Do I need to lose these 7lbs? (Content warning for weight loss)
August 23, 2017 3:05 AM   Subscribe

I recently discovered I weigh seven pounds more than I thought I did because it turns out I've been using a faulty set of bathroom scales: 8 stone 7 (119 lbs/54kg) instead of 8 stone flat (112 lbs/51kg) and I feel like I need to get "back" to what I thought I was.

So for the last 6/7 years I've only weighed myself infrequently, only ever on my mum's very old mechanical bathroom scales when I go to visit her because I don't own any of my own. Recently moved in to a new place where my housemate keeps a set of electric scales in the shared bathroom, and am VERY annoyed to discover that my mum's scale are out by a whole half a stone.

I've always been really secretly pleased that through no virtue of my own I've stayed the same low weight through all my twenties. I'm now 27 and starting to feel the need to take actual care of my body and so it's a psychological blow to see this higher number. I'm 5'3" and my "delusional weight" and my "actual weight" are within the "healthy" range of BMI for women, and my body fat percentage is decently low.

I just feel TERRIBLE to see that extra weight now, and wish I could go back to not knowing I was in error. Obviously this has been my weight the whole time, so my body hasn't changed, it's just the number change has skewed my perspective to the point where I'm feeling really uncomfortable and too big and to be perfectly honest, fat and undesirable.

But then on the other hand it feels weird to obsess about something which is only a number. I want to make an effort to restrict calories and up exercise so I can go back to where I "ought" to be... But maybe I should be trying to make peace with that seven pounds and use this as an exercise to learn not to obsess about numbers and to accept my weight and body? I've been half-heartedly trying to eat less but am still "stuck" at 119lbs and that makes me feel even worse about myself.
posted by mymbleth to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You are functionally the exact same weight you've been for at least 7 years. You have liked how you look in clothing etc and been comfortable in your body. You should not have a goal of losing 7 pounds that literally make no difference. Additionally, 5'3" and 119 pounds is already quite small for a UK woman.

so my body hasn't changed, it's just the number change has skewed my perspective to the point where I'm feeling really uncomfortable and too big and to be perfectly honest, fat and undesirable.

This sounds like a psychological challenge you might want some help with, because this is not in any way healthy and I think you realise that. However, I know you are also in the UK so the standard Ask refrain of "therapy!" isn't going to be of any help on the NHS unless you have insurance that will cover it or are willing to pay for a few sessions with someone who works with disordered eating (not that your eating is disordered but these are the people who have the most experience around weight and self-image.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:12 AM on August 23, 2017 [26 favorites]

Here's the thing. You've liked your body this whole time while you've weighed 119 lbs. If you lose 7 lbs, you won't be going back to anything; you will be pushing your body in a new direction. And that new direction will be a step or two away from the body you've had and been comfortable with for most of your twenties. I would work on accepting your weight as it is rather than trying to lose 7 lbs.
posted by colfax at 3:46 AM on August 23, 2017 [12 favorites]

I agree with the DarlingBri above. Seeking help if you can afford it is a sensible idea.

There are some things you can do outside of therapy to help regain your positive body image:

- Revisit you wardrobe: That gorgeous item of clothing you bought two or three years ago? Guess what, it still fits you because you haven't changed since then! Wear it, and other items that made you feel good when you bought them.

- Without "trying to eat less"(because you absolutely don't need to), have a think about your food intake. Are you eating healthy foods? If so, awesome, be proud of yourself. If you think some improvements could be made, do so in a way that is positive and fun- try cooking things you've never cooked before, experimenting with new flavours/ingredients etc.

In general, concentrate on the positives you identified above: you are healthy, and you still have the body of your 20 year old self! That is no mean feat!
posted by jonnyploy at 3:47 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you know its your mum's scales that are wrong? Just because your housemate has electric scales doesn't mean they're automatically more accurate. You should always weigh yourself at the same time of day on the same scales (and ideally the scales in the same position) if you want consistent readings - that's because there are so many factors that can affect weight and how scales measure. The actual number doesn't matter much just the difference in readings, if it ever does, you'll be being weighed by a medical professional, on hopefully calibrated and decently accurate scales.

