WritersButt Wednesday – Is your scale the boss of you?

Happy Wednesday everyone.

I want to talk scales today, or more specifically, the common bad habit of routinely weighing yourself and placing a personal value on whatever that number is.  Here at WritersButt, I try to relate health and fitness to writing and creativity. I know there are tons of blogs out there, fabulous blogs solely focused on fitness and/or nutrition. So as I pondered the topic of scales, I tried to figure out how I could relate what I’m about to say to a writer’s soul.

This topic comes up a lot in my daily life, mainly with CrossFit clients or friends lamenting the fact that they ‘can’t lose weight’ or ‘want to lose 5, 10, 25, 50+ pounds’. What they typically mean is that they want to be smaller, leaner, fitter. I’m here to say that you can be all those things and not lose an ounce.  Or maybe you will lose some weight, but it will be a byproduct of getting stronger, fitter, healthier … not the goal itself.

Now, if you legitimately are ‘overweight’ as in classified ‘obese’, you might need an occasional weigh-in to make sure you’re on course, but I still believe by proper nutrition and smart fitness, you will not need to know how much you weigh to know you are making progress. Your clothes will start getting loose. Your entire shape will be changing. You will walk up a flight of stairs without breathing heavy. You will sleep better, have healthy bowel movements and all that fantastic stuff.

What is dangerous about weighing yourself often is that many people place too much value on that number. They step onto that square thing and have a visceral reaction to whatever digit pops up, as a personal value. Most often this reaction causes stress. Stress produces a hormone called cortisol.

(excerpt from link above)

“ … stress can cause the body to produce too much cortisol which can play a role in craving “comfort” foods, overeating, feeling fatigued, and storing excess body fat.”

If you take one thing away from my blog today, I hope it is to see and believe that how much you weight does not dictate how good/bad, fit/fat you appear.  To illustrate my point, check out this amazing image that has made the rounds on Facebook. I wish I could find out where this was originally posted so I could directly link to the source, which I bet has a wonderful story behind it.

So, tell me, would you rather the scale read 10 pounds lighter and have the body on the left, or does that 10 pounds not matter so much if you have the body on the right?  It’s all about your body fat percentage and not about how much you weigh.

Again, I’m not referring to people who are dangerously overweight to the point where it is risking their health and life. I’m talking to people who fixate over the desire/need to lose 5-10 pounds. You know, you can lose 5 pounds in a few days. Drastically cut your calories and water intake and in a few days you’ll be lighter. And hungry. And dehydrated. And sluggish. And constipated. And probably pretty darn grouchy.

Ah, I was going to relate this to writing, wasn’t I?

All right, so take that amazing book you’ve written. It’s published. It’s on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads, raking in the reviews. The plot of your book is its soul, it’s core and foundation, much like your own mind, heart and soul. Your book’s words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters are its life source, much like your nutrition and fitness.

I’m going to ask you to blur the lines between subjective and objective here for a moment. Even though a number on a scale is objective, the value you attach to it as it pertains to your body image is subjective.

With that in mind, I ask you to recognize that no book gets all 5 star reviews. You’ll have some 3’s, some 4.5’s maybe even some 2’s or GASP some crazy gives you 1 star. Does each one of those stars change what your book is? Is it better when it gets a 5 or does it automatically suck when it gets a 2? Of course not.

Your book is awesome. It’s strong. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s vibrant. It’s soulful.

Just like YOU ARE.

And NO number on a scale or star from a review will change that.

Now, everyone turn in your scales to me! Come on. You do not need them to know if what you’re doing is right for your body and mind. Eat clean. Be Active. Hydrate. Sleep. Be Grateful. Your results will shine through YOU, not a number on a machine.

Do not let a scale have any power over you; make you think less of yourself, or a failure in any way. You are more awesome than a meaningless number.  You are the boss. The scale is your minion. It must be banished!




