Do You Let the Scale Run Your Life?

Measurables like body fat percentage, BMI, body weight and many more can give great information about health and can help predict many risk factors for chronic disease and even tell us a lot about lifespan, however many of us have difficulty around stepping on a scale, having a body fat scan, etc. This begs the question: is it good to be driven by these measurables? You might think that as a nutritionist and coach I would tell you that you have to have a measurable to gauge your health and fitness. The truth is that before you decide if you want to measure something, you should think about why you are measuring and what it means to you.

I have spent the past 26 years talking to people about weight loss and performance. In that time I’ve found that there are those who use the scale to be motivated in a healthy way. It doesn’t define them. It just serves as a form of guidance and information. They choose how they want to be. They don’t let the scale choose for them. There are also those who use the scale to define who they are, how they feel and how they live.

If you fall into the first camp, the scale might not be a bad thing. It's a data point that can be motivational for some people. Most often it’s a healthy motivator for those who don’t rely on the result to determine who they are.

However, if it is scary to step on the scale, if you are hard on yourself when you get your body fat percentage measured or if simply looking at your best mile time and trying to beat it consumes you, then, I’m not sure measuring anything is the right thing for you at this point. Measuring any of these things could cause more stress and frustration than motivation.

A better starting place might be to begin to understand why measuring is so uncomfortable for you. Typically, I see this discomfort in people who use these measurables to define who they are and how they feel. Losing weight or winning your time trial isn’t an outcome that we can control, so when we put our wellbeing in that result, whatever it is, we put ourselves at risk. Sounds scary and frustrating doesn’t it?

Instead, I would encourage you to think about the only controllable we have: the day-to-day tasks that we have put in front of ourselves to be better, lose weight, develop a healthier lifestyle. Try things like, “Today I’m going to: eat more veggies, eat only until I’m 80% full, cut back on alcohol, show up to the gym.” All of these are controlables. These are the things that allow us to feel ok and accomplished. Swap the controllables for the measurables and see where it takes you.

Aaron Leventhal