The Scale: Friend or Foe?

You wake up and it's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the birds are singing. You're happy and feel amazing; lighter and leaner even. You catch a glimpse in the mirror as you brush your teeth and look different.

Better. Stronger. Leaner. Tighter. Ahhh, life is AMAZING, you think.

Then--you get on the scale.

Instantly you decide you're a fat failure and can't change. Darkness. Anger. Depression. Despair. Self loathing. They bowl you over like a tidal wave of hell... utterly consuming and destroying everything in their path, including your mood and the rest of your day.

I mean, depending on how dysfunctional your relationship with the scale is that may be an exaggeration but the amount of women who don't allow the scale to affect how they feel about themselves or their mood on SOME level are few and far between.

This scenario plays out millions of times every day all over the world and it generally ends in one of two equally destructive ways:

Option A -- You think screw this, I'm not eating breakfast, starve yourself the rest of the day and/or end up bingeing from starvation by supper time.


Option B -- You think screw it, it's not working anyway so I may as well have whatever I want and you eat garbage the rest of the day... or worse, you quit whatever "weight loss plan" you're on entirely.

This can be one of the biggest reasons so many people fail and that's really sad because it's so unbelievably asinine--for a hundred different reasons.

Steve Maraboli beautifully writes: You are beautiful. Your beauty, just like your capacity for life, happiness, and success, is immeasurable. Day after day, countless people across the globe get on a scale in search of validation of beauty and social acceptance.

Get off the scale! I have yet to see a scale that can tell you how enchanting your eyes are. I have yet to see a scale that can show you how wonderful your hair looks when the sun shines its glorious rays on it. I have yet to see a scale that can thank you for your compassion, sense of humor, and contagious smile. Get off the scale because I have yet to see one that can admire you for your perseverance when challenged in life. It’s true, the scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love. Don’t give the scale more power than it has earned. Take note of the number, then get off the scale and live your life. You are beautiful!

Get Off The Scale!

― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Seriously. No, I mean really... SERIOUSLY.

Unfortunately because I also lived with a self worth that was ridiculously tied to the number spit out by a piece of plastic on the floor, I know that while hearing people say those things is nice, it really doesn't help. So, I'm going to try to reach you on a level that I hope will make a difference and wait for you to slowly learn all those things Steve was just talking about when you finally do get over the scale.

The Scale Is A Liar

The scale doesn't have ANY idea WHAT you are. As Steve pointed out it gives you a numerical reflection of your relationship to gravity and that's IT. When it weighs you, it weighs EVERYTHING. Muscle, bone, water, glycogen in our muscles, the food you just ate, the water you drank, etc, etc. Fat is only ONE of MANY things it's weighing. It can go up or down based on whether or not you need to go to the bathroom.

Why on earth would you hate yourself over a 0.5lb difference when it could be something as silly as a full bladder or the breakfast you just ate? Or hormones? Water weight alone has been said to change our weight anywhere from a 1/2lb to as much as 10lbs, averaging somewhere around 5 for most women.

The Math Of Fat Loss

In order to lose one pound of fat, we must burn 3500 calories more than we've consumed. That means to lose 1lb of FAT per week we need to be in a deficit of 500 calories a day, every day. In order to gain 1lb of FAT we need to consume 3500 calories more than we burn. That includes through exercise and just the simple fact of being alive.

For example:

*you get on the scale when waking up. It says: 130lbs*

*you eat 1500 calories, burn 2000, drink a gallon of water*

*you get on scale again before going to bed (yes, I know you're getting on multiple times a day.. stop it)

*the scale says: 134lbs*

*now you're fuming mad because you were so "good" all day, you want that reward of seeing a lower number!*

That's silly! It's ALWAYS going to be higher at the end of the day than the morning, yes by several pounds even. Let's look at the math above and challenge the number. To actually gain 4lbs of fat you'd have to consume 14,000 calories more than you burned. Did you consume 14,000 calories more than you burned in one day? Of course not! Still, the scale says you're 4lbs heavier at night for all the other reasons I already mentioned. Think it's trustworthy much? NO. It's not reflecting fat gain, just completely NORMAL daily fluctuations in weight.

Let's look at a morning example:

*you get on the scale before bed: 144lbs*

*you lay motionless, sleeping all night*

*you get on scale upon waking and it says 139lbs*

*you get on scale 2 minutes later after going to the bathroom and it says 38.5lbs*

Did you burn 17,500 calories while you were sleeping? That's how many you'd have to burn to lose 5lbs of fat. No, of course you didn't. Did you burn 1750 calories walking to and from the bathroom? Of course not.

Much, if not most of the time you're getting on the scale the number it spits back at you is not reflecting fat loss or gain, it's merely reflecting fluctuations in weight.

Are you STARTING to see why the numbers don't really matter? And why associating your self worth to the number on a piece of plastic that can be affected by even something like bowel movements is asinine?

Come on ladies, we're intelligent individuals in the rest of our lives it's time to start applying it here! Take the emotion out of that number long enough to approach it rationally and you'll be amazed at how much more peace you'll have!

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss

Now, notice above I was talking about losing FAT. Anyone who's ever started a diet has done so because they wanted to lose fat but there's a BIG difference between "weight loss" and "fat loss". Sadly everyone is so obsessed with the instant gratification of weight loss that the majority of mainstream fad diets are designed towards that instead of teaching us the right way to accomplish the latter.