About Ginger Calem

I never met a notebook I didn't want to buy. Pens speak to me. Sticky notes are dear to my heart. Some of my best friends are those clambering in my head trying to get onto the page. And when they have their stories told, and I release them to the world, I hope they'll be your friends too.

Posted on September 19, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. I so needed to read this! I’ve been working out (intervals on the treadmill) for 4 weeks now. Have increased from 35 minutes to start to 70, and burning between 500-570 calories. I feel better, I’m eating healthier, I’ve lost some inches, and my clothes are fitting better.

    But the scale is nearly the same. I don’t get it, and some people insist the scale needs to be considered part of your weight loss goal. After struggling to maintain my big weight loss from Ideal Protein, I’ve decided to go the exercise route for overall and longterm health. Most of the time I feel pretty good about it, but I do get frustrated when I don’t see the scale moving.

    Very informative post!

    • I’m so glad it resonated. In reading your comment, you say, “I feel better, I’m eating healthier, I’ve lost some inches, and my clothes are fitting better” … Dang — if that’s not victory I don’t know what is. Time to stop letting that stupid scale rain on your parade! Don’t invite it to your party. 🙂 Keep up the great work.

  2. So funny – when I woke up this morning I had the urge to pitch the scale. I haven’t weighed myself since Alice was born, and I kinda like that. Hmm. Maybe I should go with the instinct…

    • Of course I’ll tell you to, ‘yes, go with that instinct’. If knowing your weight isn’t useful and certainly if it has a negative effect on you … well, just don’t go there!

  3. ERK! How about I only check every once in a while. It’s so ingrained in me.

    I promise I don’t let the number on the scale dictate how I feel about my fitness any more than I let a number (age) dictate what I can accomplish. My complexion, the fit of my clothes, and how much my thighs jiggle when I practice my (novice) belly-dance shimmy tell me what I need to know.

    Case in point. I weigh five pounds less than I weighed umpty-ump years ago when I graduated from high school. But, the difference in clothes size? Four sizes. Why? I exercise. Cardio, resistance, weights. I’m no angel with my routine. But, it’s the button on my shorts/jeans/skirts that get me skedaddling to the gym. PLUS, it didn’t hurt my ego when the trainer in kick-box class yesterday told me I had the flexibility of a 16 year old. I’ll take that number!!!

    • Gloria, you may be one of the rare people who really doesn’t let that number effect you emotionally. You are already focusing on the right things to gauge your health and fitness. You got the 16 year old flexibility going on. *grin–go YOU!* For you, I’d say that weighing yourself might truly not be a negative. Look how evolved you are! High Five!

  4. Oh, such good advice, Ginger. Year ago, after the birth of my second child, I went on the pill and gained some weight. I just couldn’t shake it. I felt fat and dumpy and every day I stepped on that stupid scale and watched it hold steady … or worse yet, climb. Within a couple of years, I went off the pill, got my tubes tied and the weight fell off on its own. I was slim, almost to the point of skinny, but every morning I still climbed on the scale to check to see if I’d gained any weight. The interesting thing about all this is that as I got older, I lost interest in the scale. I gained a few pounds and began to rely on my health to tell me whether or not I needed to do anything about my eating habits. Today, I’m the same weight as I was all those years ago but I no longer think I’m fat. I’m healthy — when I stay away from ice cream bars and twizzlers, that is. The scale sits unused in the bathroom. I never want to rely on it again.

    So glad you’re talking about this important topic. I wish I’d known you 20 years ago. 🙂

    • I wish I believed this 20 years ago too. I can’t tell you how the scale held me hostage and made me feel like a failure. It’s heartbreaking when I look back on that. Sounds like, baring the occasional ice cream and yucky twizzler (kidding!!), you’re doing it right. Keep on, keeping on.

