That is indeed a question of existential nature for those of us who are Fat in the Head. On the one hand, how are you ever going to lose weight if you’re in denial of – well – your weight? On the other hand, what if weighing yourself regularly turns you into a sensible un-fun person who’s obsessed with weight?
For a long time, my attitude towards my weight could be described as ‘what you don’t know, can’t hurt you’. Plausible deniability also came in very handy at those family birthdays where the conversation would turn to this aunt’s new diet or that neighbour’s new exercise regime and the inevitable question of one’s weight. I’m not sure what I found worse: when someone would eventually ask me ‘how about you, what’s your weight?’ or when they would skip me, so as not to address the elephant in the room. (Oh no I didn’t!)
I know it’s completely irrational, but I always feared that becoming one of those sensible people who weigh themselves regularly would make me un-fun. And I do in all seriousness think there is something to say for sparing yourself the obsession over your weight. Particularly if you are not currently in the frame of mind to do anything about it. Yet, here we are today, and I’ve completely come around to the ‘To weigh’ side of the argument. Because I found that you can’t try to implement a healthier lifestyle and be in denial at the same time. I do, however, have notes on How to weigh yourself regularly without becoming obsessed. And it starts with becoming obsessed.
Martin Robbins over at The Lay Scientist weighed himself every hour over the course of three days, keeping track of his findings in a spreadsheet. He helpfully reported back in a ‘so you don’t have to’ kind of way. But like I said, I think you should, for a little while, get a little obsessed with your weight. Soon enough, like Robbins, you’ll start to see that there is absolutely no way to make sense of your weight on any given day. When a colleague complains about the 2kgs she gained over the holidays, I think ‘but that’s just the difference between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning.’ Sometimes I lose weight after pizza and beer night and gain weight after a day of treating my body like my temple. I can lose as much as 1kg between waking up and going for a morning swim on one day, or as little as nothing at all on another.
So after a while, you’ll start to shrug at what the scales tell you ‘today’, but you’ll start to notice trends. When you’re in the process of losing weight, you’ll find yourself wondering ‘where is the nine that used to be in the place of that eight? I haven’t seen that nine around in quite some time…’
Robbins suggests to take an average of your weight over the course of two to four weeks and use that number as an indicator of the ‘trend’. As I’m not completely immune to the ‘less weight is better’ bug (and since it’s all a bit arbitrary anyway), I prefer to take my lowest weight in a calendar month as ‘my weight’. It gives me an incentive to get on the scale everyday – countering any tendencies towards denial – because it would be a pity if I miss my True Lowest of the Month and would mistakenly believe I weigh more than I do. Plus, with only one number to remember at any time, it doesn’t require me to keep track of my daily weight in a spreadsheet. (Unless, of course, if that’s your idea of fun. Who’s obsessed now?)