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This morning, I had my back turned as my seven-year daughter jumped on the scale in our bathroom. She caught me completely off-guard.

“Does this number mean I am fat or skinny?” she asked, looking past her belly button at the blinking digits.

Crap. I thought for a second. Crap crap crap.

What could I say that was true–but also not likely to cause damage that will require therapy in her 30s? Something to help her avoid her mother’s teacherous relationship with that awful beastly machine? I don’t want her, for a second, to spend her days worrying about that number.

I took a deep breath and prayed that I was not standing in the middle of one of those look-back-damaging-parenting-moments.

But I also didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I didn’t want her to think that number was a big deal that requires some long explanation either. So I moved quickly and I hoped for the best.

“That number measures the earth’s gravitational pull your body. That number doesn’t tell you anything, really.

“It’s like the fruit at the grocery store and that scale there, you know?—We don’t buy the fruit because of what it weighs. We buy it because it has so many good things inside. Lots of vitamins and good stuff, it taste delicious, and it makes you feel happy. Right? What the fruit weighs has nothing to do with how much we like the fruit.

“…So that number on the scale you are standing on doesn’t tell you anything right. It doesn’t say if you’re a kind person. That number doesn’t tell you how much your family loves you, or your favorite color. That number doesn’t tell you how talented, smart, and beautiful you are, and how fast of a runner you are.

“So basically that number is useless.”

And I held my breath.

She nodded. And said, “Oh, okay. Makes sense.”

…to be continued.


  • Heather Briggs

    April 13, 2016 at 8:37 am

    My kiddo does this all the time because she sees mommy doing it all the time! It is definitely an eye-opener to see our kids do what we do, and want to be like us so much. I make sure my “weigh-in” times are when she is sleeping or not around and as you said… explain to them that the number cannot tell us the qualities they have inside. I make sure that she sees me doing healthy things like exercising or making dinner, reading, etc. God knows I don’t want to be the cause of future years of therapy for my kid either!

    You’re a great mom and I would have never been quick to say the fruit scenario! Good work!

  • Angie

    April 13, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Best answer ever! My 12 year old daughter is beautiful and athletic, and I have caught her hopping on the scale a few times lately (wifi scale tells me anyone steps on it), She hasn’t said anything to me about it, but I would like to bring it up to be sure she isn’t feeling concerned.

  • Angel

    April 13, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    This was truly an inspiring response and one I will hold onto for if/when my 7 year old asks. As of now – her only concern with re: the scale is when it will tell her she is “big” enough to forego the booster seat for the car 😀

  • cherie

    April 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Threw the scale away when my kid started doing that. I still don’t have one. She is now 29 and eats when she is hungry and exercises because of her love of yoga/dance.

  • Jen

    April 13, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    I came across your site about 2 yrs ago when my interest in triathlon first started. I’ve never commented before (I’m VERY slow to join the social media craze) but have enjoyed and been inspired by following your story . As a mother, I think this is an awesome way to respond to such a question! One of the reasons I love doing races is because I want my children (especially my 7 rd old daughter) to be part of that positive energy. In my entire life, I have never come across better people than those involved in endurance sports. My goal is to be less of a silent stalker, and involve myself more in this fantastic community :).

  • stephanie

    April 14, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    I truly love your response. The number just means the amount of force the earth is pulling on us. If we weighed ourselves on the moon, we’d weigh a lot less. The apple example was perfect!!

  • Jo

    April 15, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Great answer!!!

    My girls are older and told me to wind my neck in the other day when I was complaining about my weight. Glad I don’t seem to have damaged them too much along the way…


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