Last night on This Is Us a scene opened up to the character Kate prepping her meals. She cut up her chicken, weighed it on a scale, entered her calories into an app, and labeled everything in the fridge. She even posted motivational photos on the refrigerator.
The next scene shows Kate attending her weight loss support group. She’s nervous to step on the scale, admitting that she wants to pee again just to lose a little more weight. After weeks of staying on track, Kate steps on the scale. Her group leader congratulates her on a great weight loss of 1.25 pounds. Although her group leader and boyfriend were excited for her, Kate stood there in disappointment, sneaking out of the group early.
I’ve been there and it is the most defeating feeling. You plan out your meals, track everything you eat, push yourself in your workouts, and yet, the scale doesn’t reflect the way you feel at the end of the week. At that moment, you doubt yourself. You doubt all the effort you’ve made. You doubt that it’s working. You doubt that you can do this.
Now Kate struggled with her weight loss because that was her weight loss for a couple of weeks, not just one week. If she had lost that much weight in one week, I hope she would have been proud. The challenge lies in our ability to trust that we are making our wellness a priority. That by planning out our meals, we’re eliminating the last minute choices and the pressure to choose healthy foods under pressure. That by tracking everything we eat, we’re making sure we’re eating enough for our bodies, but not too much. That by pushing ourselves in our workouts, we’re improving our cardiovascular health, strengthening our bodies, and improving our mental health. We do all of these things to live healthier lives. For those of us who are overweight, we also hope that these changes lead to weight loss. That by doing these things, we will consume less calories over time and improve our overall health. Not seeing our effort reflected on the scale is hard.
In a different context, later in the show, Kate talked about getting right back on plan. As hard as it is maintain motivation, focusing on the habit changes and not on the scale is important. For those who have been overweight for a portion of their lives, it’s easy to feel hopeless. To feel like it’s not working again. To feel like you’re not doing something right. To feel like you need to reconfigure your plan. To feel like like you’re unsuccessful. It’s hard not to feel these things, because I really think a lot of people feel this way when the scale doesn’t reflect their effort.
It’s easy for people to say, “don’t focus on the scale”. I personally always find non-overweight people telling me that, which is comical. For those who are overweight, the very people who classify us as overweight, doctors, use the scale as the method for determining this classification. That or the BMI, which uses weight as part of the classification. The scale is what overweight people, and non overweight people, have long been told to use as an indicator of health and success, so we do just that. We step on the scale, at least once a week, to see if our actions are impacting our weight in a positive way. When they do, we feel fantastic and motivated. When they don’t, self doubt settles in. The highs and lows of weight loss, through the lens of the scale, are difficult and I think those who are overweight or obese know this through an even tougher lens.
It has taken me years to find a place where I strive not to allow the scale to dictate my self-worth and even still, I have those moments like Kate where I’m surprised the scale doesn’t reflect the level of effort and change I applied to the previous week. It’s hard to see a small loss, to see the scale stay the same, or to see a gain. It just is. The older I get, the harder it is to see those big losses, so staying focused on the changes I am making each day and each week is so important. Although I am still weighing myself, focusing on my wellness and daily choices has been helpful. I am focusing on what I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how hard I push myself in my workouts, how much sleep I am getting, and how much I invest in my own self care.
The scale is often a platform of judgement, personal judgement, and This Is Us did a great job of sharing Kate’s experience and emotions with the show’s audience. Staying focused and motivated, regardless of what the scale says, it important, but I hope those who are trying to lose weight know that they are not alone is their disappointment when the scale doesn’t reflect their effort. We just have to keep moving forward and to look beyond the scale.