Scales can be more misleading than helpful when understanding actual body weight and how weight loss progress is measured. The number on the scale can quickly shift a mood from happy and excited to sad and disappointed. But we shouldn’t be putting so much weight on the number we see on the scale.
Embracing a healthy body image is a step in the right direction, but it’s understandable that you would want to find a way to measure your progress in getting healthier and losing weight. We often turn to a bathroom scale as our sole form of measurement, but it’s only one piece of data in a complex system. Yet we find a way to stress and obsess over it. That’s not healthy!
Body weight can fluctuate for a number of reasons and therefore the number on the scale will vary depending on:
- Time of day
- Hydration level
- Water retention (due to eating higher amounts of salt / sugar)
- Weather or season
- Amount of sleep
- Speed of digestion
- Caloric intake
The number can also vary within a couple of hours for no apparent reason at all! So why are we taking that number as the ultimate truth? It’s an oversimplified method for measuring weight, and we need to shift the mindset to have a healthier understanding.
Using a scale can often encourage “cheating” rather than long-term weight loss solutions. Sure, cutting out huge amounts of calories will shift that number on the scale, as will fast-track or severe diet plans. However, these are not the key to longevity and ultimately not the point of losing weight – especially since you will gain more weight back when these plans inevitably fail. On top of that, because calories are the energy we get from food you will probably also be too tired to exercise!
We become so emotionally connected to what the scale tells us, that it becomes easy to miss the big picture. It’s time to take a step back from the scale and ask yourself: Why is this number so important to me?
There are better (and healthier) ways to measure your progress, such as:
- Taking before & after photos. Don’t just take photos of yourself in a swimsuit, but dress in a pair of jeans and a shirt you wear regularly. Remember to keep the lighting and angle of your phone or camera consistent each time. You may surprise yourself with how different you look in your usual everyday clothing!
- Checking in with how you feel. Do you wake up more easily in the morning? Do you have more sustained energy throughout the day? Do you struggle less on stairs, or with regular activities?
- Measuring your fitness. Think about how much longer you can hold a plank, how much you increased your weight from the week before, or how many more reps you can do. Measure the strength and endurance you’ve gained, rather than what you’re losing.
- Having someone measure you. Preferably with a trainer or someone you trust, measure the circumference of selected areas of your body every 2-3 weeks and record it. A professional trainer can help make sure you are measuring consistent locations.
You can absolutely use the scale to help measure your progress, however be sure that you understand it’s only one piece of data to collect. If you’re constantly tempted to weigh yourself, put the scale away and only take it out once a week at a designated time.
When you better understand your own weight and how the scale can be misleading, you will be more prepared to embrace a full and healthy lifestyle.
[Credit: Sabin, Brian. “Losing Weight and Your Sanity: Why The Scale Lies and How to Make Sense of Your Weight.” Born Fitness.]