Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The measure of a (wo)man

One of the attitudes I've really struggled with in my weight loss journey is the belief that the scale is the ultimate measure of my success at becoming more healthy, and also a measurement of my value as a person.  I think that belief is at least partially responsible for many of my failures with programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.  It has taken a lot of soul-searching, both on my own and through MNP program, to come to a place where I can see that the number on the scale is a symptom of my behaviors, and an inconsistent one at that.

A couple of weeks ago, we were discussing this topic in my MNP group.  My group leader gave us two examples.  The first was of a person who worked hard all week, staying on program, exercising, drinking all their water, and making sure to get enough sleep.  That person weighed in, and only lost 2/10 of a pound, and felt crushed.  The other example was of a person who followed the program some days, but cheated on others, didn't exercise, and didn't worry about water or sleep.  The second person weighed in, and lost 5 pounds, and felt ecstatic.  My group leader's point was this:  Both people are wrong in their assessment of the situation.  It's not the magic of the scale that keeps the pounds off once a person is focused on maintaining their weight loss, it's the healthy behaviors the person does day in and day out that really makes the difference, and how well someone follows those healthy behaviors is the sign of success, not the pounds on the scale.  After all, if you keep doing the healthy behaviors, the weight will come off eventually.

This was a bitter pill for me to swallow.  After all, who doesn't want to see the pounds melt off, week after week?  Who doesn't get frustrated when, after putting in solid effort on healthy behaviors for a week, the scale shows little or no change?  It's so easy for me to look at the scale and think that I am a success or a failure based on the number that shows up this week.  It's a lot harder for me to look at a small weight loss and convince myself to think, "Wow, what a success!"  Our culture is built on instant gratification, and I'm definitely a member of our culture!

All that being said, I've noticed a change in myself as I've been able to remind myself to use my behaviors as a measuring stick instead of the weight on the scale.  I'm kinder to myself.  I'm more able to see the small successes which will add up over time.  And I'm making time to do little things that help me achieve those small successes.  I'm worrying less about trying for big leaps or big successes, because those aren't the ones that ultimately matter.  This mental shift has made my life a much more pleasant place to be, an unintended but highly welcome side effect of this program.

So... how do you measure yourself?  And what effect is that having on you?


  1. Erin, Your MNP leader is very insightful. The mental shift s/he is suggesting is a difficult one to make because we are so conditioned and focused only on what the scale says and we forget to celebrate our other successes in life. From what I know of you, you have many causes to celebrate---First off, you did the damn thing (Nike 1/2 marathon); married a wonderful man; getting a Psy'D; and surrounded by family and friends. Girl, you are one awesome woman and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Hugs, Carol

  2. Very insightful...
    It is hard to accept that it isn't about the weight, but about our health. We're so used to measuring, qualifying, quantifying, comparing... much harder to just be and do right for our own sakes.