Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
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SALT LAKE CITY — Weight is such a loaded topic. It can bring up lots of emotions, lots of frustration and lots of confusion.
Contrary to what we’ve been taught by society and in the health field, sometimes weight isn’t really the issue. Weight may easily follow our healthy habits, but it also may not.
Here are five reasons why ditching your scale just might be the best thing you can do for yourself.
1. Weight isn’t a good measure of health.
Think about the concept of hydration. When weighing yourself daily or consistently, we focus on every single digit. Losing one pound is exciting and you think you’re doing great — but on the other hand, if you gain a pound, you feel like a failure.
Think about it — if you drink 16 ounces of water, you’re going to weigh one pound more. Is drinking that water unhealthy? Probably not, especially in the heat. This is one small example of why focusing on weight may not be so productive. So does that weight gain reflect failure or unhealthiness? No, it doesn’t. A review of controlled weight loss trials shows why.
2. Focusing on weight can lead to unhealthy habits.
If weight loss is your main or only measure of success, you can totally miss the mark. In a previous health-related job I’ve had, I had to weigh hundreds of employees every few weeks. Through that experience, I noticed a few trends: Many people I weighed expressed frustration that they were doing "all the right things" and lost a small amount of weight or none at all.
On the other hand, I saw a few people who were losing weight rapidly. I asked them what they were doing, and a few reported that they were eating almost nothing. Now, these anecdotal reports aren't scientifically sound, but they are reality for some. If you’re pursuing weight loss at any cost, you may be risking your health or your well-being to reach a certain number on the scale.
3. A 'healthy weight' is kind of arbitrary.
A healthy or ideal weight as promoted in the media is not that. One study looked at the BMIs of contestants of Miss America pageants since the 1920s. I’m no fan of the BMI scale, but with the increased health risks of a low body weight/BMI and possibility of eating disorders that may lead to that weight, this is appropriate. The average BMI of contestants in 2010s was 17.5.
It's important to note that weight/height ratio is only naturally found in about 5 percent of women. Secondly, that tells the rest of the women that an ideal body is one similar to that. It may be impossible for most women to achieve this weight in a way that promotes health and well-being.
4. Weight bias makes things really hard.
We’ve either experienced it or seen it, or even done it. Our society praises weight loss at face value, and there's a stigma associated with living in a larger body.
Anyone who makes lifestyle changes, either positive or negative ones, and is congratulated for those changes knows what it’s like. All of a sudden, your value and you are being tied into your weight. You’re being noticed, you may be asked what you did to achieve it. You’re getting positive reinforcement.
But the truth is that your value has nothing to do with what your body looks like, your ability to accomplish difficult things has nothing to do with your ability to restrict and lose weight. Our society focuses on so much on weight, and we can easily miss out on nourishing our bodies.
5. Dieting for weight loss often results in failure.
For so many people, dieting is a vicious cycle that doesn’t really ever end. Experiences from past participants of The Biggest Loser tell us a lot about the perils of dieting. Their diets wrecked their metabolisms and lead to weight gain in the long run.
In addition to wrecking people’s metabolisms, dieting causes us to feel a sense of powerlessness. Diets, for example, don’t work for most people, and when those diets don’t work we, as the dieters, feel like failures and don’t attribute our inability to follow a restrictive often miserable diet to the actual diet. Also, diet rules often trigger an inner rebellion because they infringe on your own ability to choose for yourself.
Clearly, this is a complex issue and many of the complexities aren’t brought up in this short article. Essentially, people can be healthy at any size, if we focus on enjoyable ways to move more, eat a wide variety of foods, practice gentle nutrition, reduce stress, and be kind to ourselves we can drastically improve our mental and physical health. Here are additional resources to learn more about really improving your health and well-being.
- Health at Every Size, haescommunity.com
- Beauty Redefined, beautyredefined.org
- Intuitive Eating, www.intuitiveeating.org