Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weighing In

My office isn’t large. On one wall are two chairs for clients with a window in between them. My chair and a small table for my computer sit opposite. On one of the two remaining walls hangs my favorite painting and against the other rests my healthometer “doctors”scale. I’m a nutritionist and having a scaleis pretty much a prerequisite but I can sense the stress creates, the metal elephant in the room. I remember when I was first counseling, I had an office in one of the Manhattan gyms. They had a scale, much like my healthometer, in the locker rooms. On a daily basis members would come to the front desk complaining the scale was wrong. It may have been slightly off but it wasn’t broken. Finally, a sign was posted above the scale simply stating “it’s not the scale.” Harsh but true.

I weigh most of my clients backward, with them facing away from the scale’s numbers. I do this because clients are fully dressed (though some slightly disrobe) and come at various times of day. I tell them if they’re up or down and approximately how much. I do this to avoid the number game and yet even without a number of pounds the scale can affect our behavior. There was a Cathy cartoon that comes to mind. In this cartoon Cathy gets on a scale and proclaims “I didn’t lose weight I may as well eat more.” In the next frame she gets on the scale again and says “ooh I lost weight, now I can really eat more.” Many clients, though fully dressed, take every last piece of jewelry off. One client insisted I deduct from her weight because she was in blue jeans. I told her it doesn’t matter that much. She weighed her jeans when she got home and called me “they are 1 pound heavier than my pants.”

While this all seems silly, the scale seems to be an important tool for weight loss and weight maintenance. The National Weight Control Registry , which tracks the habits of people who have successfully lost and maintained 30 pounds or more, shows that 75% of their maintainers weigh themselves at least once a week. I have a nutrition colleague who has also lost a good amount of weight who has been known to travel with her scale. She finds it keeps her in check to weigh herself daily. Others feel the scale makes them crazy and instead judge by how their clothes fit. My worry with this is that for clothes to feel different we’re talking close to 5 pounds lost or gained. As for me, I weigh myself post-poop and pre-dressing when I remember. Hey, if Oprah can talk about poop on a vegan diet I can talk about it with the scale. And in case you’re wondering (I know you are) poop tends to weigh between 6 and 8 ounces. And no I didn’t weigh any poop to find that out.

How often do you weigh yourself? Can you remember what you weighed at various times in your life? Any amusing scale stories? Please weigh in.


  1. When I was a Weight Watchers member, I loved the scale because it validated all of hard work and sacrifice from the week. But on a bad week, that scale was the worst. And I did every stupid trick that, I'm sure, made no difference at all -- no food or water until after the weigh-in, the same lightweight outfit each week for consistency, all accessories off, and a lot of quality time on the toilet before the meeting to make sure that nothing disposable remained. So so silly.

    But, I am confused by how often you are *supposed* to weigh yourself. We were always told in WW to get on a scale only once a week and only at the meeting. The food journal I'm using suggests weighing once a day in early AM, once everything is out but nothing goes back in. The Heart Association cookbook says not to worry about the number, but think more about "health" and clothing fit. Your thoughts?

    And I used to assume that my poop weighed at least 2 pounds...bummer...

  2. Ah Marie, so you know all those little scale tricks! In terms of what I would suggest, I do think the scale is useful and most people should use it. Everyone is different, a daily weight works for some and if that doesn't make you crazy that's good. If it does, try at least 1/week to know where you are. The trouble with this is that you'll lose the day to day fluctuations. The problem, as I said in the post, with using your clothes is that I don't think (myself included) most of us are body-aware enough to notice slight fluctuations and when clothes are tight it's more than a week of work to reverse that change.

  3. Funny. I won't weigh myself just out of the shower with wet hair and a towel because, you know, that's going to add that much weight. If one of my friends said that to me I'd laugh hysterically. Oh the mind tricks we play...

  4. A towel Jen, forget it! Yes, many smart and logical women play scale games.