It seems like everything we do lately is controversial. Most recently, scales. That one piece of equipment that so many women, and some men, define their value and worth by has been in the news. Why? Because a university (*gasp) removed it from their fitness facility.
If you haven't read about this story, it first started with an article on Breitbart titled "Carleton University removes scales from campus gym to promote body acceptance." After thousands of Facebook shares, comments and criticism, Carleton University stated in an article written in the star.com that they are rethinking their decision to remove the scales.
The Carleton University campus sign is pictured in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo: Nathalie Madore/CP)
My question is why? Why are we encouraging people to define their health and fitness by a number on a scale? There is so much more to you and your health than that number. In fact, that number can often destroy your sense of accomplishment, strength and achievement.
The scale does not tell you your muscle mass, how strong you are, your cardiovascular fitness, your heart rate, your blood pressure, your stress hormones, your cholesterol, the health of your lungs, the health of your organs or your freakin' self-worth! What the scale does is put you in a place where you often feel "less than."
"Less than" the image you had in your head of what health and fitness looks like for you. "Less than" anyone who is lighter than you. "Less than" anyone who has lost more than you. "Less than" the person you were two seconds before you set foot on that scale when you were feeling strong, healthy, vibrant.
Tell me this hasn't happened to you: You workout for weeks, you eat properly, you hydrate, you feel amazing. You feel strong. You feel like you've made progress. You're proud of yourself. Weigh in day comes. You set foot on that scale and for whatever reason, the number's gone up. Did you gain muscle mass? Are you retaining water? Are you weighing yourself at a different time of day than you did previously?
What the heck happened? Why did you gain? Who knows at that point. What I do know is that you're most likely going to step off that scale and feel defeated and "less than" the person you were seconds before that number showed when you felt fit and strong.
That scale? It doesn't tell you anything you don't know.
Isn't it time we started to assess fitness and health in ways that actually help people feel good about their progress? Or, on the other hand, help people assess when a fitness program or nutrition plan isn't effective for their body?
There are so many other tools that can be used that can help guide people towards healthy and active living. Girth measurements, scales of self-worth, medical tests, fitness assessments and body composition tests are just a few ways we could help people that yearn to be fit and improve their daily lives.
That scale? It doesn't tell you anything you don't know. You know when you're heavy. You know when you've gained weight. You know what it feels like to feel strong and amazing. Why do you need a scale to tell you otherwise?
I applaud Carleton University for taking this action. I, myself, recently worked on a campaign where we had women take a sledgehammer to their scales, bashing them to pieces and throwing them in the garbage. It was one of the most empowering days of my life.
Our campaign was called #ScrewSkinny. And yes, we got slack for the title. No, we weren't bashing skinny people, we were bashing the idea that we're defined by our weight or that we strive for words to describe how we're "supposed" to look.
It's time to open our eyes to new ways of assessing our health and fitness. It's time to remove obstacles and pieces of equipment that more often than not cause self-doubt, decreased feelings of self-worth and increased feelings of "it's not worth it, this isn't working, I give up."
Screw the scale, everyone. Get off the scale. Take a sledgehammer to it and define your health, your fitness, your progress (or lack thereof) some other way. One of the best ways? Be honest with yourself and remind yourself that you're worth working on. You deserve to feel good in your skin and you deserve to know what if feels like to have a healthy body and a healthy mind. You deserve to live life with energy to spare and confidence coursing through your body (probably due to improved cholesterol, ha!). You deserve to live a healthy life.
I can tell you, absolutely, that the numbers you see on your scale do not measure any of the above. We need to find the tools that can help people assess their health and fitness properly, as well as their self-worth and how they feel about themselves.
The scale is not that tool. It's time to ditch the scale.
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