interesting topic for me as I am post-natal right now.
Also, forgot to say earlier, I really love this bit:
"Intuitive eating isn’t eating donuts all day because even for the person who loves nothing more than donuts, our bodies will not actually crave donuts all day long. And if you do, it’s because you’re not letting yourself fully enjoy a donut."
So so nice to have it recognised that, for some of us, the issue isn't in letting ourselves eat a cookie but in recognising when we actually want the cookie.
Megan @ A Continual Feast says
This is awesome. I broke up with the scale back in college, about 5 years ago now, and haven't regretted it. Adios forever, scale! Loveeee this: "I was choosing life and authentic joy over trying to obsessively control my body size all the time. " So freeing!
emily vardy says
Love this post! And I love the idea of throwing out the scale, but it still terrifies me. I know it'd probably be beneficial to my recovery to stop knowing/checking my weight so often but giving up that control is so hard
Love this post! I also listened to the Chasing Joy podcast this morning and loved your interview! I wish you and Robyn had your own podcasts as I love hearing you both on others!
I love this so much! I stopped weighing myself this February, & I threw away my scale (thanks to Kylie!). I felt so free. It truly is like a weight was lifted. I, too, didn't care what I weighed at the doctor's office last year. Unfortunately, I've been experiencing anxiety when I'm in for an exam, so I've shifted focus on bp. Sheesh. So just like letting go of the scale, I am working to feel calm again & let go of expectations of numbers. Yay for working in the clinical setting. ? I love your blog for helping to keep me grounded!
Soooo agree with this! I went to the doctor recently and asked not to know my weight because I truly didn't care and am way happier not knowing. The nurse was shocked when I mentioned I didn't want to know and told me anyway. I guess it was ingrained in her that people are so tied to that number that she told me just by habit. I freaked out for a second (it's been a LONG time since I've stepped on a scale), but then I remembered how good I feel and forgot it.
I think a huge factor at play when we're trying to learn to live and eat intuitively is accepting where our bodies are at at a given time and dressing the body of RIGHT NOW-- not the body of 2 years ago that was 15 pounds lighter. Trying to fit into an outfit that fit during an obsessive phase is so mentally counter-productive.
I love this, and I really empathize with what you're feeling. Weighing myself weekly made me feel like crap about myself and I became obsessed with seeing the number on the scale drop. Thanks for sharing! I know a lot of people needed to see this!
Love this post! I've weighed myself once a week for the last couple years and finally came to realize how ridiculous a habit it was to let an object dictate how to feel about myself. I'm in the process of letting my body find its set point and so no scale needed for that! Thank you for putting out such inspiring content ; it's really helping me to make some changes in my life:)
Mary @ Fit and Fed says
Interesting Alexis. I do weigh myself but also I use a Bod Pod about once a year to get a true muscle mass vs. non-muscle weight. The Bod Pod (or other methods like water weighing) are still an external assessment as opposed to just being aware of how I feel and how my clothes fit (which I agree with you is a great way to do it!). But it says more about my health than a simple scale. It's hard for any of us in this culture to feel good about our bodies. I'm glad you are out there helping women with these issues!
What a wonderful blog post. Thank you for sharing. You brought up so many good points that I needed to hear (well..read LOL). Again, thank you for sharing!
I've not weighed myself for 5 days now...which doesn't seem like a lot, but I've weighed myself every day for at least 10 years (if not longer). As part of trying to recover from an eating disorder, I have to break up with the scale. On one hand, it's terrifying. But there is a wonderful freedom in waking up and not having my mood and my whole day determined by what I weigh first thing in the morning. Thanks for sharing your ideas about this topic...it helps to read things like this in the middle of challenging myself to change my habits.
Julianne D Oliver says
Thank you for sharing Alexis! I used to weigh myself multiple times a day, but I almost never do now. I am still working on getting on the scale and not having it phase me. I recently did hop on the scale to weigh my luggage (lol), and it bothered me. However, I didn't act on those feelings by restricting, like I would have in the past. But, still, I am hopeful for a day in which that number will mean nothing...which is exactly what it is.
Emily @ Zen & Spice says
Love this post!! I quit weighing myself about 6 months ago, and I have never felt better. It is definitely a ton of work to get into the right mindset. I still find myself having an urge to weigh myself, but I just remind myself of how I'll feel afterwards. I don't think I'm in the place to know how much I weigh while eating intuitively, but I think eventually I'll be okay with knowing.
I just wish doctor's offices wouldn't weigh you the second you come in! I've had to politely refuse several times now and the medical assistants always look at me like I have three eyes or something, lol.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says
I really sympathise with you. I used to weigh myself religiously, and I've long broken up with the scales now. And on the occasion that I DO weigh myself maybe once in a few months, I don't feel anything anymore. And it feels so good!
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog