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August 1, 2019

Throw Away the Scale

Throw Away the Scale

**Content warning: the beginning of this blog explains the history of scales and their association with glorified weight loss. To skip over this information, scroll to the subtopic, “Why Scales don’t Measure Actual Health.”

In American culture, scales are often a household staple. They are in bathrooms, gym locker rooms, medical offices, and more. While at times, scales can be important for medical monitoring or developmental growth assessments, they are often unnecessary to have in homes. For those with eating disorders, an easily accessible scale can fuel the disorder, lead to obsession, and spark dangerous behaviors like bingeing, purging, or restricting food intake.

The History of the Scale

While scales were invented hundreds of years ago to measure goods, the “bathroom scale” or the scale used to weigh humans wasn’t developed until the late 18th century. Scales became popularized in the 1920s when they were widely produced and served as an innovative novelty positioned on public streets. As individuals stopped paying to weigh themselves and the industry lost profits, companies began to make improvements in scale technology—ultimately creating the household scale.

Initial Uses of the Scale

The household scale became popularized in the early-mid 1900s at the same time that dieting as a means to weight loss became commercialized. This led the household scale to be used as a tracker of “health,” or so medical professionals thought at the time. This assumption then led to the glorification of thin bodies in the media, Hollywood, and magazines.

The idolization of thin bodies as healthy led individuals to pursue this new ideal. Oftentimes, the progression went like this: an individual saw the image of a thin figure on a magazine or read in the newspaper about the positive effects of dieting for weight loss, they then decided to go on a diet, in order to monitor the progress of the diet, they had to buy a scale. Once the individuals purchased the scale, they were able to weigh themselves daily to monitor the progress of their diet. These actions and this belief system contributed to disordered eating throughout the United States.

Unfortunately, in a time when doctors correlated weight strictly to overall health, many eating disorder signs and symptoms were written off as part of the dieting process. The assumption that weight was a primary marker of wellness led doctors to encourage weight loss as a way to cure illnesses and ailments like respiratory conditions and chronic pain, despite the two illnesses often having little correlation.

Why Scales Don’t Measure Actual Health 

While weight may be one indicator of health, it certainly isn’t the only one. Weight alone is not an accurate measure of health because it doesn’t take into account factors like muscle mass, mental wellness, lifestyle, blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, heart health, and much more. By measuring an individual’s health on weight alone, we are missing out on some of the most important indicators of health and wellness including an individual’s quality of life, mental wellness, and their ability a live the life that they desire to.

Another reason why weight and health cannot be synonymous is because individuals of all different sizes can be equally as healthy and individuals of the exact same size can differ in health. This is due to body diversity. By understanding body diversity and that individuals can maintain health at every size, society can begin to unravel the problematic association of low weight and weight loss with health.

In Eating Disorder Recovery? Throw Away Your Scale

Eating disorders are severe brain-based mental illnesses that involve a negative fixation on food and body. Unfortunately, many eating disorders leave individuals feeling out of control and obsessed with food, body, weight, and weight loss. This fixation often directs itself to the household scale, with many individuals who are struggling with eating disorders weighing themselves multiple times a day—and punishing themselves based on the results.

This pattern of thinking, monitoring weight, and acting based on the results is an eating disorder behavior that recovery works to lessen the severity of. In order to successfully work through recovery and let go of eating disorder behaviors, it may be necessary to throw away the scale. By eliminating the scale from your home, you can…

  1. Promote healing. While throwing away your scale and having no way to weigh yourself may be initially terrifying, frustrating, or challenging, it can also facilitate healing. By eliminating one way to punish your body, you commit to recovery and show your body that it is not something to be bullied.
  2. Avoid triggers. By not having access to a scale, you can avoid an eating disorder trigger since you will no longer have access to your weight fluctuations. This could aid in decreasing compensatory behaviors and feelings of shame tied to weight gain or weight loss.
  3. Find freedom. When individuals in eating disorder recovery throw away their scale, they often find a sense of freedom. By getting rid of a tool used as a way to punish yourself, you may experience a sense of relief and freedom.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to know that there is help. By seeking professional support, individuals can experience a full recovery and lead a life in recovery. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can learn more here. If you are ready to start recovery, The Emily Program is happy to walk alongside you. Start your journey to healing by calling 1-888-364-5977.

Get help. Find hope.