Do you allow a number on your bathroom scale to make or break your day?

The scale doesn't measure your self-worth. It simply measures the weight of your tissues (bones, muscle, organs and fat) and substances just passing through (like water, food and waste). Your weight can fluctuate dramatically depending on time of day, hormones, when and what you ate, and other factors - none of which have anything to do with your value as a person.

When you're losing weight gradually (clearly the best way), you may not see significant changes in your weight day to day, and perhaps even some weeks. Further, when you exercise you'll build muscle and lose fat; although the numbers might not change, your body composition is improving. If you're depending on the scale to tell you how you're doing, you may feel discouraged and tempted to give up even though great things are happening on the inside.

Weighed down

If you've ever said any of these things to yourself, you already know how weighing yourself can sabotage your efforts:

• I did so well this week; I deserve a treat.

• I was so good, but I didn't lose any weight. I might as well eat.

• I don't have to weigh in until next week so if I overeat now I can make up for it later.

• I only lost half a pound. It wasn't worth it.

Take the weight off your shoulders

• Be honest about how the numbers affect you. If weighing yourself backfires, put your scale under the sink.

• You never need to weigh yourself more than once a day. If you do, you're playing games by measuring meaningless physiological fluctuations.

• Let go of old benchmarks. You may never again reach your wrestling or wedding day weight, but you can live an active lifestyle and make conscious choices that serve you now.

• Don't weigh yourself to confirm what you already know. When you've been mindful of your choices, don't take a chance that the scale will derail your confidence.

• Don't use the scale to punish yourself. When you know you're off track, focus on the changes you'll make rather than beating yourself up.

No weigh

A man I met at a conference recently said, "I don't need a scale; I have pants." Look for other ways to assess your health and progress, too:

• Resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol or fasting blood sugar.

• Minutes of walking, steps on your pedometer or pounds of weight you're able to lift.

• How do you feel? Tune in to your energy level, mood and stamina.

Ultimately, meaningful change takes place from the inside out.

Michelle May, M.D., is founder of the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshops ( that help individuals break free from mindless and emotional eating to live a more vibrant, healthy life.


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