  5. My weight stays consistently around 153 to 161. But I always go by how I look undressed in front of the mirror. If my abs are all in tact and there’s less body around the torso, I’m happy. I was never into the pumped up body builder look. I like a physique that’s cut, but where the muscles are still loose enough to do stuff. Too much big muscle mass while it provides undeniable and amazing strength interferes with speed and fluidity of motion as evidenced with professional boxers and dancers. I want be a wirey animal with stamina, plenty of snap and who can go the distance.

    • Yep, undressed in front of the mirror is the way to gauge if you’re steady, making progress or maybe not focusing enough on your fitness and nutrition. I totally agree with you about physique as well. I also prefer lean strength and speed over bulk and no necks. 😉

  6. OOOPPS. Typo last post. Line two. “less body FAT around the torso.”

  7. Thank you, Ginger! I haven’t weighed myself in years, except for the dreaded check at the doctors. But, I swear they get my height wrong, too, so whatever. But there was a time in college when I was obsessed. I hung around girls who used to diet, run like crazy, and weigh themselves all the time. So, I started, too. That behavior is obsessive and contagous! Luckily I was able to figure out that it was driving me crazy and I’m happier just focusing on eating healthy and exercising. Besides, my clothes don’t lie. And I can see muscle definition when I’m working out regularly. I don’t need a number to tell me anything.

  8. I haven’t been on a scale (except at the doctor’s office when necessary) in a very long time. I attempted to use the one at the gym when I started working out, but realized I was using it wrong so I haven’t been on it since. I think it’s broken anyway because my number never changes. (Ha) I’ve always been more in tune with how my clothes fit. But then, of course, there’s the dryer factor. I’m sure mine shrinks everything I put in it so obviously everything is going to be a little snugger right? RIGHT?? It’s the dryer. Has nothing to do with how many times a day I open the refrigerator and grab a little something. It’s the damn dryer!

    Very good post, Ginger. And a great analogy with your writing. Bad reviews do not equate to bad books.

    Love it!!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  9. I’m not controlled by the scale but since I have binge eating disorder, I know that 2 cups of anything is a roaster full of food so I weigh myself weekly, just to be sure i’m honest.

    • Ah, interesting point. You are in tune with a psychological need for that weekly touch-point. You have found a way to use the scale for good. I love that. Also, I’m sure you are away that anything within a 5 pound difference can be attributed to a variety of factors and shouldn’t be a huge red flag. A woman’s weight can change up to 5 lbs up or down in the scope of single day. I appreciate your comment for that perspective. Thank you.

  10. I’m living proof of what you say, Ginger. Three days a week of water aerobics adds weight, but man do I feel and look good. Tight tummy, nice biceps sans the waving flag beneath. Working on breaking the daily weigh in habit. Doctor says have to drop ten pounds.

    • You feel and look good — that’s the victory! Have to admit that I’m a little irritated with your doctor. I mean, what does that 10 lbs mean? What is his ‘true’ goal for you? Less fat in a certain area? Better cardiovascular health? Lower or higher counts in certain blood levels? See, all of that makes sense but ‘drop 10 lbs’ doesn’t really mean anything. Sorry, I’ll stop beating the dead horse. 😉

  11. And THIS is why I love you!!
    I struggle with the f’in scale all the time and hubby and I JUST had this talk that our clothes are fitting better and we feel better so screw the scale. I swear… You are like a sister of my soul, girl.

  12. I’ve been struggling with this very thing. Earlier this year, I realized I’d put on too much weight and needed to take it off to be healthy. Then about six weeks ago, I started to get excited because I could finally see definition in my legs again (rather than the marshmallow globs they’d turned in to) and my pants seemed to be fitting better. When I was at the doctor last week though, I found out I’d only lost 5 pounds of the 20 I need to take off. I was crushed. This is a good reminder to me that the goal isn’t really the weight loss. The goal is to get back my cardiovascular health and muscle tone so that I’m healthy again. I’ll kept working at it 🙂

    • You support my point perfectly. You made changes and are making great progress. Your pants were fitting better and leg definition rocks! (Which means you are increasing your lean muscle mass — which helps you burn fat — yay!!) But, even though you had indeed lost 5 lbs in the midst of increasing muscle which means you lost fat (hence change in pants fit), you were crushed! Crushed by a number instead of being proud of what you are accomplishing.

