To Scale or Not to Scale? A Better Way to Measure Progress.

Article By: Tiffany Willis

Tiffany is a Bariatric Coach, Bariatric Patient Advocate, and Co-Host of the Life After Fat Pants Podcast. After losing 349 pounds in just 18 months following bariatric surgery in 2012, Tiffany has dedicated her life's work to helping those suffering from morbid obesity disease.

  1. “How much weight do you want to lose?”
  2. “What is your goal weight?”
  3. “How much do you weigh?”

These questions have haunted me for most of my life. As someone who used to weigh 531 pounds, it was so hard to feel like my entire life was defined by a number on the scale. Even after weight loss surgery, the constant talk about pounds makes me uncomfortable.

Everyone close to me was so excited for my post-op progress that they wanted to know details about my specific weight. My brother even bought me The Biggest Loser scale due to the high weight that it went up to. It wasn’t the birthday gift I was hoping for that year, but his heart was in the right place.

The thing is, I didn’t like numbers on a scale then, and I don’t especially like them now. The scale meant success or failure. The scale was judge and jury. So, as my weight was coming off, I made it a “rule” to weigh myself only one time a month at the follow-up appointments in my surgeon’s office. I get that it’s a somewhat necessary evil, but I won’t ever forget those first few nerve-wracking post op visits. I mean let’s face it, they were really post-op weigh-ins. In the end, what worked for me, was to have regular weigh-ins, outside my home, in a controlled, clinical setting. These appointments validated that I was continually losing weight. On average, I was dropping about 15 pounds per month. It was a great feeling. Had I been weighing myself in my own home morning, noon, and night, on that scale my brother bought me, I would have been a neurotic basket case.

This was very scary to me because constant, impulsive measurement of our progress can lead to real anxiety — especially for those of us who have struggled with weight. Is the number going up? Down? Staying the same? What if the number is, in fact, going up and up and up? What if I tell someone my actual weight and it’s a certain number that still sounds too heavy? What is the exact “right” number for me? Yes there are benchmarks and rough ballparks and approximations for where we all want to be weight-wise, but, for me, the incessant weighing felt more dangerous than constructive. So, I started telling people that I just wanted to be get to a size where I would feel comfortable in my own clothes — buttons, snaps, zippers, and all. What I wanted from my weight loss wasn’t a number on a scale — but rather a feeling in my bones. That feeling is one of confidence. It’s a feeling that says I’m comfortable in my own skin because I’m healthy.

As a bariatric patient, I believe in regular weigh-ins to check my continued progress and to notice any trends. However, I refuse to let the number on the scale define who I am. I did that for way too long. The entire bariatric surgery process is an extremely psychological one. It requires a positive mindset to keep moving in the right direction, and to have the pressure associated with constantly stepping on a scale seems like a distraction. I say weigh in at the doctor’s office in regular intervals, so you don’t obsess over your progress. Instead, focus on being healthy, making healthy choices, and moving your body.

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