Pools say benefits outweigh keeping scales

5:47 min

This month, the city of Stockholm decided to make one change to the locker rooms at public swimming pools. From now on, there will be no more scales there with which people can weigh themselves.

The demand for scales in public places is not what it used to be, as Roland Berndt from the City of Stockholm's sports and recreation administration says. And lately, there's actually been a demand to give scales the boot.

"It's never been a big issue before, but as it now happens, this was something that we took quite seriously," Berndt told Radio Sweden.

It all started with a post on Facebook in which a woman who often goes swimming at a public pool in southern Stockholm said she'd had enough of witnessing little girls in the locker room stepping on the scale and comparing how much they weigh. She overheard them complaining that their bellies were too big, that someone weighed too much, another weighed too little. She remembered that when she was 9, she stepped on a scale for the first time in a similar setting, and realized she weighed more than her friends, and so she started dieting. Now, looking back decades later, she felt that if swimming pools would get rid of their scales, it might help prevent young girls and boys from developing a bad self image and maybe even help prevent eating disorders.

Her post was shared more than 20,000 times and the National Association against Eating Disorders, Frisk och Fri, was quick to back her up, telling the press they couldn't see a good reason to keep the scales around.

The city of Stockholm decided to heed the call and get rid of them from the public pool facilities, saying scales weren't important now in terms of the public health work the city was doing in those venues.

Visitors to a Stockholm pool that Radio Sweden spoke to were all okay with the decision, but Berndt said that as with all decisions, some people aren't thrilled.

One person much in favor of waving goodbye to the scales is David Clinton, a psychotherapist, an associate professor at Karolinska Institutet, and chair of the board of the National Association against Eating Disorders.

"It's something that we've been generally considered about - the sorts of messages that are conveyed to young people in a public arena," says Clinton, who adds that scales can make it easy for young people to start to compare the numbers that they see on the scales, and that that could potentially trigger the desire to lose weight or even trigger an eating disorder.

He says the move could have an important effect for some people.