Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Scales of Measurement

I’ve never owned a scale. It seems that weighing becomes highly ritualistic, and as others have written in the past, a way to determine one’s worth and mood for the rest of the day. That’s probably why I’ve opted out. But, recently, I’ve been thinking about how, even if we shun the scale, we may compensate by using other self-worth metrics related to body image, namely frequent mirror checks and/or an over-reliance on the fit of our clothes.

“Oh, I don’t weigh myself; I just go by how my clothes fit.” Sound familiar? What exactly does “go by” mean? Why must we rate ourselves at all? Weighing. Mirror-glancing. Checking the fit of our clothes. The self-esteem trifecta.

So, I’m curious: How often do you weigh yourself? How about checking yourself in the mirror or the fit of your clothing? What types of thoughts and feelings precipitate these behaviors? How do you feel after each behavior? And, finally, what would it be like to stop?

34 comments:

Icie said...

I try to weigh myself first thing every morning. It acts as a feedback system for me - if I pigged out the day before then I figure I should watch what I eat (healthily, not less) the next day if it says I've gained anything. I don't feel great when I gain, but I can take steps the next day to make sure I'm eating healthy and exercising.

It wouldn't crush me to take a break from my scale, because I have in the past. It would just suck if I didn't go on in like, a month, and then notice I've gained 5 pounds.

Going by how my clothes fit is good too, I take measurements every once in a while, and take note of how my clothes hang on me.

Anonymous said...

As a "recovering weight watcher", I have been making a conscious effort over the last year to lose the scale. I have come to realize how meaningless the number really is. Currently I get on it about once a month. I am surprised at how little the number affects me. It changes, but not drastically. Even when I was doing WW, I was amazed at how people would freak out - or celebrate- over a FRACTION of a pound. An 8 ounce glass of water weighs half a pound. Glycogen- fuel stored in our muscles- can weigh several pounds. It's not fat, but it's there, and contributes to our weight. When we do a lot of exercise we drop glycogen and water, not fat. But yet many people think it's "real" weight.

As for "going by" my clothes, I do in the sense that I don't want to keep buying different sizes of clothes so as long as my clothes fit me, I don't worry about the scale.

Jen said...

As one who is recovering from BED, I haven't weighed myself in almost two months. After nearly two years of treatment, I was finally ready to give it up. Standing on the scale and seeing the number is bad for me whether the number is higher or lower than I want it to be. It defines who I am, and I'm no longer willing to let a hunk of metal and mechanics determine my worthwhileness any longer.

disordered girl said...

This is a hard one--the scale I only check about once a week at the gym, and I'm trying to cut down from that (it used to be every time I went). Unfortunately, I don't see myself getting rid of all the mirrors at home or joining a nudist colony, SO not checking my body size on a daily basis through those methods requires serious mental vigilance that I haven't developed yet. If I'm having a "fat day," then I purposefully choose clothes that have become too big for me, so I don't get too tripped up. So yeah, everyday there is still some kind of check, even though I don't own a scale.

Sarah said...

I weigh myself first thing in the morning -- three times so I can average the number. I wish I didn't, but I do. I also rely on the fit of my clothes and a continual check on how my ring fits. I wish I could stop thinking about it so much, but it does keep me motivated for food choices and exercise.

Emily Jolie said...

I don't own a scale, either, and haven't weighed myself in months. I used to weigh myself at the gym every once in a while, or at my mom's house. I currently don't have a gym membership (I'm holding off until next winter when the rainy season starts again and I can't exercise outdoors regularly), and I also have no desire right now to weigh myself, as I know the numbers would be considerably higher than last time I did, and seeing that would serve no other purpose than to depress me and most likely catapult me back into ED behavior. So no weighing for me anytime soon.

As far as how my clothes fit, I don't think it's something I deliberately 'measure.' If my clothes are tight, I will feel it, whether I want to or not. It's uncomfortable. I don't like it. If my clothes are loose - yes, I feel better. More comfortable. More at ease. Maybe it's just time for bigger clothes...

Emily Jolie said...

Oh, yes, I also wanted to add about the mirrors. I'm really enjoying not having full-length mirrors in our new place. Our last place had mirror closet doors in the bedroom (not our choice - they were there when we got the house) and a big mirror in the bathroom. This place only has a smaller mirror in the bathroom, and I much prefer not seeing myself in the mirror every time I dress and undress in the bedroom. I always found I did better when visiting my in-laws who don't even have a mirror that shows you down to your waist in their bathroom. Only to about chest-level.
Sometimes the full-lenth mirror was good and I embraced my reflection, but I really am liking not constantly seeing my reflection.

