Friday, July 15, 2011

Trust Yourself. Except When You Can’t Be Trusted.

6:04 PM
Hi Lori,

 Could I bother you for some support again?? Am *really* struggling with wanting to weigh myself. If you had a moment could you please remind me why this is not a good idea.

Wouldn't it be great if there were a similar warning posted above
your scale? TURN BACK NOW! Or face the consequences!

Here’s what I’ve got:
  • It's  too high god knows what I’ll do – and that is not good for my safety
  • If it’s where I want it to be or lower then ED is the one telling me how to feel
  • I really do want to be rid of all this, and weighing myself will only prolong my recovery
  • It will be 13 weeks tomorrow without weighing myself – and I’m proud of that
  • I really feel that my recovery only started for real when I stopped weighing

Any other thoughts would be really gratefully appreciated
Thank you

And here was my response last night:

"I think you nailed it, PJ. Weighing yourself messes with your head. Not weighing yourself allows you to take charge a bit. Body mass doesn't change in 24 (or 72 hours) in any measurable way. But changes in weight may reflect bowel function, hydration, menstrual status, fluid retention, to name a few. It takes 3,500 calories per week (above whatever is required to maintain your weight) to gain a single pound, more than that if your metabolic rate is on its way up.

You are worth more than your weight in pounds (or kilos). Also, not weighing yourself may increase your anxiety. Be sure to acknowledge that and add some stress reduction (non-exercise focused) activities to help you cope."

This isn’t to say that nobody should weigh herself. It really depends on what your issue is and what kind of place you are in.

A 2005 study from a Brown University psychologist showed that regular weighing was associated with better maintenance of weight loss in an obese population of women. Perfect! I think I’ll start daily weighing, I bet you’re thinking. Not so fast, not so fast.

Lot's of steps before you reach your goals.
Is it worth it?
Weight management isn’t the only outcome we should be addressing. What about the impact, not on pounds, but on perceptions? Are you grounded enough that if the scale changes, yet you know in your heart you have been sticking to your goals and feeling in control of your eating behaviors, listening to and respecting your body, that you will be able to dismiss it as a senseless measure?

Or will this trigger more negative thoughts about your self, more obsessive thinking, and a sense of failure? If you are in a good place—grounded enough to roll with the scale fluctuations, which are sure to occur—you may be fine weighing your self. But please don’t make this decision on your own. Consult your supports.

First ask yourself “How will I feel if the results aren’t what I am expecting?” Am I truly more anxious not knowing my weight, or knowing it? Will it be destructive for me? If the answer is honestly no, then try the following.
Before getting on the scale, do a bit of a self-assessment. Ask yourself:
  • Have I been honoring my hunger and eating when I need to?
  • Have I been stopping when I’ve had enough, or when I’ve had what I think I should have based on unhealthy food rules I’m holding on to?        
  • Am I respecting my activity goals, and listening to my body?
  • Am I being honest with myself about my actions?
  • How am I feeling? What positive changes have I made that I need to acknowledge?

And finally, have a plan before weighing. What do I know and plan to do differently, as a result of my self-assessment?

What can you take from my correspondence with PJ?

Here's the view from the top. Worth the trek? 
Like PJ, you probably have more sense than you realize. But if you are struggling with trust and feeling more vulnerable to your unhealthy behaviors, take a few pointers from her.

  • Acknowledge you are struggling. 
  • Whether you are working on weight restoration or are overweight and trying to lose weight and improve your relationship with food, be realistic. Change isn’t linear. In other words, there will be ups and down, progress and slips, moments of strength and times of hopelessness. That’s what recovery really looks like.
  •  Reach out and ask for what you need. Not everyone around you is supportive, however (I’m sure you can provide plenty of examples for us!) So call, email, text, post an S.O.S. to those you feel you can count on.

Focus on what is in place. And make a plan for changing what needs to be changed.

Thanks, PJ, for allowing me to share this! 

Please add your thoughts and experiences to the comments. Looking forward to hearing from readers.


  1. Knowing my mind and how it works, I tend to obsess over numbers (weight, calories, BMI, etc.) to an unhealthy extent. Solution: get rid of numbers in my life. I don't know my weight or daily caloric intake, and I'm much happier. I guess it's possible for some people to have a healthy relationship with those things, but they've only been negative in my life.

    PJ, great job reaching out for help when you are struggling. I'm so stubborn that I'm rarely smart enough to reach out. Keep fighting!

