Scale Avoidance

Today I had a session with my client, Jane. I hadn’t had a session with Jane in a few months. She told me she has been feeling somewhat off track over the last few weeks. She also told me that her portions have gotten bigger again and she’s snacking at random times throughout the day, among other difficulties. I asked Jane if her weight had gone up, and she said that she wasn’t sure; she hadn’t gotten on the scale. She went on to say that she wanted to have a good eating week first, and then she would get on the scale.

This is extremely common. So often when dieters are off track and ready to get back on track, they have the thought, “I don’t want to see the number on the scale, but I’ll have a good eating week and then get on next week when it’s a better number.” While this sometimes works for dieters, in my experience, most of the time it does not. When dieters avoid the scale, they’re actually much, much less likely to go on to have a good eating week. Conversely, when they face the number they’re much more likely to have a good week. Why is this? In part, it’s because by not facing the scale they are starting out the day exercising their giving-in muscle—their tendency to do something that’s not helpful. Once that muscle gets activated, it’s much easier to keep using it—in Jane’s case by not planning her food intake, by eating more than she had been, and so on. Not facing the scale also allows dieters to keep their heads buried in the sand and not face up to what’s been happening. They’re more easily able to fool themselves into thinking they’re not really that off track, and that makes it much harder to put healthy habits back in place.

Cutting board of healthy food.

When dieters make themselves to get on the scale even when they don’t want to (especially when they don’t want to!) they start out the day by exercising their resistance muscle—their tendency to resist doing unhelpful things. By getting on the scale, they’re also sending themselves the message that they’re taking accountability for their actions, which makes it easier to keep being accountable during the ensuing day and week.

So even though dieters think that it makes sense to wait a week to get on the scale, the opposite is true. Even if they find the number discouraging, at least they know exactly where they are. And they’re proving to themselves that they’re taking the necessary steps to get back on track. We always remind our dieters that the actual number doesn’t matter because by getting on the scale they’re taking the crucial first step in getting the number back to where they’d like it to be. Besides, not facing the number doesn’t actually change what they weigh; it only decreases the likelihood that they’ll weigh less moving forward.

4 replies
  1. wylie jones
    wylie jones says:

    I so needed to read this today….I got on that scale, yes my weight was up, so I am going for a walk and planning my food choices for the day…..

  2. Kathy Magnusson
    Kathy Magnusson says:

    Wow! This is exactly what I went through this morning. However, I forced myself to step on the scale and face reality. Thank you for this post because scale avoidance is a big issue for me.

  3. Kara Kellogg
    Kara Kellogg says:

    And sometimes, the number is not what we fear! This morning I was down .8 lbs. Hooray! I appreciate the reminder to stay accountable even when I don’t think the scale will give me good news.


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