Christy Marie said...

Personally, I weigh myself before and after I eat, before and after I go to the bathroom, before and after I get in the shower, plus many times through out the day. Usually I am late for school because I can't "find" something to wear. Because I hate everything. I can't live without the scale. And because I moved back in with my parents, they took the scale away, which means, I pretty much freaked out. After a while without the scale, I got used to going by the size of my clothes, and how loose they fit. If I can get my hands on a tape measure, I use that as well. With or without a scale, I use the clothes and tape measure as an option, as well as how loose my rings and bracelets are.

PalmTreeChick said...

I never weigh myself!! (ha, yeah right). I'm with Christy. I weigh myself first thing in the morning, after I go to the bathroom. (this morning it was 3x in a row just to make sure the number was correct). Then I weigh myself when I get home from the gym and many times throughout the day. After I eat, before and after I pee, at night. Lots of times I step on the scale a few times to make sure the number's right.

The thoughts and feelings that occur are different. Sometimes it's a feeling of relief because I didn't gain weight. Other times it's anger and disgust because I gained a pound. Sometimes it's fear because I'm afraid I won't be able to stop this behavior (losing weight), other times it's happiness because the number is going down. Lots of emotions are felt after I weigh myself.

I get very anxious when I can't weigh myself because I'm afraid I have gained a ton of weight. Being away from my scale is not fun!

It would probably be very freeing to stop but I can't do that right now. I'm not ready to "sit with those feelings."

Anonymous said...

But to those who weigh more than once a day: surely you are aware that you have to eat 3500 EXTRA calories to gain a REAL pound, i.e., a permanent gain of body fat? Surely you know that you are not doing so in ANY single meal??? Right?

Barmaid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barmaid said...

One of my roommates owns a scale, which makes it difficult to resist weighing myself, but I try never to do it. Partly I try to go by "how my clothes fit," partly I notice if fewer men are hitting on me at the bar where I work, partly I try to imagine how much less sexy another woman would be if she had my body (the old "impossible objectivity," I guess). But I usually succumb and weigh myself about once a month just out of curiosity.

Debra
The Barmaid Blog

Anonymous said...

I have gone through periods of weighing myself religiously, to renouncing the scale. But it still sits right here under my bed, at all times. Right now I have stopped weighing myself because my clothes have started to feel tighter. I feel heavier, less mobile and just generally uncomfortable with this sense of extra weight. a few months ago, I was weighing in every few days to see what was going on... it seemed i gained 20 pounds in less than a month. I am not really freaking out about it though... I know I am sexy and feel good but that may be partly due to the wonderful man in my life.
I hate going by anything as if its something that determines my self-worth. "ok my pants are too tight now...better starve for a while"... what the heck is that! But it's been my way of thinking for a long time.

elissa said...

I only ever weigh myself at the gym because they have one of the massive doctors' type scales so I figure it's accurate. Even days when I feel fat and full and I tell myself I shouldn't weigh myself because I'll only get pissed off.

Usually I don't get anxious or upset if the number's a little higher than I'd like though - just complacent, inured. But if it goes down, I'm psyched.

sarah said...

Anon #2, you're right, and logically, I know it. But somehow logic goes out the window for me on this topic. I wish that weren't the case, but it is.

LG said...

I weigh myself once every few weeks, a practice I've only gotten back into since husb moved in and brought his scale with him.

The number is usually the same.

But I look at myself unclothed in the full length mirror every day too. I'm usually trying to see if I've gained or lost any size. The thing is, it's hard to tell if I've gotten bigger or smaller! (And if I can't even tell, then who else can???) This ritual is kinda funny when I think about it. (Funny as in "dog with three legs" funny...not so funny when I think about it a little more.)

Bliss Chick said...

It's funny, I can test if I gained a few pounds by my 2 favorite pairs of dress pants. If they feel a little tight, the fact that I may have gained a few doesn't bother me. What bothers me, is if I don't lose the few 2 or 3 pounds, or keep gaining, then I'll have to buy new pants. Being cheap and not one who likes shopping (for office attire anyway), losing the few pounds actually seems like less of a hassle than having to go shopping to replace the pants (esp. since they are petites and I bought them in the US from a store that does not have a location in Canada).

