Forget the Scale

My latest life’s lesson came to me during my recent doctor’s visit when I had to step on the scale. I was actually reminded of a lesson learned long ago, and the reason I don’t own a scale.

Sandy Sanders forgets the scaleBack in the day, I USED to be a slave to the scale. Had it still been back in the day, I would have been MORTIFIED at what I saw during my weigh in. I thought my weight was around 115/120 lbs – the ideal weight I’d set for myself YEARS ago. Like many I know, this was some ‘magic’ number I pulled out of my arse. There was no medical reasoning behind it; and no nutritionist or doctor prescribed it. It was just a weight that I “felt good at.” Well, these days I feel great so I figured I was hovering at my “great weight.” Imagine my surprise when the scale registered almost 130 lbs. At first I thought, “Surely the scale must be broken,” as I stood there and stared at the numbers. Then I realized it was a doctor’s office and I was pretty sure their equipment was working properly.

Other than momentarily surprising me, seeing my actual weight didn’t do anything to me. Ask me if back in the day a vision like that wouldn’t have sent my 5’2” frame RUNNING to the treadmill and pool! But the only thing it did was cause me to make a mental note, so that I could share one of my life’s lessons (or unsolicited advice 😉 ) with any members of my Athleta family who might be slaves to their scales.

I wasn’t at all bothered by 130. Heck, I don’t even mind putting my weight out there like that. There’s a reason I don’t own a scale – those numbers no longer mean a thing to me. The TRUE test is how my clothes fit, whether or not I can maintain the paces I’m used to while racing, or whether my race times are improving. THOSE are my only indications of my fitness level.

I have this friend who started working out. Excitedly, she watched the numbers on her scale drop, then became frustrated as she later saw the numbers climb. I asked her how her clothes fit and she said that they had become loose. I asked her if she really heard what she was telling me. The woman was LOSING inches, yet was frustrated by what the scale showed.

So my life lesson is actually a bit of unsolicited advice for my awesome friends out there, either starting on or feeling stagnant in their health and fitness journey: Please do not be a slave to the scale. Sure, scales may be great initially (because as you watch the numbers drop, you see your progress quantified), but as you continue to exercise, your muscle density will increase, and your fat will decrease, and the scale will start to tip heavier. That’s when you need to put “your friend” away… far away. Heck, even give it away. At that point, your motivating friend becomes your demotivating albatross. Don’t let that albatross weigh you down so much that you get frustrated to where working out is no longer fun and exciting, but frustrating and treadmill-ish – where you seem to be running in place and getting nowhere, and losing no weight.

So f(orget) the scale, and pay attention to things such as your endurance level as you’re working out, and the way your clothes fit. If you’re able to workout longer without getting winded, or you’ve run that 5K just a little bit faster, then that should tell you something right there. And just as your clothes told you that you were getting a bit heavier as they hugged you a bit tighter, they’ll also tell you that there’s less of you to hug as you’re toning up and getting fitter.

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Beth Miller

May 10, 2013 at 6:14 am

I too do not own a scale. I don’t like myself when I become obsessed about losing weight. I become frustrated and angry! I instead focus on eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and getting enough exercise. How much you weigh, is just a number.


May 10, 2013 at 6:23 am

Just what I needed on this new day. Thank you!


May 10, 2013 at 7:16 am

I weigh myself every morning and I believe it has helped me . But swollen days = bad days

Amy Hunt

May 10, 2013 at 7:19 am

Holla! I am so with you on this. The days when I check out my weight just for the curiosity, I am surprised — either one way or another. It always comes down to the fit and how I feel. Always. It’s been a hard lesson, but the best one ever!

Lisa O'Connor

May 10, 2013 at 7:40 am

Amen! At my last annual dr appt, I, too, got a bit of a shock when the scale weighed in at 151 lbs – I’m 5’8″, but still! I run, I lift, I elliptical, I eat, generally, well…even the nurses said “Well, we can SEE the muscles in your legs, so that’s got to be all muscle!” And I realized that this was the reason that I, too, do not own a scale. Now, I’m not going to be strutting down the runway in a bra & panties & a pair of angel wings anytime soon, but I feel fit, my clothes fit great, and I can still rock a bikini pretty well for a 46 year old with two kids! So give the scale the old heave ho…you WILL feel better for it!

Lisa Kersh

May 10, 2013 at 7:41 am

I started a Biggest Loser Competition at work, and once again, I’ve become a slave to the scale! After my weigh-in last week, I told myself that I was not going to weigh myself all day, every day and I haven’t. It’s just way too stressful… I, too, like to go by how my clothes fit and how I feel. I refuse to let something as insignifcant as a number on a scale make me feel bad about myself and all that I’ve accomplished…

Meredith Deen

May 10, 2013 at 7:45 am

Thank you for your unsolicited advice today! I really needed it. It was “weigh day” today, and my numbers went up. I was disappointed, but I am feeling better and doing right by my fitness and eating goals. Your advice made me feel better. 🙂

Claire Lash

May 10, 2013 at 8:39 am

Great article – such a universal concern. Another way to think about it is that muscle is 18 percent more dense that fat, so as you build muscle your weight will stablize or increase at the same time it becomes more compact. Agree it’s much better to go by the signs than the scale.


