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Last week in describing how I’ve lost twenty pounds I mentioned a tidbit about weighing myself every day as a form of data gathering.

After the feedback and questions about this one sentence, I felt compelled to write about the scale and what it means.

For as long as I can remember, the number on the scale was supposed to ‘mean’ something – usually mainstream media tells us it means something about who we are as people; our value as a person; our work ethic or morality or countless other measures of us as people.

And for that same amount of time, it’s led to the scale being a point of controversy – should you weigh yourself? Should you worry about the number on the scale? How frequently should you weigh yourself? Does time of day matter? What do I do if I hate the number that shows up? What does it mean if I’m okay with the number that shows up? And so on.

My thoughts about the scale, in a nutshell, are that mainstream media can suck it. Read on for the not-in-a-nutshell version of my thoughts.

It’s Just Data

The reason the scale has become a scary thing for many women is because we’ve been told means something about us.

However, the reality is that the number on the scale (no matter how big or small) is just a number, just objective data that we can use as information, along with a myriad of other data.

When we remove emotion from the equation, the number becomes just a number again. Just a data point in time that doesn’t actually mean anything (other than measuring the force of gravity on your body).

And because there are sooooo many factors that go into your weight each day, we can’t actually glean much useful information from the objective piece of data in front of us.

Things like what you did/didn’t eat, how much sodium you ingested, how hydrated you are/aren’t, medications you’re on, where you’re at in your cycle, what time of day it is, and more ALL factor in to how much you weigh at any given moment.

I’ve had my weight fluctuate as much as four pounds in one day.

FOUR POUNDS!!!!

Clearly that four pounds was not four real/permanent pounds gained or lost. 

Yet for some reason we instinctively want to call it a huge fail if it was gained, or a big win if it was lost, as if it’s a true measure of our efforts since weighing in 8 hours ago.

How I Use the Scale

I weigh myself every day in the morning, enter it into MyFitnessPal and then pretty regularly forget about it.

Last week I mentioned how I have never, nor will I ever, let the scale dictate how I feel about myself. So weighing myself every day is just like brushing my teeth, or making coffee, or any other daily routine thing I have.

Every so often I may check out MFP to see where I’ve been the last month or two.

But more than that, I’m able to use my weight history in MFP to troubleshoot. By that I mean, if I’ve had a few crappy weeks (low energy, workouts are a struggle, stressed, etc) and it’s reflecting on the scale, I can look to see what I was eating and when and why. Plus I can check to see where in my cycle I was to see if that’s the culprit.

Again, all of it is data I can use to help me learn about myself – how I handle stress (do I mindlessly snack on crunchy salty things? Or do I go an extra mile to run it off?); what foods make me feel really good (it helps having my food log right there in MFP as well); how a new habit is working out (like cutting out breakfast a couple years ago); and more.

As you learned last week, I have a terrible memory, so there’s no WAY I’d be able to keep track of all this stuff in my own brain. Having a system where I can mindlessly (and effortlessly) keep track of all this stuff so I can check it out from 10,000ft helps tremendously.

And none of it reflects on me as a person.

No part of this data tracking system tells me if I’m a good, worthy, kind human being.

That’s not what the scale does… it has one, singular job: it measures your weight and that’s it.

So having the scale be the measure of your self-worth or your confidence or your success is a lie that mainstream health media has been promoting for far too long.

Tell the media to suck it, and start using the scale in a way that works for you.