But I admit to looking in the mirror way too often as a gauge for my weight and shape. I do it a lot when I work out.

virg said...

I stopped weighing myself when I started weightlifting. It seemed futile to rely on a number that does not reflect changes in body composition. Now I only get weighed at the gym every 6-8 weeks when I do body comp checks, and at the doctor's office. It no longer affects how I feel about myself since I know that the number is only one of several that help the gym trainer discover what my body is composed at a particular moment.

HaileySqueek said...

I used to weigh myself everyday. I was religious about it because I thought it kept me accountable. Whatever that means. Then I stopped dieting and started conscious eating. It was hard for me to break the scale ritual, but I have done it. I haven't weighed myself in at least four months. I'm able to look at that scale in my bathroom every morning without feeling even slightly tempted, which really surpises me.

As for clothes, I certainly notice if a pair of pants feels tighter or looser than before. I try hard not to judge it. Instead, I just try on a few pairs until I find the most comfortable fit. It's hard not to get at least a little upset when something feels too snug, though.

I feel so much better about myself ever since I stopped weighing myself and have been working on not judging myself by the way my clothes fit or by anything to do with my body size. I'm just more comfortable being me.

Anonymous said...

I tried to stop weighing myself, because that seems to be the "recommended thing" these days. Well, it resulted in a 10-lb gain. So I'm going back to daily weigh-ins. I'm not even trying to LOSE, just maintain, and I can't do it if I don't pay attention. I admire those who can.

Anonymous said...

I lost just over fifty pounds last year and now weigh myself every morning after I use the bathroom and before I get in the shower. Then, at the end of the week, I take those numbers and average them to come up with a weekly weight to track my progress as I continue to try to lose these last 10 lbs.

Rachel said...

One of the most liberating things I ever did was throw out my scale. Throughout my eating disorder, I'd weight myself 10, 20 times a day, sometimes in the middle of the night. It was crazy.

While in recovery, I didn't weigh myself for about 6 months and then, in a fit of weight-panic, went out after the boy had gone to bed and bought a scale. I now weigh myself probably at least every other day, but the number doesn't determine my outlook for the day anymore as it used to.

roark said...

i'm kinda late on thsi one, but hoping the comment will reach you:

i don't weigh myself, ever. i never have been a religious weigher, though at first there were sports/coaches that weighed me, then later rotc fitness tests, then the ed program i entered for only a few months my senior year in college. and every single time i hated it, whether there were other people around or not. i even hated it getting on the scale backwards in the program and never even seeing or hearing the number. just being on a scale infuriates me. which is probably a reaction to a much deeper hurt.

so as for weighing, it's not something i've ever embraced. but i also am happy when, at random times, i find out the number has gone down. but that's usually every couple years a dr.'s appt or something will let it slip.

as for clothes - oh my lord. i hate waistbands. i hate feeling like ive gotten "bigger" or "smaller," i hate dressing for work because i wear a suit (or something close) and dress pants and pencil skirts every day and structured clothing, UGH. hate it.

if i can choose, i wear yoga pants and t-shirts and wrap sweaters that don't really have a set, structured feeling of being loose or tight. i try to insulate myself from those involuntary checks, inevitable whenever i put on "real" clothes. i hate how it feels, and i don't know of a way to consciously not notice those things when i'm wearing them.

it's exhausting. and i hate it. but i'm not sure, at this point, i'll ever not feel at least womewhat like that.

danyel said...

Sadly, I weigh myself with every opportunity. The scales are in the kitchen (family put it there) so I weigh myself in the morning and at night, or if I'm having a fat day I'll weigh myself before and after dinner, and after other things..I weigh myself at the mall on that 50 cent scale that tells you if you're fat. I weigh myself before I work out, durring my workout and after my work out...
I hate looking in mirrors, I feel gross. I don't know, it's been so long since I've NOT done this.

Anonymous said...

I've lost a lot of weight of the course of my first year in college (weird I know) but since then weighing myself hasn't been as big of a deal. I will admit the times I weigh myself is before and after a workout and its mainly out of curiosity. It's more of what I see in the mirror that affects my mood. For example today I went shopping and I don't know if its the lighting in the changing rooms or what, but I felt as if I needed to go and work out that instant, it ridiculous!

twincats said...

I'm more or less like roark, I never weigh myself and don't want to have to buy new clothes.

But how can you not be aware of how your clothes fit? When they're tight, you know it!

