If you’re like most dieters, chances are you have an unhealthy obsession with your scale. I know I did! When I first started my weight loss journey over eight years ago, I found myself hopping on my scale daily (sometimes even several times a day!). My mood would drastically change each time I stepped on it and saw the numbers unfold- if they went down, I was ecstatic. If they didn’t move, I’d get a bit depressed. If they went up, well all bets were off mood-wise and I’d become sad, angry and so disappointed. Particularly so, when I had been really “good” for the days leading up to my weigh-in. I’d start rationalizing an impending binge by focusing on that stupid number on the scale – “well, what good is being good doing me?” and then I’d engage in some major emotional eating. It took me far too long to change my mindset about the scale and I’d love to save you some of you that agony (and the weight gain yo-yo’ing that goes along with it).
Look at the scale as just one of the tools you use to determine your progress- and not the most important one at that. Why? Because scales don’t provide the full picture and your weight can fluctuate based on consumption of a big meal, excess salt intake, water retention, constipation and hormonal changes. If you’re just starting out a new program (either diet, exercise or both), you may also see a weight gain in your first few weigh-ins. One of my favorite Beachbody trainers, Chalene Johnson, explains why in a great Sparkpeople article here. One thing you should know is that the extra weight that you see on the scale does not necessarily come from an increase in body fat; it can be water, waste products or other substances that are temporarily present in your body. In weighing myself just about every week for the past eight years, I’ve come to expect up to 5 pounds of weight gain during certain times in my menstrual cycle. On these weeks, I refrain from weighing myself. I strongly advise my clients to avoid daily weigh-ins due to weight fluctuations. Rather, I suggest a weekly or even bi-weekly weigh-in.
One thing the scale can be good at is to get you back on track when you’re veering off of it. Always do an honest assessment of yourself after stepping on the scale and seeing a number you don’t like. Have you been staying on track nutritionally? Are you logging in your workouts? Are you fueling your body enough food that it needs? Believe it or not, you can hamper your weight loss efforts if you’re not eating enough. I’ve experienced this personally and seen it happen with friends and clients. You do NOT want your body in starvation mode. You may actually need to up your caloric intake to see a downward movement on the scale- especially if you’re physically active.
If you’re continually unhappy with the numbers on the scale, make sure you’re not expecting Biggest Loser type numbers. Real life is not like the Biggest Loser ranch so don’t expect to be dropping 5, 7, 10 or 12 pounds per week. A realistic goal is to be averaging a 1/2 pound to 2 pounds per week weight loss. For those whose goal weight is around 5-10 pounds less than your current weight, recognize that it is most challenging to lose weight the closer you get to goal. It may also be a good idea to rethink your goal- make sure it’s in line with what’s healthy for your age, height and body frame. Need help figuring these things out? Contact me.
When determining your weight loss and fitness progress, don’t make the scale your be-all, end-all. Instead, focus more on
(a) how your clothes are fitting;
(b) your body measurements; and
(c)most importantly, how you’re feeling.
Don’t quit or sabotage your weight loss efforts based on the numbers showing up on your scale! Be patient and kind to yourself and remain consistent in your nutrition & exercise habits. The scale may not be moving downward as fast as you like, but you’re improving your overall physical fitness level. And that’s a VERY good thing indeed!
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