I bet you did 😉
Did you like the number you saw? Did you get overly excited if it was low? Did it feel like a low blow if it was higher than expected? I’ve been there…on both ends, so you’re definitely not alone.
I have my nutrition coaching clients take a little vacation from the scale for at least the first four weeks of the program because 1) the scale doesn’t tell the whole story and 2) we can have such an attachment to the number that pops up. If it’s higher than we expected we get down on ourselves, maybe self-sabotage, start calling ourselves a failure, think we’re worthless or that we aren’t working hard enough to get results. If the number shows a drop we can feel on top of the world OR think we can do more, we can diet harder, we can hit another spin class this week and drop even more weight next week! And so goes the story of never enough and push more, more, more.
Here’s the thing…weight can fluctuate like crazy over the course of 24 hours. The number is completely dependent on what you ate, how much water you drank, if there was sodium in your food, what kind of exercise you did, what time of day you weigh yourself and which scale you use. The number will without a doubt be different due to any of these scenarios.
Let’s say you set a healthy weight loss goal of 1-2 pounds per week and you’ve been following a healthy diet and exercise program for a month now. With that, you should expect to have lost anywhere from 4-8 pounds. You hop on the scale and it show a 1 pound drop. Disheartening? Sure, but what if your hard work is all hidden by the above listed factors? That would mean that you could be down 4 pounds but let’s say you had pizza and some wine last night, drank some water in the morning and then jumped on the scale,. Those could all be reasons why it reads as only 1 pound lost. This “weight gain” (in reality it’s just some water retention) can send you straight into the kitchen to grab the leftover pizza and gorge, but the number is inaccurate. If you had a salad with chicken for dinner and some water the night before, woke up in the morning, went to the bathroom and weighed yourself, the scale might actually tell a different story and you’ve actually hit your goal of 1 pound her week.
Another way the scale can mess with our heads is when we feel like we haven’t done enough. Let’s say you’ve set a goal to lose 20 pounds. You’re feeling good, you’ve updated your wardrobe and your energy is high. You decide to go for it and hop on the scale. It shows a 15 pounds drop in weight…not 20. Now rationally, we know that 15 pounds is still spectacular not to mention all of the awesome benefits from losing the 15 pounds listed above. It’s still a big drop and lots of people would kill for that kind of weight loss. However, when we put so much pressure on the number it can be really easy to look at this as a failure because what about the 5 pounds you didn’t lose? Forget that you dropped 15, you failed to hit your goal. Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? But it happens all the time! It’s happened to me and it’s probably happened to you, too!
Let’s just all agree that while the scale is ONE tool we can use to measure progress, it’s probably not the best if we find our moods are being determined by what it reads.
So how do we measure progress if we don’t use a scale?
While I want to urge you to take your focus off of your appearance and focus on what your body can do and all it does for you (I mean have you even thought about the fact that you’ve been breathing the entire time you’ve been reading this article and never even gave it a second thought?! Our bodies do amazing stuff!), I know that most of us want to see that measurable difference in body composition. In this case I suggest taking progress pictures. If you take pictures every few weeks then compare week 3 to week 1 or week 12 to week 1 and you’re on a fat loss plan, you can see a real difference. It’s so difficult to see changes happening day to day but if we look at changes over a period of time they’re much easier to see. The downside here is that we’re super critical of ourselves so it can be really hard for us to see changes. You can share these pics with a friend, your SO, your coach, someone you trust with an unbiased eye who will give you honest feedback.
I know…super hard to do, but have to talk about this…
Instead of worry about your appearance so much or the number on the scale, how about doing 15 consecutive pushups on your toes, doing an unassisted pull-up or running a 10K? All of these things will make you stronger, increase your endurance and are a hell of an accomplishment. On top of that, if you’re doing any of these things while following a healthy diet built for fat loss, you’ll probably lose some fat, too. Performance based goals are awesome because you can always strive to go longer, get stronger, try for more reps, etc. It will help take the focus off of the scale and your appearance and put your focus on what you can accomplish physically. This is the fun stuff!
Your body does a lot for you. It gets you through the kick ass HIIT class at the gym, gets you through stressful days at work and SO MUCH MORE. Maybe instead of hating your thighs or dreaming about visible abs, how about appreciating your body for alll that it does. Make a real effort to stop putting so much pressure on yourself to hit a certain number because as I hope you can see by now, the number is pretty meaningless.
The bottom line is, your body weight is influenced by more factors than you can even imagine and we can’t even attempt to control all of them. I want you to find new ways to measure your health and work on being grateful and forgiving when things don’t go as planned. Let’s instead focus on doing the best we can day in and day out making the best choices we can. That can be our biggest success.