Meet the device that changed my life.

By Stacey Ballis
April 28, 2021
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Most anyone with an eating and weight issue will tell you that the scale is a psychological enemy. If you work hard and the numbers stay the same or go up, you feel defeated, and eating something to feel better becomes a "why not?" If you work hard and the numbers go down? Time to celebrate, and that means something yummy as a reward. The cycle is endless, and eventually you start to dread that morning number, and then you stop getting on the scale, and what you don't know becomes license to return to old habits, especially if part of the reason you stop checking is related to stress or depression. You know the numbers are probably on the rise, and so you avoid the scale so as to not be faced with your failure, and if you aren't looking, then there is less reason not to eat. It's like putting your hands over your own eyes and thinking it makes you invisible.

When a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in my 40s required me to make serious lifestyle changes, I found myself in the same negative spiral with my scale. Weight was creeping back on, and I needed to flip the script. I wanted to attempt intuitive eating—listening to my body and not tracking calories—but I also needed some way to be ultimately accountable to my own health.

So, I bought a scale that has no numbers.

Shapa Brown Color
Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Yes, a scale that has no numbers

The Shapa, a scale that uses a color system to let you know where you are in your health and weight journey, was developed specifically for people like me for whom the constant fluctuation and obsession with a number is mentally detrimental to successful healthy eating as a lifetime practice.

This is how the Shapa works: You weigh yourself twice a day for a couple of weeks to load in your data, and the scale uses technology to assess your daily weight against things like natural fluctuations, water weight, period weight gain, and other factors that can make a traditional scale go haywire. You can pause it when you are sick or traveling. Once it's calibrated, you merely step on it every morning and it will give you a color.

Green: You are maintaining your weight.

Teal: You are losing a little bit.

Blue: You are steadily losing.

Light gray: You are gaining a little bit.

Dark gray: You are steadily gaining.

You know what these colors do not have? Judgment. So, for people who actually need to gain weight for health reasons, those gray colors are proof their program is working, no different than the oceanic colors are proof for me that mine is. If someone just needs to know they are maintaining a healthy weight, regardless of their issues, green means go for everyone.

Shapa Colors
Credit: Courtesy Shapa

The change in psychology, switching from numbers to colors

Using colors as feedback every morning has completely reframed how I think about my relationship with the scale and with food. I began working with the Shapa just before the pandemic hit. And my daily weigh in has meant that despite doing all the things so many of us done this past year-plus—plenty of baking and comfort eating, minimal movement let alone true exercise, weird eating times, even indulging in the nostalgia of childhood favorites—I have not gained weight.

I always request at the doctor's office that they not tell me what I weigh, stepping on their scale backwards to avoid the number. What I do know from my last annual physical is that whatever the actual number was this visit was less than what it was last year according to my doctor. It might have been one pound less (or 10 or 15); I do not know and more importantly, I do not care.

Using color for everyday eating choices

What I do know and care about is that the color on the scale every morning only affects the eating choices I make for the day ahead, not my mood. If I am in Teal or Blue, I will just eat what I want for the day, and only pay attention to managing my carbs and trying not to eat from boredom or stress. If I am going to indulge, I pay attention to manage volume. If I am in green, I might take some active steps to try and move that color if I am in the mood, or I can just be happy I am not gaining. The times I have hit the grays? It felt more like a gentle poke to push me back in the right direction, and not a value statement on my personal fortitude.

Added support from the app

The app that works with the scale will also give you tips and tricks or goals for the day, like experimenting with whole grains, or trying to help build strong bones by eating foods high in calcium or magnesium, but you can engage with those as much or little as you like. Same with their reward "badges," which can be helpful for some to have goals. If you find these elements motivating, they're here for you. Note: You can choose to buy your Shapa as part of a membership bundle that includes an assessment, personalized daily missions to create healthy habits, and membership support for up to 7 family members (learn more, here).

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

How my color strategies changed over the pandemic

For a lot of the pandemic, I focused on staying green and using the slide into gray to get me back on track, since my primary goal was simply not to gain weight while this was all going on. But about midway through the year, I slipped into teal and liked how that felt. So, I adjusted my goal. Instead of maintaining green and avoiding gray, I wanted to maintain teal and when I went green, to try and get back. When I realized I could do that pretty successfully, and was sticking in teal more days than not, suddenly it became a goal to get some blue days in there. Little habit-changing nudges, small tweaks in how and what I eat, and no counting calories or writing things down.

Today? I may not know what I weigh, but I do know that I do not feel deprived, and I do not feel like my mental health is placed in jeopardy at the mercy of an inanimate object while I try to do what I need to do for my physical health. It might not work for everyone, but it has worked for me. And if you are someone for whom the number on the scale is the difference between a good day and a bad day, the difference between how loud your inner saboteur is shouting at you or your conscience is tsk-ing, you might just want to see how a simple color range can make for a big change.

Shapa - Black Color
Credit: Amazon

Buy It: Shapa Smart Numberless Scale and Weight Loss Program ($120),