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Musings on Scales

I recently bought a new scale – not actually for me but because of my cat, Fezzik.

I’ve been trying to monitor Fezzik’s weight, but since my old scale doesn’t have any decimal precision, it’s hard to know if Fezzik is really 16 pounds, 15.7, 16.3, or something else. And for a cat, those tenths of a pound make a much bigger difference than they do for people, especially if you’re trying to get that cat down to (roughly) 15 pounds.

But it felt a bit strange to buy a scale, and it got me thinking about some of the problems with weighing and scales in general.

Number fixation

One of the biggest problems with scales is that they tend to get you focused on a specific number, namely what you want to weigh. This can shift your focus in ways that aren’t healthy, such as contributing to disordered eating and discouraging you from paying attention to how you feel.

This strange number fixation came home to me when I realized I was a bit nervous about stepping on the new scale. I would have to do it, since the easiest method of weighing Fezzik is to get on the scale by myself, and then get on it again while holding him.

But what if the new scale said I weighed more than the old one?

Except – I wouldn’t really weigh any more, regardless of the numbers. Getting on the new scale wouldn’t suddenly make me heavier or lighter; it’s just that the new scale might be more accurate.

I know this intellectually, but emotionally, the numbers still have a bit of a hold on me, though I’m trying to shake that.

Too much data

I also discovered that new scales can give you new numbers to worry about and more ways to track them.

For example, I vaguely knew that you could get scales that track your body composition, but I didn’t realize that included identifying how much water is in your body, what your muscle and bone mass are, your BMI, etc.

And since my old scale is over twenty years old, I didn’t know that some new ones connect to your phone and health app to store data – though really, that shouldn’t have surprised me. It seems like almost everything is an app these days. But the problem with having all this information about your body on your phone means it’s always at your fingertips.

Personally, the idea of tracking all those numbers makes me shudder. It seems to invite a certain obsession with numbers, which to me often feels like a way to disconnect from your body, to treat it as just some data points, like it’s not part of you.

But your body isn’t some separate being that exists independent of you. You and your body are one and the same. And if having a “smart” scale makes it easy to forget that, it’s probably best not to have that kind of scale.

Scales are a mixed bag

Having a scale in the house isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You may want to periodically check your weight – or your cat’s weight – as I do, and that’s fine.

The problem comes if you’re focusing too much on what the scale is telling you, especially if it negatively impacts your mood. And if you’ve got all that data on your phone as well, you may feel those negative effects multiple times during the day.

So, I suggest being careful with your scale and try using it for general information about how your weight is trending, without running your life by it.


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