What I have done is dropped my judgment of myself when buying clothes and accepted that some lines just fit differently than others. It's no longer a big deal if I have to buy a size bigger than "normal." This used to freak me out and I'd stuff myself into the "correct" size number rather than the correct-fitting garment.

I didn't even beat myself up when I went from a size 22 to a 24. At the age of 47, it's all about comfort!

WifeMomChocoholic said...

I used to weigh myself every day -- sometimes twice a day. Since recovering somewhat from my weight and food issues, I weigh myself about once a month.

Fi Fo Fum said...

...Me again being late...
And then you get those pro-ed sites saying absurd things like 'weigh yourself before and after every binge/purge session to make sure that you didn't gain any weight..."
who said ppl with ed's are supposed to be intelligent? Any one who knows anything about nutrition should KNOWS this is total and utter BULL(*&&T!! ...........but i do it...i weigh myself first thing in the morning, then again before and after every b/p, and again last thing before i go to sleep.
And lets not forget the times when i need to empty my bladder in the wee hours of the morning...the scale and i have a very intimate relationship, you see. Abusive and controlling.
Blah.
At least it's not one of those speaking types that blind people use!

Anonymous said...

As a recovering anorexic, I can testify to the torments of the scale, as well as the mirror examinations and clothing fittings. It's really hard to stop. Luckily, I've found that a healthy exercise program and diet help me to not worry so much.

I've been "recovered" for 3 years now, started college, and am finally at peace with my body and the things about it that I cannot change. I can't help how I am built.

Now, I do feel a little gross if I haven't had a chance to make it to the gym or eat right, but I know that a couple days isn't going to make or break me. I've learned that the scale is a fickle thing, that the sizes of my clothes are vanity sized anyway, and that mirrors are subject to my own interpretation. It was a long way to get to this point, but I'm here, and I'm so much happier without my scale.

Anonymous said...

I have a cheap scale in my bathroom on display. It's one of those bathroom accessories that have to be out, like the toilet brush.

It is a family tradition -I was raised to enjoy getting on the scale to see my number. Like the scale is a fancy scientific machine. How does it do that, and how is it always right, know how much I am all over, just by me standing on it?? It was more to see the scale move when I stepped on it, and the mystery of the number, where it stopped, than to use it as a tool for self-manipulation.

I weigh myself when I forget what I weigh. I weigh myself when my clothes feel too snug or too loose, to figure if it's me or the dryer that changed my clothes. I weigh myself when I think I don't need the scale, to get my money's worth out of my investment in it.

I also weigh myself to see if I'm losing or gaining weight for mystery health reasons. Like when I was on medication, I gained forty pounds, because of the medication, so I needed the weight number over time to talk to my doctor. I only wish I had weighed myself more before it hit forty, because my clothes didn't give me the hint.

Anonymous said...

I weight myself 10-15 times a day. If i gained anything throughout the day I stop eating and immediately exercise until I get back down to where I was. Even if its only 5 ounces. Food and the scale are my enemy and I absolutely hate living like this.

Anonymous said...

I lit my scale on fire and launched it in to a canyon. Now I check myself more often in the mirror...you know, holding bits of skin that I perceive as fat. I am still getting help and it is worth the effort ladies...you CAN be happy in your body :)

Roxanne said...

I haven't been been able to read all of the comments yet, I just wanted to add... I didn't really think other people were scale crazy like I was. I feel so strange reading some of these comments but it's a good strange. Now I would just like to know if anyone can *truly* get over an addiction like this. I requested that my husband hide my scale but it's still a struggle.

Mog said...

How often do you weigh yourself?

Every few months or if I go down a clothing size - I am in the process of getting my body to a healthy weight down from morbidly obese

How about checking yourself in the mirror or the fit of your clothing?

I like checking myself out in the mirrow! I feel pretty, I also enjoy my clothes fitting nicely so I would say I do that everday.

What types of thoughts and feelings precipitate these behaviors?

Usually pride/accomplishment/excitement or confidence... Becuase I have made a lot of progress from my highest weight I am really enjoying the visible signs of my health returning. If there is no way to ogle myself I enjoy flexing and stretching my muscles and 'feeling' the newly aqcuired strength.


How do you feel after each behavior?

Great! Proud, accomplisheed, excited.

And, finally, what would it be like to stop?

Quite de-motivating - I think I am my main audience, this si such an important positive feedback loop for me.