      The key to remember is that there is not an ideal ‘weight’. For instance I’m 5’4″. Someone might put an ideal weight on someone that tall. I don’t even know what it is but I can almost guarantee you that I’m heavier. When people ‘guess’ what I might weigh, they are always low. I don’t even know for sure what I weigh right now. Last time I weighted myself was over a year ago for a weight lifting competition. If I were to plug that weight and height into a BMI formula, I would be told I’m borderline obese. It’s crazy!

      You are 100% correct that the goal is cardiovascular heath, muscle tone and health. You can do it, Marcy! Be super proud of what you’re doing and the progress you’re making. I am!!

  13. I know you’re watching me, Ginger, and know I’ve been working out. Okay, okay, you also know I cut down on walking because of the heat, but I will pick it up again next month. Meanwhile, I’ve been shopping my closet because I can now wear things that haven’t fit in a long time. Wide-legged pants are still in, aren’t they? How about shoulder pads?

  14. I do step on the scale once a week as a motivational tool to stay focused on my regime but the number means very little to me. I should actually stop. LOL! Here’s the deal, after my divorce 10 years ago, I dropped a lot of weight in a short period of time. I went from a size 14 to a size 0 in about 12 weeks. Talk about stress. Anyway…people thought I weighed 100 pounds soaking wet but at a size 0, I still weighed 138 pounds! That’s no lightweight. People were always shocked. Most didn’t believe me until they saw it for their own eyes…
    Now…not a healthy way to lose weight BUT…What I realized is that the number on the scale means nothing! I can weigh a fair amount and be skinny (not necessarily healthy). That really put it in perspective for me.
    Now when I think about weight loss, I think about it terms of feeling healthier; fit, strong, stamina, strength, empowered. It’s less about the number and even the size (although I do use my clothing size as more of the goal to attain) and more about the FEELING I want.
    I want to FEEL fit, healthy, empowered, strong, flexible, able to walk/run/bike a decent distance…
    And if I was a size 5 through 9, that’d be gravy!
    GREAT post Ginger…love it!

    • This right here –> I want to FEEL fit, healthy, empowered, strong, flexible, able to walk/run/bike a decent distance…

      You illustrate perfectly that the number on the scale and what size you wear doesn’t always connect, in fact, it rarely does. It’s so much more how you feel about yourself inside. And letting a dumb scale and a meaningless number rob you of feeling self-happiness is all kinds of wrong and needs to be avoided at all costs! 🙂

      Keep being awesome!!

  15. Author Kristen Lamb

    I really struggle and it is hard not to get discouraged. I eat VERY healthy and work out a lot. I know the world says to go by how ur clothes feel, but frankly I live in a world that doesn’t value my body type. Clothes are miserable no matter what weight I am. I have 43 inch shoulders, a tiny waist and Russian gymnast thighs.

    I live in a world with 42 variations of “skinny” jeans and even when I was my smallest (11% body fat) I couldn’t get clothes that fit my legs. So what happens is I have to wear stretchy stuff, which makes weight gain sneaky.

    I know I am whining and I’m sorry, but I am currently a size 8-10 but nothing in Misses fits. It is all too tight in the thighs, but I am nowhere near being large enough for a Plus size section. So I live in yoga pants, and when I lose the rest of my fluff, maybe I will get some tailored pants.

    I’m tired of the world telling me that anorexia is beautiful and that people who are 300 pounds are “curvy.” What happened to people who were just a normal size? Not a size 0, but not a size 22, either? I look in magazines and they have human stick figures modeling the “curvy” jeans. What curves? They have the body of a thirteen year old boy.

    I just went ahead and took measurements and hid the scale. I will get there eventually. I have really loved having WANAFit for the support. Thanks for this blog. I know this in my head, it’s just getting it into my heart.