At the end of the day, there is no actual weight and delusional weight, you have 2 numbers from 2 sources that disagree with each other, the delusion is that you have extra weight because a different scale said you do. And if you do work your ass off to lose that 7lbs - which is not going to be easy, your body is clearly happy at the size you are since its stayed that size without effort from you and being so small already, your BMR is already quite low so you don't have much scope for cutting calories - none of your clothes will fit. Do you really want to replace your whole wardrobe just because a scale said you're heavier than you thought you were?
posted by missmagenta at 3:53 AM on August 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry you're struggling with this. It can be very difficult to let go of your perception of what one number means to you versus another, even if you know that it's arbitrary. You know that those "7 pounds" don't exist, that the number itself doesn't mean much - as you said, your body hasn't changed, even if the number you had in your head has. It could be helpful to try to figure out why that specific number was so important to you, to talk to someone for help with accepting yourself and your body as you are.
posted by photoelectric at 3:58 AM on August 23, 2017

What you've just discovered is that the actual number on any given set of consumer-grade scales means and matters a whole lot less than the repeatability of that number on the same set of scales over time.

Bathroom scales are a tool for evaluating whether your bodyweight is rising or falling over time, either of which is an indication that how you're eating and how you're exercising are out of balance (assuming you are now fully grown i.e. have attained your adult size).

Your bodyweight has been stable all the way through your twenties. I think you would benefit from shifting your focus off the "pleasing lowness" of the absolute number and putting it squarely on its stability, because that stability is indicative of one of your bodymind's genuinely excellent features: a healthy ability to regulate itself.

If you start chasing some arbitrary goal weight (and it is arbitrary; you have no guarantee that a third set of scales won't give you yet another reading) then you run a very serious risk of doing more damage to that regulatory ability than you will ever easily recover from.

The fault is not in your scales. The fault is in your perception of what the scales are telling you. There is nothing wrong with your bodyweight. Modify your perception.
posted by flabdablet at 4:07 AM on August 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

Until recently you'd been doing so well not worrying about your weight. I'd hate for you to start now.

The crap thing is that our weight is less under our control than we like to think. When you get into a state of equilibrium for years without having to pay much attention to it, it feels great, but the payoff is once you get knocked off that equilibrium (by illness, injury, unavoidable lifestyle changes, regular old aging) not only do you not know how to change it, but you lose a sense of control that was ultimately illusory in the first place. This isn't even a change for your body; it's a calibration discrepancy. Don't borrow that stress.

Establishing good habits to take care of your physical and mental health into your next decades is a great idea. But trying to lose weight often does not establish healthy habits. For instance, building muscle through exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself in the long run... but muscle weighs a lot.

I have never been thin, but I did spend a few years maintaining a steady, healthy weight without really paying much attention. That was thirty pounds ago, and I won't lie - I miss that equilibrium, and being so "in control" of my weight (even though I ultimately wasn't) made me feel invincible. But if I can't be at the weight I feel best without it dominating my time and thoughts, and if my choices are between being fat-and-happy or being thin and constantly anxious about reaching/staying at my goal weight, fat and happy wins hands down.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:52 AM on August 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm currently house-sitting and the scale here says I'm about 2 lbs lighter than my scale at home.

Weight fluctuates from day to day, even from hour to hour. Unless you stepped off one scale and immediately onto the other scale, those 7 lbs may not actually be 7 lbs.

I get being upset by what the number is specifically but in the end, the number matters less than if you're happy with how you feel and look.
posted by darksong at 4:57 AM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Go buy your own scale, weigh yourself at the same time every day, and accept whatever it says as your baseline. All of your clothes fit you now, so unless you're really looking for an excuse to buy a whole new wardrobe, leave well enough alone.
posted by mareli at 5:44 AM on August 23, 2017

What if, when you stepped on the electronic scale, it told you that you weigh 7 lbs less than what you thought your weight had been all these years? Would you think, "Gosh, I need to gain that weight back, so that I can be at the correct weight!" Or would you think that's a welcome surprise?

