If you were to ask me the one mistake I see women making most often in their pregnancy and postpartum journeys, it would be this: focusing on the scale rather than their bodies.
I get it. So many of us are so busy, overwhelmed, even programmed to be out of touch with our bodies’ signals that we rely on this external tool to validate whether we are eating enough or too much, whether we can buy that two-piece swimsuit, whether we are healthy or not healthy, whether we are worthy or not worthy.
It’s not just scales we’re using, either. We’re using calorie counters, step counters, mile trackers. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are somewhat useful tools for problem-solving and troubleshooting, but none of them should be used as the sole feedback system for how we should be eating, moving, or behaving.
The major problem with using something like the scale as our sole source of feedback is that it takes US out of the process. If you are in touch with your body, you know that you feel good when you eat healthy food and exercise. If you’re listening, your body is telling you constantly exactly what it needs. When you overeat junk food, you feel gross. When you eat a big salad full of veggies, you feel light and energized. When you are active, you experience an endorphin rush. When you push too hard, you feel tired and over-fatigued.
Our body is our very best source of feedback because IT is the thing that is being directly affected, and is going to be a gazillion times more accurate than any calculation from a scale or calorie calculator can be.
So why don’t more of us trust our bodies?
At some point along the way, we may have felt betrayed. Maybe we gained weight and only lost it by counting calories, so we think this is what needs to be done. Maybe we gained what we and our doctors considered to be too much weight during our pregnancies (please read here for more info about healthy weight gain in pregnancy).
But I bet if you think back to that time that your body betrayed you…was it your body or was it you? Were you in touch during that time with the signals you were being sent, or were you ignoring them? Chances are, the latter is true.
Focusing on external feedback is focusing on something we cannot control, which will inevitably cause frustration. We can’t control how our body is going to react to pregnancy and postpartum hormones. We can’t control if our body holds onto water weight when we exercise.
Have you ever stepped on the scale, saw a number that was lower than you expected, and then threw all healthy eating and exercise out the window because you felt like you bought yourself a free pass to do what you want? (I may or may not have pulled that example from my own life…)
This is just one way that relying on external feedback can affect us negatively.
When you begin to listen to your body’s signals, you will find that you will just naturally begin to follow the exact same path that leads to your desired results without focusing on them. Instead, you’ll be focused on how you feel, and that will feel good, so you will want to keep doing it.
Instead of focusing on what to eat to control the scale, you’ll eat what makes you feel physically good. You’ll avoid eating too much greasy pizza because more than a slice or two makes your stomach cramp up and your body swell. You’ll eat more vegetables and fruits because you feel light and energized afterwards. You’ll begin to move more because moving feels good, and you won’t punish yourself with exercise you hate and give up on, but rather find what you like and can do forever.
Learning to trust your body won’t be an easy thing if you’ve broken your trust with it for some time. Take it slow. Start with listening for your hunger signals: they might not feel like a growling stomach, they might just feel like low blood sugar and a craving for food. Pay close attention to how you feel when you exercise, and pay close attention to how you feel when you don’t. Really taste the food you eat, and feel how it affects you.
Don’t worry about the results, they will follow naturally, and you will be happier in the process.
I meditate for 5-10 minutes a day because I have found it helps with anxiety, negative self-talk, and depression. Recently, I downloaded an app that kept track of my consecutive days of meditation.
For whatever reason, I got really focused on these consecutive days. It became my main motivation for meditating. I did not want to mess up that consecutive days number, and the higher that number climbed, the more stressed I felt about breaking it.
I began to dread meditating, losing touch with why I was actually doing it in the first place. The pressure was on to just meet that number and not mess up. Once I even meditated while waiting in the carpool line, and I kept peeking my eyes open to make sure carpool hadn’t started. I got absolutely nothing out of that meditation, or really any of those sessions. My focus was only on the external validation of consecutive days.
Inevitably, we went out of town and I forgot to meditate. The combination of my feelings of dread and apathy towards meditation along with having “failed” at my goal of non-stop consecutive days led me to give up meditation for weeks. The whole thing felt pointless, and I had such a negative relationship with meditation now because of my focus on the numbers.
I realized this and stopped to think back to why I was meditating in the first place: the peace it brought me. The decrease in anxiety and stress. All of the positives that those 5 minutes of actions brought me daily.
And suddenly, I was ready to do it again.
Are you focused on external validation rather than internal? Are you a prisoner to the scale, the calorie counter, or the step counter?
Try relying a little bit more on what your body is telling you. You will enjoy the peace it brings you, the mental energy it frees up, and you will eventually see better results without even trying.