We all know the feeling of working your butt off all week to anxiously get on the scale with expectations of what your weight should be. This reading can dictate how many people feel for the rest of their day, or into the next week.
Then the cycle begins.
Is a digital or manual scale more accurate? Should I weigh myself once a week or daily? What time of day? With or without clothes? These are all valid and anxiety carrying questions with no simple answer.
Research has shown that individuals that weigh themselves consistently are better at maintaining weight loss long term. Regardless of how consistent the measure, it can’t tell you how much fat you’ve lost relative to water, food intake, muscle, glycogen, etc.- again, feeding the cycle.
There are ways to instead use the scale to make consistent and maintainable progress without overanalyzing every single time you weigh in.
Keep these 5 things in mind:
1. Fat Loss is NOT linear
Don’t expect to lose weight every single day because your weight WILL fluctuate on a day to day basis, up and down. The numbers may fluctuate, and as a human that is frustrating initially, until you look at the bigger picture for downwards trends.
This is one reason that consistency is key.
2. Losing 1lb in a week is fantastic progress!
Unfortunately, this isn’t something most people want to hear living in a culture that loves instant gratification. A realistic rate of fat loss over time will absolutely produce significant- most importantly- lasting results. If you aren’t stagnant for 2 weeks, re-evaluate. It’s frustrating to not see progress after you work so hard all week but it happens because your human.
3. It’s only a number, consider what its taking into account
Consider you begin a well-designed strength program but weight loss is also your goal. You may look at a check in 8 weeks down the road and think what the hell?! – I gained weight, but my pictures look different- and better! The scale does not only represent “fat” weight, it also represents the weight that carries you through your day strong- it’s just not all equal. Over the course of your training program you may gain not only muscle, but water, and bone density as well. For women, I stress taking into account your hormonal cycle. Having an app or tracker to help understand what your body is doing or why you may be feeling a certain way is quite liberating (ladies! Eve is a great app). Simply put, the scale cannot make these distinctions (even the new super fancy, read my water weight and tell me my mood scale).
4. Consider the facts- what does your day look like?
This sounds counterintuitive at first, but you may weigh MORE the day after you lift weights! I burned more calories so why am I heavier!? Think about the stress you place on your body during your lifts and the time to recover from it. In order to recover your muscles will store more glycogen (carbs) which also signals your body to hold on to more water. After a big workout, you might (or in my case, always) feel like you can eat more to aid in your recovery- simply meaning more food in your stomach. Both of these reasons can result in short term weight gain- NOT fat gain.
5. Consistency with your consistency
In reference to the questions I listed at the beginning, whatever you choose and however you choose to do it, make it the exact same every time! That means the same scale, same time of day. It doesn’t matter whether the digital or manual is “more right”. Simply bumping into a digital scale can completely recalibrate your readings. Weighing at random times will always yield inconsistency. I prefer first thing in the morning before food and fluid intake because I can assume I will weigh less than if I choose to weigh in midday after my third meal. This still cannot make it flawless in your readings, but it will eliminate extra wiggle room.
While these are only a few "takeaways" to keep in mind the next time you step on the scale, there are many more. Don’t let the scale be your only way of measuring progress or health. There are other equally valid and essential measures to include in tracking your journey.
Consider these metrics:
A health professional is not the only person that can take your measurements. Using the inches side of a measuring tape record the following five sites (I recommend monthly) from the right side of your body:
- Arm (midpoint)
- Waist (at bellybutton)
- Hips (widest part of your glutes)
- Thigh (midpoint)
If you loved where you were right now, taking pictures might not be a big deal. If you are working towards where you want to be this can be a daunting task. Pictures can show things you would never previously have a way of tracking or sometimes even notice and are essential in allowing yourself to recognize the wins. Take pictures in the most consistent setting and clothing possible from the front, back, and side. Different ways include:
- Having someone take the pictures for you
- Using your front facing camera, take a video where you can take screenshots
- Set up a self timer (using the regular or front facing lens)
While these are only a few "takeaways" to keep in mind the next time you step on the scale, the intention also is for you to also use these things to reflect on along your journey. Many times we dont give ourselves permission to see all of the smaller "wins" that contribute to the larger vision.
Don’t let the scale be your only way of measuring progress or health.
How is your energy mid-day? How is your sleep? Or your skin?
And if this made you think of getting rid of the scale, good.
Claim new markers and ways to track what health means to you!