May 10, 2013 at 8:55 am

THANK YOU!!!!!!! I am in the situation as you and your friend. I run and do yoga, a lot! The scale frustrates me. I just close my eyes when I go to the doctor when I get weighed (the only time I ever hop on the scale)


May 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

I tossed out my scale 23 years ago… Spent so much of my early 20s dealing with an eating disorder.. At 48 I am happy healthy and run 1/2 marathons, something I could never had done at 97lbs.. I don’t know what I weigh and I do not care…


May 10, 2013 at 11:20 am

I need to toss my scale. I’ve tried challenges NOT to look at my scale and still jump on. Since I started crossfit, I have gained weight which bothered me however, my clothes fit better and I’m not afraid to wear tank tops. Thank you for this unsolicited advise. It was just what I needed today.


May 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

I think in this world, where beauty is measled down to the numbers on the scale by the media…people (women more-so than men) get so discouraged by the desire to be “more skinny or beautiful”; when in fact they are more gorgeous than they think-and feel! Scales-just like mirrors are not accurate in reflecting our beauty back—>it is what we feel inside that matters! Who gives a hoot what anyone else thinks! WE KNOW we are the most beautiful US there will ever be, because truth be told—>we are the only us that will ever walk the face of this world in this lifetime, right?!! Embrace every inch of you, whether it is curvy, flat, a little more cushion, toned, whatever. YOU are YOU, and that ROCKS! 🙂 Y’all are inspiring, beautiful, and amazing!


May 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Nice article Sandy, and so true! I don’t own a scale for that exact reason – I don’t see anything positive in owning one, unless for some reason, you need it for medical reasons. Clothing and fitness levels are a far better indicator of how you are faring with regards to weight control and health. I’m going to share your article with my own clients – thanks for writing this!


May 11, 2013 at 7:20 am

This is how the diet industry rakes in billions each year….by guilting us into feeling inferior about ourselves, all because of a number on the scale or on a clothes tag. Our society does maintain a prejudice against overweight people. It’s a stigma that’s difficult to overcome. I was in France a few years ago. I was at a normal “American” weight, as was my daughter. We walked by a group of guys who said something in French, and started laughing. I asked my daughter what they said, which was “two cheeseburgers.” If she had told me sooner, I would have turned right around and showed them some “New York”! Uh, pour hommes, I’ll take a BEER with that CHEESEBURGER any day!!!!


May 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Thank You!!!!! I am a vegan. I don’t eat wheat or soy. I don’t eat deserts. I don’t eat meet. I have an unhealthy obsession with my weight. I weigh myself 2-3 times a day. I recently started a very rigorous daily work out routine. I have become increasingly frustrated to find that although I eat 1200-1500 calories a day and work out like crazy I am in fact gaining weight. Even though I am now fitting into size double zero jeans I am still dissatisfied with what the scale is telling me. I’m throwing away my scale when I go home tonight. The madness needs to end!

Sandy S

May 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

My fellow athleta-etes, so glad this resonated with you as it took me a while to learn this lesson — to not let some numbers on a scale sabotage my efforts by breaking down my confidence built through diet and exercise. 🙂

Lisa Kersh, good luck with your Biggest loser competition!

Rhea, good for you for recognizing the madness! you actually had me cheering when I read that you were going to throw away your scale. YOU GO GIRL!! take it from me — do NOT let the scale sabotage all your hard work by making your efforts feel wasted. I truly hope you can break the cycle of constantly letting some scale dictate your level of health and fitness.


May 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

I wish I had the patience (and faith) to use the way in which my clothes fit as a tool to see how my weight loss journey goes. Granted it is a long term commitment, but sometimes I need that short term encouragement of losing a couple of pounds to keep me going. But I, like your friend, get discouraged when the scale goes in the opposite direction. It could be as simple as excess water or salt consumption, etc., but it never fails. It’s a constant struggle that I know I am not alone in.

Liz Durning

May 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Yay Sandy! I don’t weigh myself. When I go to the doctor’s office, I tell them, “Don’t tell me.” I know the doctor would tell me if there was any unusual change. Life has its ups and downs, why can’t the scale? LOVE the picture!

Sandy S

May 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Lindsey, if you need that short term encouragement, then go for it. I’m not saying the scale is evil as it does help people quantify their results — early on. BUT just know that as you start to tone up and increase your muscle density, the scale may be sabotaging what you feel is your progress because you may end up doing what I found myself doing — getting frustrated that the numbers were going UP! Yikes! But girl, take comfort in the fact that you’re DEFINITELY not alone. I can’t tell you the number of my friends who teach fitness classes who get frustrated as they try to stay in shape. But don’t get discouraged. Just know that everytime you pop in that fitness DVD; take a fitness class; walk your dog; play with your kids; run that 5K; or whatever else you do to stay active, you’re making progress. Go lindsey go!!!

Liz, haha glad you love the picture! Funny story. Because I don’t own a scale, i was trying to think of where I could get a pic of one and my daughter reminded me that one of the bathrooms in my office building had one. So there we were, going back to my office building around 8 pm after I’d taught a class, and the kids had finished their football practice, to snap photos of me with a scale! Maybe the next time I get weighed at the Dr’s office i’ll bet myself on what i think my weight is. If i win i get 2 chocolate gluten free donuts. If i lose, i only get 1. 😉

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