My point is, either you were perfectly happy with the weight you've maintained all these years, or you subscribe to this very insidious idea (especially for women) that of course you love your body and yourself and the most important thing is to be fit and healthy... but if I magically wake up just a few lbs lighter tomorrow, I won't mind!
posted by tinydancer at 5:51 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get your friend to adjust her scale down by 7lbs so you feel better when you stand on it or just stop weighing yourself on your friends machine, go back to your mums only. Remember the numbers used to record weight is not set at the best of times, What if you weighed yourself in kilos, milligrams if you weighed yourself on the moon on Jupiter you'd also get a different reading than here on earth. You were happy & healthy before, a change in numbers because of machine error doesn't change your actual weight. Would you be worrying so much if the error went the other way & you were 7lbs lighter than you thought?
posted by wwax at 6:41 AM on August 23, 2017

I think what's happening here is that you are adjusting to a change in the facts and stats that you (happily) identified with. Unless you already have some kind of body issues, you *know* your body's the same as it's ever been, but you are having trouble adjusting to thinking of yourself as someone who weighs this instead of that, and since "this" is higher, and higher is socially designated as less desirable than lower, the change is uncomfortable. I get this. I am 5'4". If I suddenly learned that in fact I'm really 5'2" I would feel weird, even if I knew intellectually that I"d been this height all along. Since it's weight and not height you're dealing with it has that extra emotional/judgmental/female charge.
So this is more an interpretation of why this might be bugging you to the point of wanting to adjust your body to fit the number you thought was your weight, even though you know it's not rational and that your weight itself hasn't changed.
As for what to do about it? I'd say gently remind yourself over and over that you are not a number. And that your body is not a weight on any scale, but your healthy, functioning self getting you around the planet.
posted by flourpot at 7:19 AM on August 23, 2017

Electric scales are generally pretty inaccurate. They advertise 99% accuracy...well, at 120 lbs., that's a 2.5-lb range. And that's assuming they're actually working. Also, I'm guessing you're a woman at that weight. Fluctuation during the menstrual cycle of 3-4 lbs. is common and normal, but if you only weigh yourself very occasionally, you wouldn't necessarily see it. So you may not even be looking at an actual significant change in weight.
posted by praemunire at 8:41 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey, I've been pretty much exactly there. I was so proud to be my entering high school weight through my 20s... after pregnancy, nursing, health issues, medication issues, my weight is stable about 7 lbs more. I freaked out and dieted and you know what? 115 lbs looks awful now. Sure I could fit into size 2 pants, but my face looks older and kind of sunken. I gained back some weight, and I've come to the conclusion that women need to gain a tiny bit of weight as they age.... I'm also 5'3". So in conclusion, you clearly know the right answer, but if you choose to diet (and dieting at our size means eating 1200 calories a day, which sucks) you probably won't even like the results.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 9:02 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think I get where you're coming from.

Throughout my teens and twenties, I had very low weight. It was not something that I was proud of - but at the same time, it was something I was told I should be proud of, repeatedly, by the culture around me that valued thinness. Even if you know intellectually that it doesn't matter, that messaging is really hard to fight and it becomes part of how you view yourself. If your weight changes, then your image of yourself can take a while to catch up.

When I started graduate school I gained a few pounds, some in fat and some in muscle. It pushed me from "I can no longer find pants in this store" to "I can wear the small size." It's still kind of weird but I'm getting used to it.

Don't try to lose the weight - you'll just be trying to change a number, not anything that's meaningful. You're healthy and you like how you look. The fact that you've stayed at this weight for so long indicates that this is where your body is happy, too. You probably don't want to fuck with that equilibrium.

I think that you just need to give it some time. Stop trying to change and you will get used to it more quickly. And when you do, you might find out that the things you were happy with about your body are more important to you than that (fake) number you believed in.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:35 AM on August 23, 2017

I think that everyone has covered the psychological aspects of this very well, but I just want to add: Losing those 7 pounds (which you don't need to lose, didn't actually gain them?) just to, like, game this new scale is going to be A PAIN IN THE BUTT from a practical perspective.

I am about your size. 119 is my own "perfect weight." (I am currently at 124 because Trump is causing me to eat my feelings and I need to deal with this because my jeans are too snug.) Getting from 119 to 112, for me, would be AGONIZINGLY HARD. Like, so so hard. When you are already a very small person, dropping that percentage of weight is REALLY CHALLENGING. You would have to work very very diligently to stay that size and you would be doing it forever. I cannot imagine it's worth how much WORK this would be to do, just to make a new scale do what the old scale was doing? You're not doing it because you've gained weight for real. You'd be putting yourself through it just because of an inanimate object.

ALSO you're going to have to rebuy ALL YOUR CLOTHES, which is also a pain in the ass.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:35 AM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have nothing to add to the good advice above re your weight. However, I will say that you CAN stop thinking about your BMI, because it's a meaningless number.
posted by she's not there at 12:12 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why don't you adjust the scales downward so they still say 8 stone?
posted by Wilder at 5:10 AM on August 24, 2017

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