It’s time to throw away that scale and manage your weight in a healthy way.
With many people looking to participate in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Dry Feb campaign, this might also be an excellent time to start thinking about a “No Scales February.”
When you decide to make a lifestyle change, whether it’s improving your nutrition or increasing your activity levels, one of the most stressful parts for most people is anticipating weight loss and what the scale will reveal.
Stepping on the scale is heavy with emotions. If the number is down, you are happy and feel proud of yourselves, yet when those numbers don’t change or, worse, go up a little, people automatically feel disheartened, put into question their new habits, and will likely perceive them as failures.
There is another way to manage your weight that has little to do with the numbers on the scale.
So, put away those scales and focus on what you can learn and understand from your own body's cues. Your appetite and how much you eat are regulated by your metabolism (how quickly you burn food for energy), which varies from person to person.
Begin by understanding the difference between real hunger (tummy grumbling, making noises, and feeling hungry), false hunger (when you’re bored and eat to be busy), and psychological hunger (when you pick up a snack at the checkout because of a new flavour).
Cues let you know when to eat and when you have had enough, so paying attention to when you feel satisfied and comfortably full rather than bloated and uncomfortable will mean that you no longer need to count calories and weigh every single food item — get rid of the scale too! Who needs the stress? Not to mention, it's time-consuming.
Once you understand cues, you can assert your own needs. In social settings, this relationship with food might make you feel more inclined to eat the same quantities as others for fear of being judged on the amount of food you eat. When enjoying a meal with friends or loved ones, instead of feeling obliged to finish your plate, express how you feel satisfied and suggest that you are happy to take leftovers to work the following day.
Next, think about your relationship with food; how you see it significantly impacts the quality of what you eat.
Understand that eating unprocessed whole food such as vegetables, meat, whole grains, and fruit will physically fill you up more than processed and refined food, which provide very little fibre and therefore won’t really fill you up. Processed and refined food will leave you feeling hungry a short time later. Deciding to make the change and eliminate this food will give a purpose to what you are doing.
Once you start paying attention to your individual cues, it becomes easier to trust yourself rather than the number on your scales, which will never be able to tell you how you really feel.
When you let go of all the diets and restrictions, you can pay attention to what you need and don’t need. This also means that any physical activity will help you be more aware of your body’s hunger and fullness cues1.
Food and meals are often automatic activities that people do without paying much attention to. Instead, start enjoying your meals and food without the guilt and shame that often comes with following restrictive diets. It is time you can spend with family and friends, sharing not only food and conversation but creating connections.
Susan Alsembach is a nurse and registered holistic nutritionist. For more information about the services she provides, visit her website susanalsembach.com
1. Huot, Isabelle, and Catherine Senecal. Stop Eating Your Emotions: How to Live Healthy and Eat Happy. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2018.