Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Why does one of my coaching clients (and friends) say: “I don’t plan to ever weigh myself again.” The answer may surprise you!

Counting Calories

I heard on the radio this morning that obese teenagers are more likely to use calorie information at fast food restaurants than non-obese teenagers  This fact was presented as if it were a good thing, as if counting calories is something that will help obese teenagers to slim down and get healthy. I think that some of the teenagers in this study are obese BECAUSE they are using external signals such as calorie counts offered by fast food restaurants to tell them how much they can/should/will eat, instead of relying on their God-given signals of hunger and satisfaction. The non-obese teens don’t need the calorie counts. They might order the bacon double cheeseburger and eat one third of it, stopping when they are satisfied.  Are calorie counts (masquerading as “nutritional information”) part of the problem or part of the solution? I’m all for nutritionally dense food, but something tells me the teens aren’t checking protein, fiber, and calcium counts. They are focusing on the calorie information. And, I’ll wager, it’s not only not helping them, it’s actively hurting them. It’s getting in the way of their ability to listen to their internal signals.


Similar to the perhaps inadvertent problems directly caused by calorie information, are the problems caused by the bathroom (or gym or doctor’s office) scale.

When I was a child and didn’t know about calories and couldn’t have guessed my own weight with any kind of accuracy at all, my eating was fine. But when I started counting things (calories and body weight), my God-given natural appetite regulation system was disrupted and it wasn’t long before I had a bona fide eating disorder. I was trying to externally regulate something that is much better left to the natural, internal regulation system ordained by God. My weight and my appetite take care themselves and run smoothly if I honor and respect them and don’t get in there and try to improve on God’s handiwork.

I don’t plan to ever weigh myself again. Why? Because I am finally convinced that weighing myself is part of the problem, not part of the solution, just like counting calories are, for me, part of the problem, not part of the solution. I’ve heard many times over the years that in order to fully recover from an eating disorder (or disordered eating, or whatever you want to call it), a person should entirely stop weighing herself and trust that God knows what our bodies should weigh, and trust that our doctors will tell us if we gain or lose precipitously. But other people telling me rarely results in me doing whatever is advised. I don’t learn very well from other people’s experiences. Eventually I had my own personal experience of divine intervention that really got my attention.

One morning, I wanted to weigh myself at home. I had the wherewithal to pray and ask God if this was a good idea. I heard very clearly in my head “you weigh X#s.”  “Should I still weigh myself, though?” I wondered, “Probably not,” I thought.
“But I want to.” My brain did this dance for a couple of minutes and then the “I wanna” part of me won out and I weighed myself.  [I weighed] X#s. Not a big surprise. Why had I been so willful? Who knows. Oh well. I’m not perfect. Chalk it up to that. I went on with my day. I went to the gym mid-morning. There’s a scale at the gym. The “I wanna” part of me thought, “I should weigh myself to see if they gym scale and my home scale register the same number.” And then, I heard the voice of wisdom, only this time, with a bit more power clearly say in my head, “If you want to never binge again, you need to never weigh yourself again.” !!! “But, but,” the “I wanna” in me spluttered, and then, as a quick follow up, I heard a powerful, “It may seem like a high price to pay, but it is THE price. “

Wow. Ok. So…I won’t weigh myself. You’ve got my attention, God. It does seem like a high price. But really, is it? I don’t think Jesus got up every morning to check his weight. Nor did any of his apostles. There are still people on earth who probably go their entire lives without even seeing a scale. It’s not like I’m being asked to do something actively unhealthy. There is, as it turns out now that I’ve thought about it, nothing helpful in me knowing my weight. It never stopped me from binge eating. It never made me feel closer to God. It sometimes made me proud and it sometimes made me feel like I could afford to binge, but both of those outcomes are ones that I am much better off without. I am so grateful for this experience because I feel like God tried to show me this in a multitude of ways over years, but I wouldn’t listen. So finally, I had to hear his wise, loving, but scarily clear voice telling me exactly what to do. I can’t complain any more that I’m not sure whether or not I should weigh myself. I’m quite clear that I shouldn’t. And I don’t plan to. Not ever. Thank you, God.

Catherine Wilson Gillespie, Ph.D.
Mary Collier Baker Distinguished Professor
Drake University School of Education
Des Moines, Iowa