    -Emily H.

  2. I am now nine days in towards recovering from over five years of disordering eating. This blog has REALLY helped me, I want you to know that.

    What you are saying makes sense, and it's so simple - just listen to my body, and honour my hunger! I'm starting to see that having good/bad foods has been incredibly harmful and I've actually been eating chocolate (in reasonable portions) and other previously labelled "bad" foods for the last few days. This is something that before would have triggered a B/P episode.

    This post reminds me that weighing myself is harmful and unnecessary. It reminds me that I'm more than just numbers on a scale and I'm inspired to take another step towards recovery and to work on this.

  3. Can I also just add to all that wisdom this follow-up piece of advice from Lori that really helped me too:

    "We cannot expect to be clear in our thoughts and balanced in our mood if our bodies are starved."

    It is so true. I hadn't been honoring my hunger - and as a result I let disordered thoughts creep back into my mind and try to derail my recovery.
    But I'm back on track now - thank you :)PJ

  4. This post was very helpful for me. I am currently working to gain weight in my recovery and it's very hard. This reminded me that my positive behaviors to nourish my body are more important that the number on the scale.

  5. Thanks for this, and thanks for all your other posts too. I can't tell you how important it is to hear voices of sanity amidst all the madness - and yours is one of the most steadfastly sane around. I find a huge problem is that my various "issues" around food/weight/body image have filled me with such shame over the years that I long to be normal. But my healthier self knows deep down that in order to recover I'm going to have to go through a period where I have to do a lot of non-normal things. Things like keeping off the scale at all costs; eating to put weight on, unlike most women who are dieting to take weight off; and deliberately not looking at the nutritional info on food labels. And all these deliberately atypical behaviours, when I'm so wanting to be boringly normal and natural around the whole business, are all too often hard, hard, unutterably hard to do. Posts like this, though, give me the gentle kicking I'm constantly needing to keep me carrying on with the struggle. Thank you.

  6. Thank you so very much for this timely article and your consistently sage advice...I have recently returned to your site...a "haven in a heartless world"...after being lured into an ED-inducing world of Paleo dogma...filled with good calories vs. bad calories and bad, evil foods vs. good "acceptable" foods...I find this kind of mindset extremely triggering for those who would search for health after years of life-sapping EDs....I would look forward to your comments on these new "lifestyle" diets that seem to be counter intuitive to mindful "at peace with food" eating! I love your blog...Thank you for always insightful offerings...

  7. I'm so pleased that this post has helped ground so many of you. Did someone send out a "praise Lori for her blog" notice? Did I send out the vibes that I need a push to get my act together and start thinking about a book finally? Your feedback helps me enormously with taking my writing seriously and reaffirming what I believe is desperately needed by so many. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

  8. I printed this post out and put it in my journal, and captioned it "Change isn't linear" (love that bullet point). Thank you, thank you!

  9. I like the reminder there will be UPS and downs! I'm afraid I might have an UP when I see you tomorrow! But this reminds me THERE WILL BE UPS!

  10. This post is GREAT. Like Emily said, I too can preoccupy over numbers (and when it comes to weight and food, there are so many numbers to focus on that it can be overwhelming). So when I started working with a trainer whose first message to me was "stop worrying about the scale; weight is not a good metric for success" I was SO relieved. I now weigh myself only very occasionally to make sure the number is headed in the direction I want. But my real focus is just as you said - am I honoring hunger and fullness? Am I listening to my body and responding appropriately when it is tired, sore, fatigued, could work harder, etc.? Am I caring for it as best I can? Do I feel stronger/fitter/healthier?

    Like Hannah, I think I'll stick this post in my journal as well. The questions and bullet points here are so valuable, Lori. Thank you.

    Oh, and to connect back to a previous post you wrote about calorie tracking apps, if you were to read about the users of these apps (e.g. scroll through the message boards on MyFitnessPal) it would take you about 2.5 seconds to find people who weigh themselves daily, if not more than once a day. It's an obsessive behavior that is completely unhealthy, but that is encouraged by such apps because they teach you to think, well, if I fall under/above my calorie "goal" for the day then I must be losing/gaining weight and should see that on the scale instantaneously. This is (obviously) absurd and I think they'd benefit from reading your post.

  11. @ Sara thanks for the link back to the apps post. Do spread the word on those message boards to enlighten those still obsessed with these behaviors.
    So glad you are all finding this a positive reminder!