07/26/2011 02:36 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2011

Are You Afraid of the Scale?

Ah, the scale. It can be the judge, the jury, the ruler of the day. The number on the scale can: make you happy, surprise you, shock you, terrify you, anger you and/or frustrate you. This inanimate object -- if we let it -- can have great power over us.

I believe that "scale phobia" is a real phenomenon. I have had clients so afraid of confronting their weight that they won't go to the doctor, even though they need to, just to avoid being weighed there. Here is an excerpt from my new book, "Foodaholic," about Julie (all names have been changed) and her scale phobia:

When you come out of denial and are willing to face your weight, you will be able to face the doctor again. This small change has saved lives. Julie, one of my clients, had a suspicious mole that she was not confronting in order to avoid the doctor. She knew it looked strange and was changing. She even did research on the internet and what she saw concerned her.

Julie needed some help to face her weight. In my practice, I generally don't push people to confront their weight but Julie was at risk. I keep a scale in my office for people like Julie who need help with the emotional aftermath of weight confrontation. With me by her side, Julie got on the scale. She weighed l88 pounds. She was 5'4". Seeing that number was upsetting to her but also a relief. She knew she was close to that weight but didn't know for sure. She was upset with herself for having let herself get so heavy, but also grateful to me for pushing her to confront the truth. Once she was out of fat denial, she went to the doctor, only to find out the mole was skin cancer. Luckily for Julie it was still early enough to have it removed, and the cancer had not spread.

Scale obsession is the flip side of the same coin. That's when you get off and on the scale all day long -- obsessing about every little fluctuation. It's just not healthy.

I believe that scale avoidance and scale obsession can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. When I was gaining weight, I avoided the scale long enough to put on 50 pounds. I knew that I was gaining weight because I was overeating, eating high fat/high calorie foods and my clothes were too small. Still, I didn't want to know the number. If I had been actively confronting my weight, I don't think I would have gained all 50 of those pounds.

So, the ideal would be to divorce the emotion from this inanimate object. I teach people to get on once a day, first thing in the morning, and write down the number. Then, average the numbers out for one week and only look at your average weekly weight. This number will give you a good indication of where you are. After all, you weigh what you weigh whether you choose to look at it or not.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.