Studies that cite the benefits of daily weigh-ins usually fail to show the emotional impact the scale has on the dieter. It’s time to come clean on our relationship with the scale.
For seven years, Sandra* started her day by weighing in on the scale in her bathroom. If she lost weight, life was good. If she gained weight, “it was a bad day in the land of Sandra.”
She is not unusual. The morning weigh-in is a citywide occurrence. Some Calgarians are hopping on and off the scale several times per day. But the scale has been given too much power in our lives. Think about it: If you lose weight, you’re on top of the world. If you’ve gained or haven’t lost weight, you’re deflated. In a matter of seconds, your entire outlook on the day has changed. Over the years, the scale’s negative feedback erodes our self-esteem. The dreaded number on the scale has caused many dieters to prematurely throw in the towel, head out for a pint of ice cream, and quit the gym.
I’ve personally witnessed clients who’ve lost a significant amount of body fat melt down in frustration when they’ve weighed in. The chronic dieter who is solely focused on what they weigh ignores the loss of body fat. Here’s the reality: body composition (how much of you is muscle versus fat) is a key component of fitness. You can be at a desired weight and still have a body fat level that is too high. What I wouldn’t give to use our body fat calipers on some celebrities and supermodels. Beyond the hype, the public would clearly see that there are too many fat skinny people walking around out there. Put this above your scale: Weight is not an indication of fitness; leanness is.
What’s the solution? Get the scale out of your house (and especially away from your teenaged children). Over the years, I’ve shown up at a home or two and confiscated the dreaded bathroom scale. Learn to validate yourself without the daily background noise of the scale wreaking havoc with your healthy intentions.
By no means am I advocating that you continue to kid yourself if you’re carrying a few pounds too many. Start by getting a complete fitness assessment (including body fat). Once you have a baseline, start by working your way into the next healthiest category.
If you do choose to weigh in, do it once per week (if at all) and at the same time of day to be consistent. Over time, your pattern of loss will emerge. Physically measure yourself with a measuring tape once per month and set up another fitness assessment to keep you focused.
By the way, dramatic weight fluctuations are often due to fluid levels. At 3,500 calories per pound, a fluctuation of three pounds would mean that you ate an extra 10,500 calories above and beyond your needs. This is highly unlikely. Ladies, if a menstrual cycle is on the horizon, it is not unusual to see a temporary water weight gain as well. Hormonal changes and stress will also affect your loss.
The Bodies Bill of Rights:
When I sit down to discuss eating habits with our clients, their beliefs permeate our conversation. Here are some of my thoughts about what a healthy body is. Do any of these beliefs resonate with you?
A healthy body is:
Fed on a regular basis
Treated with respect
Consistently taken for exercise
Nourished and not starved