Why I Need to Know My Weight

First I want to write a little about something that has been on my mind lately.  It’s about advice regarding weight, weight loss, diet, etc.  I have noticed that people seem to think there is some kind of one-size-fits-all approach that is best and we should all follow this approach.  Generally, we each take our own experience and assume that everyone’s experience mirrors it.

This is simply false.  If an obese person wants to lose weight, they are going to need a different approach than if a person with a healthy weight simply wants to tone up or get a little smaller.  Similarly, a formerly-obese person is not the same as a person who has been a healthy weight all her life, even if they look the same on the outside.

I think these differences are where a lot of us run into trouble.  We start to think that since X is working me, everyone else should X.  Or if we feel that Y is bad for our self-esteem, we think everyone should avoid Y.  But we all need different things to help us live a full and healthy life.

A lot of people tie their self-worth to the number of pounds they see on the scale.  Doing the No Weigh In April challenge made me see clearly that I am not one of those people.  Nor am I the sort of person for whom calorie counting is obsessive or destructive.  I’m very logical and rational.  Numbers work for me.  It is simply data, nothing more.  And I use these numbers to my advantage.

When I stepped on the scale May 1, the number was higher than my weight has been for more than a year, 177 lb.

My weight history for the past year.

Yes, that freaked me out and made me stop and think hard.

I’m not the same as a person who has always been a healthy weight.  I am a person who has struggled with obesity all my life.  And I think sometimes, I forget that.  For all the talk about accepting ourselves and loving our bodies and not letting numbers define us, with which I agree completely, there is another side to that story.

At my most unhealthy, I didn’t care about what my weight was at all.  I didn’t care to the point that I didn’t even want to know.  This is the other end of the spectrum from obsessing about one’s weight, it’s just as destructive.  We can say all we want about being healthy at any size, and I do think everyone should strive to be as healthy as they can at whatever size they are.  But when it comes right down to it, it is simply not healthy to be 120 pounds overweight.  It’s just not.  Our bodies are not meant to carry so much excess weight and our organs are not meant to be encased in a thick layer of fat.

Weight loss, if you are obese is the goal.  You should care about the number on the scale if it’s telling you you’re carrying an extra 100 pounds of fat.  I’m not talking about the BMI chart or anything like that.  Even when I didn’t know my weight, I knew I was much fatter than my body ought to be.  And it was because I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I should have been.

Part of the way I manage my weight is to weigh myself daily.  I never realized how much I rely on this tool.  By weighing myself daily I have become accustomed to the fluctuations.  What I didn’t realize is that the fluctuations cause me to slightly adjust my behaviors, like a sailor adjusting the sails to account for the direction of the wind.  One of my Facebook readers called this “micro adjustments” – which I found apt.

It goes like this:
I see the top of my weight range, I drink more water and think twice about grabbing that second handful of almonds.  I don’t have that glass of wine I’m thinking about.  I skip the cheese in my salad.  I push myself harder at the gym.
I see the bottom of my weight range, I relax.  I have the almonds.  Maybe I have the wine.  I put the cheese in my salad.

I also use the scale to keep myself on track throughout the week, when I eat a little less and a little better.  Then on the weekend, I relax a little and usually go out to eat with my boyfriend at least once.  This pattern keeps me happy.  I like having nice relaxing weekends and the trade off is having a slightly stricter week, which I don’t mind either.  Everything is kept in balance.

That is pretty much how I have maintained my weight for the last year and a half.

Not weighing myself, I don’t think I actually gained any weight.  Today, I weigh 171.6 which is within the range I was before the challenge.  But I bet I did let my weight fluctuate to the top of the range more often and stay there longer.  No harm no foul for one month.  But for good?  No way, that’s the recipe for me to regain the weight and I know that in my heart.  I am really relieved to be back to weighing myself daily.  It makes me feel secure and comfortable.  I just want to be engaged and aware of what’s going on with my body.  This is right for me and my experience, maybe not for anyone else.

I think there is a definite reason that so many successful weight maintainers weigh themselves daily.  I don’t have a normal relationship with my reflection in the mirror.  I just don’t.  I see that clearly now and I think it’s one of the things I most got out of the challenge.  I do need this affirmation that I am not regaining the weight I worked so hard to lose.

This doesn’t mean I think the scale is the only way to measure progress, happiness or success.  I lift weights, I know that I have gained muscle in the past year.  In fact, as the following pictures show, I clearly look much leaner and more toned now (right) around 170 pounds than I did around 160 pounds (left) six months ago.

Gained weight, but look more toned

Again this is all about my individual experience and what I need to do to maintain my weight loss as a formerly obese person.  In my life, paying some attention to the numbers is definitely a good thing for me.  It makes me feel more secure.  It is a positive experience for me to chart my weight, not a negative one.  Even discovering the high weight of 177 on May 1 did not negatively impact my mood, it just affected my choices.  Even if I did gain 8 pounds, I was happy to know that, because gaining 8 pounds would be easier to deal with than 10 or 20 or 50 or 100.  I was later relieved that it was just an upward fluctuation, probably related to the previous weekend of eating out and margaritas.  Either way, I would rather know than not know.  I use my weight to learn things about my body and how it reacts to different inputs, not to judge myself or affect my mood.

I know I still have more to learn.

24 thoughts on “Why I Need to Know My Weight

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I can totally relate as I that is pretty much how I regulate my weight. The number on the scale is important to me. It’s what motivates me. Everything is part of the journey…we are all still learning right there with you….all part of the process.x

  2. This is such a great post! I still have about 40 pounds to lose and for me not to weigh myself means hiding my head in the sand. I would rather know so I can adjust. If I miss a day on the scale it’s not the end of the world but I tend to get out of track. :-)

  3. I disagree with a LOT that is written in Tim Ferris’ “Four Hour Body,” but in the book there is a story about a man who wanted to lose weight and the only change he made is to weigh himself daily and track the number. He didn’t really change anything else in his life. But just the simple act of weighing caused him to slowly change his behavior like you said…maybe forgoing seconds or thinking twice about eating something junky. Anyway, that story always stuck with me.