    • I totally feel your frustration, Kristen. I too have a body which is not a friend to the skinny-jean trend. Not tall enough with quads that do their share of squats. 🙂 I have to really look hard for jeans that fit right. Unfortunately, this usually means very expensive designer jeans but once I found a brand or two that fit me, I stuck with it. I still have to stick with boot cut. I can get away with straight cut sometimes.

      I heard that Cheryl Crow has a jeans line out (Bootheel Trading Co) that supposedly fits all different body types.

      All that said about jeans, it is still very frustrating that is so difficult to find cute and trendy jeans that fit. It should not be that hard! And, your rant over the portrayal of the anorexic look being gorgeous is right on and very sad. That’s one of the things I love about women’s bodies in the CrossFit world. We celebrate strong over skinny every day of the week.

      Keep going by the measuring tape. Ditch the scale. There’s a make of jeans perfect for you … just gotta find it! 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

    • Just had another thought about jeans/pants. You might have to get the jeans that fit the way you want in the legs and then get the waist taken it. I know a lot of people who do this. In the CrossFit community, the girls all talk about how their butt and quads are too big for their normal size. They buy up and get them taken in. If a pant doesn’t come in a ‘short’ length, I have to get them altered. Totally worth it though to get the jeans that I love. Can you tell I really love wearing jeans. hahaha!!

  16. Great points! I don’t own a scale for the reasons you say. I know whether I’m struggling based on how my clothes fit and how I look in the mirror. I weigh in at my doctor’s office at my annual physical, and that’s enough for me.

  17. That was one of the first things I learned when I started my workouts – the scale is not our friend. I just wish that that was the reason for the numbers rising lately. Need to socialize less and work out more. Grr.I need more time. I keep saying I’m going to do it. You have my permission to come over and kick my butt. I want to get back to my old habits. Of course, when I was working out, It was that and kids. There wasn’t time for anything else. I might disappear from the group. :O

    • No disappearing! Listen, I’m telling you that you don’t need all that much time. That’s the beauty of it all. You can incorporate short, fast, and yet intense little workouts into your day, or at least once a day. Think 10 minutes here! Then weave in your squatting, pushups, tons of water, good nutrition and you’ll gain energy and a clear mind primed to be creative. It’s so easy to stay in a habit. So you have to create a new habit and then get ‘stuck there’ instead of where you are. 🙂 The first few weeks are tough because doing something different usually meets with resistance. How we all push away from change. I’m cheering you on!!!

  18. Ginger, I’m coming your way from Jenny Hansen! I have no idea where you live, but somehow, someway I must find my way to your front door so I can ring your door bell and when you open the door tackle you with a humongous hug! This is brilliant and confirms what I believe but have failed to practice – at least with the book numbers! I gave up scales years and years ago, turning backwards during pregnancy weigh-ins etc. I know that those teeny numbers have too much power to make it a good day or a bad day. And I know the same holds true for my book rankings, but still, I occasionally peek. “I have to,” I tell myself, “in order to be accountable.” And in some ways I belief that, but in others, I know it’s a load of shit. I’ve been wanting to write a blog about this myself, and here you went and did it for me! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have received so many glorious, heart-felt letters from readers (my loose-fitting clothes!) and keep reminding myself THAT is what’s important! I will link back to this fabulous post when I finally get around to tackling the subject myself! In the meantime, I’ll share on fb/twitter! Please accept my huge virtual hug of thanks!! Happy Day!

    • Hi Kasey! Welcome to my little blog and you come bearing hugs!! Yay! Can I just say that I love ~ADORE~ that heart-felt letters from your readers are your loose-fitting clothes. That is a powerful analogy! Every time you get one, strut around and rock that look!! Woo!

      By the way, I’m in central Texas. Maybe someday we can have hugs and high-fives in person.

  19. Thank you! I needed to hear this! 🙂

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