How to Love Your Body, Regardless of the Number on the Scale

As a student at Utah State, I participated in a research study involving elementary school students. The study used a game during school lunch to encourage kids to eat more vegetables. As part of the data collected, we took biometric readings of the students including height, weight, and nutrition knowledge.

One day, I was in the school helping with the data collection. The student I was working with was a young girl, probably about eight-years-old. She was super willing to provide all the information. She did the nutrition knowledge survey without question; she let me record her height without hesitation; but when I asked her to get on the scale, so I could record her weight, she refused.

I assured her that it was okay and it was for science, but she said she didn’t want to. I told her that if it would make her feel more comfortable, I could cover up the number and I wouldn’t show anyone. No matter what suggestion I offered, she absolutely refused.

Needless to say, I was not able to convince that little girl to get on the scale that day.

Did you feel that? Did you feel the pain and sadness for that little girl? Did you just want to shake her and tell her she’s beautiful and that number doesn’t matter?!

I sure did! But then I thought a little bit more.. How many times have I avoided the scale because I didn’t want to see the number? How many times have I felt fear or dread because my weight went up? How many times have I CARED about the number on the scale?

And then it hit me..

I contributed to that little girl’s reaction.

Societal Expectations

Expectations are HEAVY in the society we live in. We, women, are constantly bombarded with molds that we are expected to fill and shapes we are expected to fit into. It is mentally exhausting, and it really takes a toll.

It’s difficult, though, because the situation is not black and white. Being healthy is a big gray blob, and it is so hard to navigate!

Is it good to remove excess fat from the body? YES! Why? Because excess fat contributes to type 2 diabetes, joint pain, inflammation, heart disease, etc. Excess fat also limits our physical capabilities. It can restrict us and prevent us from doing something we really want to do.

However, the mindset is what makes it gray. Here are some examples.. Can you tell the difference?

  1. Needs Improvement: I need to lose weight. I was so naughty over the weekend and gained three pounds. I need to get back on track.
  2. Better: This weekend was a fun weekend. I ate foods for social enjoyment, but my body is now telling me those foods were not appreciated. I’m going to focus on giving my body the nourishment it needs and the movement it wants.
  3. Best: Don’t say anything at all. Your relationship with your body is not something that needs to be broadcasted. It’s just between you and your body.

The first mindset is completely focused on the number on the scale. The first mindset also focuses on good and bad. “I was naughty” just creates a cycle of guilty disordered eating.

  • Eating good foods = I am good
  • Eating bad foods = I am bad

This type of mindset connects healthy habits to emotions and makes them characteristics of WHO YOU ARE.

You are not fat. You have fat. You are not bad. You are human. The first mindset makes healthy principles part of you as a person, when they should just be characteristics of your life.

The second mindset treats foods and healthy habits as aspects of life, simply things we can do to help our bodies function at their optimum level. Healthy habits are tools.

The third mindset is the best mindset, and probably the hardest to comprehend. Let me share a metaphor to try to explain it:

Let’s talk about potty training! When a child is learning to use the toilet, they talk about it all the time. If they go poop in the potty, the whole world knows, and they are celebrated. If they have an accident, they go hide behind a chair in fear that they will get in trouble.

This is a lot like us when we are starting a health journey, right? When we are doing well, seeing results, cooking good food, we want the whole world to know! We talk about how much weight we’ve lost, and we are celebrated, right?

Well, let’s continue with the potty training. As the training continues, the child eventually catches on. They get better and better at going potty, and the praises diminish. Finally, going potty in the toilet is just a natural part of their life.

Could you imagine if we praised adults for going poop in the potty??! Hahahaha. We don’t because it’s just expected. Using the toilet is just an integral part of life.

The same principle is what we find in the third mindset mentioned above. At first on your health journey, you’ll receive the praise, but the goal is for healthy habits to become an integral part of life. Eventually, you shouldn’t talk about it because it’s just the way your life is! There’s no “being healthy” because being “unhealthy” just doesn’t exist in your reality. When people say, “you’re so good!” for making a healthy choice, you won’t understand because good and bad no longer exist in your reality.

I hope that makes sense…

Self-Love

A health journey is not about changing who you are. Rather, it’s about discovering who you can be and creating the person you want to be.

Health encompasses so much more than just weight. There are five main aspects of health — physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. When a holistic approach is taken to health, all five areas are incorporated, which helps keep a solid mindset.

If you are starting on your health journey, or even somewhere along the path already, take some time to learn about your body. Ask yourself why you are on this health journey. Is it to lose weight? Why? Why do you want to lose weight? Do you want to lose weight to be skinny?

That’s not a good mindset.

How about losing weight so that you can keep up with your kids on the playground? That is a proper mindset. Then following that, your focus should be on the increasing time that you are able to spend on the playground, not the number of pounds you lose.

Your body is a miracle. Just think about all the incredible things your body can do and does do for you everyday! With how much your body does for you, maybe it’s about time you did something for it in return.

A great start is to show it some love. Every morning, tell your body something you are grateful for about it. Try to make it about something that you actually dislike. For example, I have early signs of carpal tunnel, so I often get pain in my wrists. When I feel the pain, rather than saying, “Oh, my wrists hurt,” I say, “Thank you wrists for continuing to support my hands.”

The more love you send to the areas that you dislike, the more your mindset will change. With that change of mindset, your whole life will change. You will no longer be on a health journey, you’ll just be on your journey of life.