Updated: Feb 12
The scale. How in the world a number can be so powerful is just beyond me. I mean, if the number comes down at all, I'm having the best day ever. I feel accomplished, amazing, and I'm a lean, mean, fit machine. Nothing can stop me! But let that number drive up like 2, 3, or 5 pounds and it's like the world will end, I'm the fattest person on the planet, none of my clothes look good on me, and all of my efforts to eat right and exercise aren't working at all! (Am I right? Hahahahah!)
I recently had someone call me (you know who you are!) because she had been doing everything right, yet the scale wasn't moving. She was prepping and eating whole food, rarely having a "cheat meal", and exercising 5 days a week with plenty of cardio in there. (too much cardio in my un-asked opinion!) She was feeling frustrated and unsure of what to do. She text me in the evening about it and asked if we could chat in the morning. So when she called the next morning, I couldn't help but chuckle when she told me that the scale had finally moved. Down 2 more pounds. Go figure. It hadn't budged in weeks but the morning she goes to call me about it, it moves.
Now, I'd like to think that it was my inspirational and magical powers that did it. And this is a very possible explanation. But you must also consider that since she was only weighing once a week, the last time she had weighed, she may have just coincidentally weighed on a day when she "up". Being up can be due to water retention from consuming high amounts of salty foods the day before, or foods high in carbohydrates, or inflammation of the muscles due to an intense workout. What if she had just by chance weighed in a week ago, on one of those "up" days. Yet all of the other days surrounding that day, her weight was actually down? And here she was, discouraged and questioning if what she was doing was actually working. When all along, it was.
My body weight fluctuates up and down anywhere from 1-3 pounds DAILY. Do I let this effect me? Oh did I ever use to! Man oh man....just ask Mike. One bad weigh in and I was telling him crazy stuff like, "Nothing looks good on me right now" or "I need to make some serious diet changes". I would say these ridiculous things after a 3 pound fluctuation.
Here's the thing to remember about the scale....is it a tool for measuring progress when it comes to diet changes and exercise? Yes BUT (and this is a big BUT) it is not the best standard for determining this. Why? Because body weight is not always a reflection of whether someone is healthy or not. There are so many other factors. For example, if you are both losing fat AND gaining muscle at the same time, the scale will go down, yes, but it also may maintain/gain as your body composition shifts. Also, as mentioned before, water retention and muscle inflammation can make the scale go up, or stay the same, even though there has been ZERO body fat increase.
Did you know, only one or two days of terrible eating will not result in significant weight gain? It's really hard to put on a pound of actual body fat in two days. So when the scale is up on Monday, from a bad day of eating on Saturday, it's very unlikely a pound or two of body fat is causing the weight gain. Now I'm not saying you should go whole hog on the weekends and live it up eating all the things...because weekend, after weekend, after weekend of doing that WILL eventually cause weight gain in some cases.
A tip for weighing that I learned from someone, is to weigh everyday (unless this will create a mood issue for you) and take those numbers at the end of the week, add them up, divide by 7 (if it was 7 days of weighing) and record the AVERAGE weight for the week. This may give you a better idea of what weight you are currently. Then see if those weekly averages go up, down, or stay the same.
So if the scale is not the BEST way of measuring progress, then what is you ask? Well, the best tool, in my opinion, are pictures. I like to call them progress pictures. (from my days in the ole' world of bodybuilding) And I know, I know, if you're a female reading this, you probably hate taking and looking at pictures of yourself. (For that matter I'm sure you hate the scale too) One of the best ways to see if you are making progress, is to take a pic of yourself standing in front of a mirror with a sports bra on and a pair of shorts. Then, two weeks or four weeks later, take another picture in the same exact clothes, same mirror and compare the two. Make a side by side of them if you know how to. You'll be amazed at what you see IF you've been making healthy choices all month. I can attest to this. Years ago when I was training for a physique show, I felt like I was making ZERO progress. Yet, when I viewed the pics that my coach had required I take of myself, I was blown away. Big differences were visible, even though I couldn't feel or see them myself from day to day.
Also, how your clothes fit is a great measuring tool. Are they lose in the waist area? Are the legs of your pants fitting less tight? Are your shirts feeling baggier? And don't forget how you feel is a great indicator. Do you feel more energized? Do you feel leaner and healthier?
So, the next time you hop on the scale, keep a few things in mind. Remind yourself first off, that this is just a number. It is not a reflection of who you are or how God or others see you. It has no bearing on you as a person and what you have to offer this world which means IT IS NOT VERY IMPORTANT AT ALL! Also, make up your mind that you will not let it affect your mood for the day. Look at it as a scientific experiment and it is just a part of your research. You are experimenting with how to get healthier and feel better. That number is nothing other than a factor in that experiment. It will not control how you head out into this world and face the day. If you are making healthy choices and avoiding unhealthy behaviors then that is far more important than what number is on that scale.
And if you can't manage this, and the scale is still consuming you and controlling you, THEN STAY OFF OF IT!
PS--I plan to write a blog article on what to do when the scale or your other tools for progress really are stuck and not moving. There are a few things you can try that might help. So stay tuned!