Take a look at the image above for a second, it's a great visual.

Weight loss = Muscle loss + Water loss + fat loss. It's accomplished by crash dieting and no (or improper) exercise. As much as 60% of weight loss usually comes from everything BUT fat. Weight loss decreases our fitness levels, reduces strength, performance and energy, reduces immunity, makes us look older, deflated, jiggly and weak. And the best of it? Weight loss usually destroys our metabolism making it easier to put weight back on and harder to take it back off the next time.

Weight loss focuses on the scale and sees food and calories as the enemy.


Fat loss = reduction of stored body fat, lean tissue maintained. This we achieve through proper nutrition and strength training. FAT loss improves fitness levels, increases strength, enhances performance & energy, reduces the risk of disease, keeps our metabolism healthy and us looking tight, strong, healthy and youthful.

Fat loss is a focus on everything else with the knowledge that food, when used correctly, is actually one of our biggest allies in building the bodies we want.

I understand that we live in a world of instant gratification so starving yourself to see a magic number go down can seem like a reward for a job well done and I know that's super appealing in the moment but how has that been working for you so far?

Also, ask yourself why whatever that magic number is for you matters. I spend every single day hearing all the wonderful changes that my clients are noticing in their clothes, their health (even if initially that means just getting rid of a life long battle with heart burn should be progress enough, shouldn't it?!), their butts, you name it... and then five minutes later I'll be talking the exact same women off a ledge when they've (ignored my advice to stay off ;) ) gotten on the scale. I reinforce why it doesn't matter and you know what I hear more times than not when I finish talking? "Yeah I know but... I just REALLY wanted to see XXXlbs". (We all do it, I'm not picking on anyone in particular, ladies ;) )

Why? No really. What in the world does that number even mean? Think about it. Why does it matter to you?

To those questions I usually get... "Because." Seriously, because why? Give it some real thought and try to come up with an answer that doesn't sound silly even to you when you think about it.

I have an exercise for you. Indulge me and do this. Go look in the mirror right now. Go ahead, I'll wait. Assess how you look and feel. Now, go get on the scale and then get in the mirror again. It's ok, I'm still waiting. Reassess how you look and feel AFTER getting on the scale. Now, picture for a moment that if (looking the way you do right at this moment) when you got on the scale it said a whole 100lbs more than it just did. It said 170lbs? Pretend for a second it said 270lbs. Would you feel disgusting and fatter than you just did? Now imagine it said say, 50lbs less than it did... that looking the way you do right now it told you that you were 120lbs. Would you feel beautiful and skinny and sexy and amazing? What difference would seeing a different number REALLY make?

The point? All things being equal WHY do you allow a number on a piece of plastic on the floor have so much power?

"Well, I don't know... because" <-- That rationale is just plain silly. Stop.

If after all that you still can't be trusted to stop giving it power, get rid of it. I'm not joking. Hide it, back your car over it one or twelve times, give it to an enemy (not a friend because friends don't give their friends scales ;) ) drop a nuke on it, anything... just get rid of it. Find a plan that you've seen produce the look and feel you want for yourself, get out of your head long enough to just get out of your own damn way and just WORK the plan consistently. You will absolutely achieve REAL results that will LAST instead of just trying to falsely manipulate the number on a piece of plastic for a short period of time.


Now that you've gotten rid of the scale, take pictures. Quit whining about how "disgusting" you think you are and get over it. You enjoyed every choice you made that got you here so just suck it up and do it. Then take some time to assess how you feel. Journal how you feel emotionally, physically, about yourself, about your body, the things you're not able to do or struggle with, the clothes that don't fit... etc. Now, work your plan for 30 days. Don't think about ANYTHING but being consistent about EVERY SINGLE little detail of it. Give it 100% day in and day out for 30 days and then sit down to assess how you look and feel, in the exact same way you did when you started. Take pictures again.

You can thank me at the end of the 30 days. ;)

Breaking the scale addiction will bring you the most incredible inner peace you can ever imagine. I promise.

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About The Author

Roni Davis
Cognitive Eating Founder

Writer, Producer, Host - It's All In Your Head Podcast

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Roni Davis spent over two decades struggling with weight, food (mindless, emotional and binge eating), an eating disorder, depression, panic attacks, and an anxiety disorder. She's also been a nationally qualified champion figure athlete, written for bodybuilding websites, was featured in a national fitness magazine, by and spent almost a decade helping people transform their bodies as an award-winning personal trainer and nutrition and wellness coach.


After over two decades of her own personal weight & food struggles and almost a decade in the weight loss/fitness industry, Roni left the fitness industry and bundled everything she learned from her own recovery, from her time as a trainer & nutrition & wellness coach with everything she learned in her mindfulness-based cognitive behavior coach training, to create Cognitive Eating.  This allows her to guide and support people to live healthier lives through behavior and habit modification at the brain level, where it counts and will actually stick.

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NOTE: While counselors or therapists often use CBT to deal with mental illness or a patient’s mental/emotional conditions and/or processing trauma, MBCT & cognitive eating does not. My roll as a coach, in its most simple form, is to encourage, coach and/or act as a facilitator of a client’s self-reflection, decision making, planning for the future, and creating life changes. As an MBCT & cognitive eating coach, I am obligated to refer clients in need of mental or physical health therapy to an appropriate licensed professional.  

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