**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.