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Scale Back Your Scale Use

I’m going to give you one guess as to what the most common New Year’s resolution is. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Nope, it’s not “meditate more” or “stop muting the family chat”. The single most common New Year’s resolution is a total cliché: lose weight.

Two days before the end of the year, 29 December, is National ‘Get On the Scales’ Day – a national holiday (?) that is placed expertly to give you an eye-widening understanding of what the next calendar year should be dedicated to. Over the week between Christmas and New Year’s, people gain an extra 3 kilograms on average, with a standard Christmas Day consumption of around 7000 calories (that level is usually only acceptable if you are a professional athlete or the Cookie Monster).

When people step on the scales on 29 December, they’re likely to get a bit of a shock to the system and swear that they’re going to stick to the world’s most common cliché for resolutions.

It’s just a scale, right?

But I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the scale. A scale is an innocuous tool, but still capable of evoking huge swings of emotion. I would get on the scale each morning and the number I saw displayed near the tips of my big toes would set the tone for how I would feel for the rest of the day. A higher number than yesterday would mean ‘bad’, and a lower number ‘good’.

I’m not going to go into the intricacies of how we, as a society, classify someone’s worthiness by how small they are, but I do want to highlight the fact that the scale shouldn’t be your only tool for measuring your body – whether you’re trying to lose weight or not.

While I used to give a lot of my mental energy to the scale, I’ve shifted my mindset. For a start, my goal is no longer to lose weight, but to be fit and healthy and that looks a lot different to simply being tiny. The scale, as well, has evolved into just one of many tools I use to track my fitness progress.

I try to measure muscle density and keep that in mind – we have all heard the cliché that muscle is heavier than fat and while this is wrong (a kilo is always a kilo, no matter what substance it is made of), muscle is still denser than fat. You can be losing fat mass while gaining muscle mass, but not budging the scale, so your weight here is not an indication of your fitness. Similarly, you can measure parts of your body and track progress that way – losing 1 cm from your belly or gaining 1 cm on your biceps is definitely progress even if the number on the scale refuses to budge.

And then, of course, there’s simply the test of how your body feels – always listen to your body and do what feels right. Your body is an asset, and no number on a scale should inform your self-worth. What matters most is how your body can accomplish the tasks it needs to for you.

Anyway. Excuse me if I *won’t* be participating in national ‘get-on-the-scale’ day. Frankly, I’d rather get on with my life.

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Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African writer, teacher, epicurean, and (most importantly) mother to all cats. Tayla has been thinking (and subsequently writing) about food since she was a tiny tot after her mother taught her that measuring ingredients was for the weak. If you’re interested to see what Tayla has whipped up recently, check out her Instagram profile @tayla.blaire to see the recipes that she has lovingly filmed in her very own too-small kitchen.

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