  4. I came across this post from another blog and just wanted to say tat you have articulated my thoughts exactly! I was over 100 pounds over weight and have now gone from 260 to 157 pounds… I find that if I don’t weigh myself every day, I tend to over indulge much too easily… the fact that I hold myself accountable every morning is what keeps me in check. I cannot understand how people can do it without looking at the scale every single day.

  5. I’m in the same place and it’s incredibly frustrating. Unfortunately for me (us, it seems) losing weight is a 24/7/365 effort and I didn’t make that effort on Saturday and went 1000 (!) calories over my daily target! In the light of day and out of the haze of tequila, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Great post!

  6. I am the same way… I def think tracking it everyday works for me.. it doesn’t for everyone..
    I think Aubrie prefers NOT to weigh, I on the other hand do much better that way

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  8. Great post! And you are right, what works for one may not work for all. I weigh in twice a week. My “official weigh in day” is on Sunday and I do a mid week check in (usually Wednesday but nothing in the books) to see how I am doing. I have weighed weekly, biweekly, daily, twice a day, you name it, I’ve tried it. Twice a week is what is working for me right now so I am sticking with it!

  9. Love it! You are one of the very few people I’ve “met” along my own weight loss journey that I can relate to as far as my attitude toward the scale. Thank you for showing so many others that there IS a way to use the scale as a tool instead of “the authority” on progress.

  10. I love your honesty on what works for you and that everyone is different. For me, the number on the scale has too much emotional baggage. It’s just not worth it for my stress level or my self confidence. Like you said, if it works for you, great! If not, great! I think the no scale challenge really worked in that it made people think about what works for them. You tried it and found that you really do need it for your personal journey. Others might have found that it freed them from an emotional roller coaster that negatively impacted their life and others might have found that it didn’t affect them either way. The big take away is that we are all different and we all have to try different things to see what works, without feeling judged by others because we don’t do it their way (otherwise known as “the right way”). Thanks for posting!

  11. Wow, this is so interesting! I am currently at my heaviest, but really trying to focus on how I feel rather than what the scale tells me. I lost 200lbs. and at my lightest, I was weighing at least daily… it wasn’t good. I find it interesting that you say, “It’s just data, not emotional” but yet you describe stepping on the scale after a month as… “It really freaked me out”

    I’ll tell you what I DO agree with: that what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another… we all need to find our way and shaming or criticizing anything is detrimental!! I embrace Health at Every Size to mean that no matter your size, you should feel proud, nourish your body, move joyfully, and live your life without making statements like: “When I lose the weight, then…”

    I totally hear what you are saying about the “carrying 100 extra pounds isn’t healthy… I’ve said similar things myself. But let me just point out – that isn’t actually true for everyone. I carry much more weight than I’d like to on my frame but I don’t have any health issues. There are plenty of studies that show that being healthy is more important than being thin – and P.S. when I was thinner I was NOT healthy!!!

    What matters most is that you do what’s right for you, and let your own voice be louder than anyone else’s. The absolute hardest part of this journey for me is to trust that my answers are there, and that NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE has the right to tell me what I “should” do for MY body, or well-being!

    Cheers to your health! :)

    • I think it was the NOT knowing for a month that freaked me out. I actually expected that I had lost weight over that month. It went to show me I cannot go by how I “feel”. Too wishy-washy for me. I need the data to help me feel comfortable.
      As far as the 100+ pounds overweight/health issue. I also had no diagnosed health issues at my highest weight… yet. However, there’s simply no denying the human skeleton is not meant to carry 300+ lb. Joints will eventually suffer. And having one’s organs encased in fat is also dangerous. That’s not to say skinny people are necessarily healthy either. Separate issues. It’s like, quitting smoking is a good idea for your health, even if you don’t suffer any consequences… yet. But that doesn’t mean non-smokers are necessarily “healthy” either.
      Glad you got the overall message though, which is, this works for ME. What works for anyone else is up for them to decide.

  12. I found this post to be a real eye opener and shared some insight on something I really don’t understand. Thank you so much for sharing. You are incredible in your writing and inspiration to others.
    For me, I gave up the scale completely in 2003 and still recommend to clients they do the same. To sum it up, it’s the exact statement “I cannot go by feel”. We work really really hard on going by feel with mindful eating techniques. I always say mindful eating is the only way to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. But for some going by “feel” is really scary and they do not trust their bodies yet to be their monitor, so they rely on the scale, or food journaling or some other technique for monitoring. Personally I’m a control freak and will only give that power to my body. It’s taken me about 6 years to get to this point but well worth the work and wait. And ya we do all the emotional shitty stuff that forces us to feel things we don’t really want to feel and it sometimes sucks. I think it depends alot of where people are in this process and I congratulate you for all your successes, I follow you regularly and love it. Definitely agree with you on this: X worked for me and X will work for you- definitely NOT the case! So many people think this and it’s a huge pet peeve of mine, thank you for pointing it out!
    Also, I think some people can detach themselves easier from the number on the scale- you for example. Some people are extremely sensitive to it- the old me for example. Good on ya for not letting it run your life, I wish I could buy some of that from you and give to my clients:))))

  13. Pingback: Weight and Weight Loss: I’m Over It « This is Not a Diet

  14. Pingback: Life After Numbers | This is Not a Diet

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