The Quiet Problem With The "Screw The Scale" Hashtag On Instagram

Here on our good friend the internet, it's almost impossible to browse social media and not to encounter some kind of body image-related programming — be it a hashtag on Instagram, a trend on Twitter, or another viral story of someone speaking out against cultural standards. And while it's always great whenever we can find a reason to celebrate our bodies, some of these narratives, while well-intentioned, slightly miss the mark; enter the recent "Screw The Scale" hashtag on Instagram, popularized by fitness bloggers and regular 'grammers alike.

#ScrewTheScale does sound, at its core, like a great idea. Certainly we should stop as a society ascribing worth or self-confidence to a number on the scale, which is what those three words seem to imply; however, in some ways, the conversation perpetuated by this hashtag only brings the conversation right back around to that very problem. The idea behind the hashtag celebrates bodies at all of their weights, but still seems very committed to the narrative of a toned or thin body being a "good" body. The majority of people using the hashtag are sharing back-to-back photos, often with one version of their body on the left with a weight above it and another version on the right with a higher weight. But just like the problematic "transformation" photos of yore, the photo on the right almost always features a thinner, more toned version of the person's body, still tangling the idea of fitness, weight, and body image in an unhealthy way.

Of course, people should be proud of their fitness accomplishments the way that we're proud of all of the accomplishments that are meaningful to us in a personal way — the problem with this in particular is that while masquerading as a body-positive hashtag, it still perpetuates the idea of an "ideal body," presenting us with a narrative to prove more weight as "worthy" because it looks good (i.e., more like conventionally desirable body types). And if you scroll through the hashtag, it seems to be the intention almost across the board.

And again, this isn't to say people shouldn't celebrate their fitness milestones. It's just that there are far more productive, healthy ways to celebrate it that don't inextricably tie it to body weight — for instance, celebrating progress in the number of miles you ran, or learning how to use Kettle bells for the first time, or challenging yourself to a new rep. These are measures of progress that a) actually measure fitness, and b) avoid falling into another narrative that is every bit as harmful as the "body transformation" narrative that came before it.

The people using the hashtag do make a point about how cool, versatile, and even surprising the human body is, and certainly aren't sharing their photos with the intention of shaming anyone — but keep in mind when you encounter trends like this that all bodies are good bodies, regardless of weight, muscle mass, or the popular hashtag of the week.