Step Away from the Scale, Mamas

Woman on scale. Don't use a scale to measure your postpartum recovery.
Postpartum Health

Oh if I had a time machine…I would go back in time to my first pregnancy and slap some sense into myself. “You look great!” people would exclaim. “You’re all baby!”

I let these comments go to my head and naively assumed 1.) That these compliments were some sort of true reflection on me my health and 2.) I would return to my pre-baby weight pretty easily.

Let me first mention that how you LOOK and whether or not you are “all baby” really has nothing to do with your baby’s health and the fact that these things even come up in conversation is ridiculous when the real focus should be on nourishing our babies.

I’ve blogged about how my baby weight didn’t budge after my first pregnancy. And now after baby number two, I’m about the same size. It’s just where my body wants to be. But in the two years between babies number one and two, I’ve come to see my scale much differently.

After delivering my older daughter, I would hop on the scale every few days in the hopes that the number would be going down. And it did, for the first few weeks, as is pretty normal after popping out a human…until it didn’t. The number hit a “plateau” and just hung out there, pretty much until my second pregnancy.

But that didn’t stop me from checking the scale every few days. And for what? I wasn’t dieting, so what was I hoping for? I think it was for a visit from the magical breastfeeding weight loss fairy, but that never happened. And even if it had, what would knowing the number have done for me? Made my clothes fit better? Stopped people from asking if I was pregnant again? Nope and nope.

I read an interesting piece¬†about what having a smartphone does to our brains and I realized that I had been using my scale in the same way. Apparently, whenever we decide to check our smartphones, our brains get a dopamine rush simply from the anticipation of what we might find there…a new text or email, how many likes our photo got, etc. I think the scale offers the same kind of potential reward and as such, checking our weight becomes an addictive behavior. “Maybe the number is down!” you think as you inch towards the scale. If it is, this fact will make you happy so you engage in the behavior. But if it isn’t down, most likely you’ll feel like crap even though that number is largely out of your hands.

There are lots of reasons your scale will show you different numbers. How much fluid you’ve consumed, how much salt, whether you’ve peed recently, where you’re at in your menstrual cycle, the time of day, heck, if you’re breastfeeding how much milk you’ve got in there. Or maybe –gasp– you’ve truly gained weight. Maybe that’s because of the amount of food you ate or maybe it’s your hormones or both. I think it’s dangerous to let ourselves take credit for losses or blame ourselves for gains when there are so many factors at play.

But let’s say it’s the “worst case scenario” and…dum dum dum, your weight is up because of what you ate. So? SO??? I know a lot of people use a higher number on the scale to motivate themselves to get back on track, but if you think you haven’t been eating well, you don’t need a scale to tell you. Let’s say you’d been eating poorly, but you didn’t gain weight or maybe you even lost weight. A lower number wouldn’t be an excuse to carry on with poor habits so why would a higher number be the reason to change your habits? Shame is never a good motivator. And what if you’ve been eating well and satisfying your hunger, but the number is still up? What are you supposed to do, starve yourself? Please do not!

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Which is why I’ve come to realize that it really is best just to skip the scale altogether. Our bodies WILL be different after a pregnancy, whether it’s weight, stretch marks, saggy skin or something you can’t even see from the outside. This is the business of making new humans, people! The concept of “snapping back” is straight up ridiculous…a person came out of you.

Instead of measuring your postpartum recovery by the number on the scale, I encourage you to focus on how you feel. And because that’s not as simple as it sounds, I have another post coming about how to make that a priority, so stay tuned.

But look, I get it. Not weighing yourself is a difficult thing to do and I’m still tempted to do it myself! I have not gone so far as to “smash the scale” as my mentor Rebecca Scritchfield suggests. We use it to weigh our luggage from time to time, so…eh. For now, it’s out of sight, which is definitely helping to keep it out of mind. I encourage you to do the same!

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One Comment

  1. What a healthy perspective on weighing in! Thanks for sharing. I tell moms it will take at least a year to get their pre-baby body back and some of us never will. And that’s OK:)

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