Hey, I’ve been there too. In the early days of my own weight loss mission, I was stepping on the scale nearly every day. Desperately seeking any kind of downward trend that would get me closer to the finish line.
I’d weigh myself at the end of the day after walking home, on the weekend after getting up in the morning.
Shit, I’d even weigh myself after I’d gone to the bathroom but before I’d had my morning coffee, just to avoid any extra grams sneaking into the count.
Eventually, I had a realisation..:
This shit is exhausting!
Stepping on the scale was a complete mind fuck that had way too much power over me. Slowly but surely some magical number I’d set as an uninformed weight loss goal was defining me. It was impacting how I felt about myself and it was dominating my thoughts. I’d become a slave to the scale.
If this sounds at all familiar, then you should think twice before you decide to weigh yourself next.
We all have a notion of what we’d like to weigh, for many of us that’s our starting point and there’s nothing wrong with that. But your scale will never tell you the whole story and us humans have a frightening ability to tie our overall health and self-worth as people back to the number staring back at us and that’s just dumb.
- Your weight is always gonna change. Your body is an incredibly complex piece biotechnology and so many things play a part in what we weigh at any given moment. There’s stuff going in, things coming out, enzymes digesting stuff and a myriad of things going on that I’m not even close to understanding.
What this means is that your weight is in a constant state of change and could fluctuate by 1-2kg throughout the day depending on any number of things that are going on. You could weigh yourself three times a day and the numbers WILL be different each time.
If you’re on a mission to lose weight by eating better and exercising more you can expect to lose anywhere between 0.5 – 1kg a week, maybe a little more if you’re considerably overweight. This is generally considered a healthy rate of fat loss. But successful weight loss can be hidden by any number of factors.
You might be stoked that you lost 1kg last week but then suddenly after doing everything right you’re up 500 grams today. I know how that feels, it’s incredibly demoralising and makes you question whether all this effort is really worth it. You think to yourself ‘what’s the point?!’
If you find yourself in this position, remember: It’s just a number, it’s always going to fluctuate and it can be pretty inaccurate over short periods of time.
- Your weight doesn’t give you a complete picture. When you step on a scale you only get one piece of information, total body weight. I hope by now we all realise that true health isn’t measured by weight alone.
Body composition provides a bigger picture than total body weight alone.
When you combine a healthy diet with plenty of walking and some strength training, the scales will probably suggest that your progress is really quite slow. But your clothes are getting bigger and you’re adding notches to your belt. So WTF is going on here?!
Trust me, it’s great news! You’re losing fat but retaining or gaining muscle. WIN.
If you don’t do any kind of strength exercise, you’ll probably see the number on the scale go down faster. BUT you’ll be losing both fat and muscle.
I should know, I lost nearly 40kg before I started any kind of strength training and I simply became a slimmer but still flabby version of my former self.
Not starting my weight loss mission with any form of strength training is my only regret. Even today I’m still trying to reshape my body by doing more strength based exercises. As a result, I’ve gained several kg BUT I’m still wearing the same clothes AND they fit better than they did before.
Don’t be like me and become a smaller but still flabby version of yourself – Eat healthy, lift weights and walk – you’ll lose fat AND retain, or gain muscle.
- A number does not define you. Whatever number the scale throws up, I can guarantee without a shred of doubt that it doesn’t measure your worth as a human being.
It cannot measure what you’ve learned about nutrition, fitness, and health. It cannot gauge what you’ve learned about yourself, the self-confidence you’ve gained and it has no idea how much you’ve grown and continue to grow as a person.
It is simply a number and you are not a statistic.
A BETTER WAY TO TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Look, the scales aren’t completely redundant. When you’re just starting out it can be a great way to see your first round of significant wins. That’s motivating and helps build momentum. Also, over longer periods of time, it’s great to see that you’re progressing in the right direction.
But, the scale has the potential to really screw with your head, and it’s too easy to tie all your progress to a number that doesn’t actually provide you with a bigger picture.
The closer you get to your goals, the less helpful the scale becomes.
Here’s how to track your progress and capture the bigger picture without stepping on the scale too often:
First and foremost, this weight loss and health mission is a marathon, not a sprint.Fast weight loss generally isn’t sustainable and remember our number one goal around here is: Healthy changes that you can sustain for life!
Measuring minute changes on a daily basis, or even 2 or 3 times a week isn’t very helpful and has the potential to take over your life. It’s meaningless data that will only cause you to second guess what you’re doing.
Instead, weigh yourself once a month, or maybe once every two weeks just to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Remove variables by doing it at the same time of day and wearing the same type of clothing.
Take note of your body composition, not just your weight. Use a tape measure to track how your body is changing. In the last few months, my weight has been going up. If I only used the scale as a gauge I’d think I’m doing something wrong, but actually, I’ve been eating well and increased the number of strength based exercises I’m doing. So, while my weight has increased my overall waistline measurements have decreased.
If you’re going to measure yourself make sure you’re measuring yourself in the same place each time, and again do it at the same time of day.
Try setting fitness goals instead of weight loss goals. How many pushups can you do today? How long can you hold a plank for? How long are you comfortable walking for? Try to shift your focus from a number on the scale to a strength or endurance based goal. If you can do a 30-second plank today but you’re able to hold it for 60 seconds next month you’re definitely getting stronger and there’s a bloody good chance you’ll have lost some fat in the process.
Be mindful of how you feel. Do you wake up with more energy? Are the stairs at work just a tad easier to climb? Are you running around more with your kids? These are all signs that you’re fitter and stronger. If you’re experiencing any of these positive improvements then I say screw the scale!
These are changes that are having a real impact on your life, these are changes that signify that you’re stronger, healthier and probably happier and that’s far more important that a number on the scale!
ARE YOU A SLAVE TO THE SCALE?
I have been, but it has less control over me all the time.
I can honestly say that I’m much happier now that I have a healthier relationship with the scale. I spend more time focussing on my fitness goals, striving for improvement and much less time stressing about a number that doesn’t give me a complete picture of my overall health.