Stop Being Afraid of the Scale

A couple of days ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I came across a post from an old classmate.  The post said something to the effect of how she was about to weigh herself for the first time in years and was dreading it.  I was perplexed by the idea of not weighing yourself, especially by someone who complains about their weight as often as she does.  It was not the first time I have come across this notion of avoiding the scale.  Our society has become soft over the past few years in regards to not wanting to face reality, and for a measuring instrument to fall victim to these ways is laughable. The idea behind avoiding the scale is that by not weighing yourself you can preserve your own ignorance by not knowing the number, and can therefore avoid affecting your psyche.  Denial is not the key to happiness and creating this delusion only exacerbates the issue.  One article on the subject from The Huffington Post claims that you should not weigh yourself because scales lie.

...What…

Scales actually do the opposite of lie.  They give you an objective, unbiased measurement of your mass at that particular point in time so long as the scale is functioning properly.  Scales are one of the few ways we can measure a body statistic that nearly everyone has access to.  Sure, the scale doesn’t take into account body composition. Yes, getting an accurate measurement of lean body mass versus fat mass would be ideal, but the vast majority of us don’t have the technology in our homes to accomplish this.  Avoiding the scale is only going to limit the amount of information you have to assist you in achieving your goals.  The number on the scale is not representative of your worth and it should not be something you obsess over.  As I’m sure you know, there are other factors that are more indicative of health.  The number on the scale is only a metric.  It is nothing more than the force your body creates pressing against the earth due to the mass of your body being accelerated downward by gravity.  That is it.  The number can’t tell you anything more about your health.  It doesn’t know how you eat, how you exercise, or your family history, so don’t treat it as an all encompassing factor. Also, do not get hung up on small fluctuations in your day to day weight. Rather, focus on the overall direction in which your weight is trending as the data accumulate.

If you have goals to lose or gain weight you need to be weighing yourself often.  Weighing yourself provides you with necessary feedback to understand how your body is responding to your intervention strategy.  I personally weigh myself everyday.  I do it first thing in the morning after I use the bathroom.  That way I know my body is in a similar state each time I step on the scale.  Doing it first thing in the morning ensures that I am at least a few hours fasted each time I weigh myself and it is one of the only times I can be certain that the hours preceding the measurement were similar.  I’ll record my morning weight in the Health app on my iPhone to provide easy tracking.  You can also record in MyFitnessPal or plenty of other health and weight loss apps.  The key here is that you actually record your weight and do so consistently.  It is sometimes seen as taboo for individuals to weigh themselves everyday as it can provide an obsession with the number on the scale.  I couldn’t disagree more.  As long as you are consistent with the time and conditions of the measurement and don't obsess over every small up and down, it should be nothing but beneficial.  Try to take the measurement at the same time of day, using the same scale, and after using the bathroom.  Weighing yourself weekly or even monthly is adequate as long as you take the measurement at the same time of day and use the same scale.  I believe that weighing yourself daily and examining your data allows you to be in touch with your diet, fitness, and results.  You are able to see how what you eat and your activity/training levels are connected to the numbers on the scale.  More data can only help to increase your knowledge of how your body works.  The picture below is a graph of my weight from every measurement I have taken over the course of a year or so.  

 
Weight Graph

 

Because I record my weight daily I can pinpoint different fluctuations and extrapolate their causes.  You can see that from January 2016 to March 2016 I lost around ten pounds.  This happened because starting in January I began experimenting with removing any grain products from my diet.  I stopped eating any and all wheat containing products.  Everything else remained the same including my training.  The drop in weight could likely be attributed to a decrease in my glycogen stores.  Because I was not eating grains, my diet was naturally lower in carbohydrates and I maintained a training regimen that included high intensity exercise.  Each gram of glycogen we store in our body has 3 grams of water accompanying it, and most of us consistently store enough glycogen for this to add up substantially.  It is not uncommon for an individual on a low carbohydrate diet to lose weight at the beginning of their diets solely from being glycogen depleted.  Around April I reintroduced grains and wheat containing products into my diet and you can see the effect from the spike on the graph over the next month or so.  Over the summer months you can find a few smaller jumps on the line.  These correspond with a few trips to a friend's lake house where my diet consists of 45% chocolate chip cookies and 55% whatever else is in my presence.  The dip towards the end of 2016 occurred because I didn’t pay close enough attention to my calorie intake and lost weight because of it.  The large spike at the beginning of this year is representative of my attempt to try and gain 15 pounds over the first few months of the year.  You can begin to understand how recording your weight and weighing yourself often can make you more intune with your body.  

Weight Graph 2

 

By tracking your food intake and cross matching calorie counts and your weight over the course of a few weeks you can pinpoint how your diet affects the number on the scale.  With this information in your arsenal you can then adjust your workouts and eating habits accordingly to improve your chances at success.  Weight loss is predicated on energy balance; the calories you take in versus the calories you burn.  If you take in more calories than you expend, you will gain weight.  If you burn more calories than what your body needs, you will lose weight.  In the plainest terms it is this simple for the vast majority of the population.  As with everything in science, nothing is absolute; the picture gets much more complicated the deeper you look, but the basic principle is very simple.  The world’s obesity epidemic is far too convoluted to solely blame energy balance but understanding the concept is imperative to gain perspective on the issue as a whole.  

If you are someone who struggles to achieve your body composition and fitness goals I would urge you to consider some of the strategies above.  Weighing yourself often and tracking your food intake can arm you with the data necessary to make informed judgements on what needs to occur for you to be successful.  The data do not lie.  Having strong data in your corner can not only help you become more in tune with your body but it can also make you more prudent in your everyday choices.  I will stress again, the number on the scale is not representative of your worth and it is not all-telling.  Use it as what it is. A metric. Nothing more, nothing less.  By avoiding the scale you are only limiting the resources you have available to you.  At the end of the day you are the only one responsible for your actions.  It is your responsibility to determine the value of your health and how willing you are to make appropriate changes.  Ask yourself the following:

Are you avoiding the scale because you are genuinely comfortable with your weight?

Or

Are you avoiding the scale because you are afraid of knowing the number?

If the latter question is more representative of you, consider that a continued avoidance will only add to the delusion until changes are implemented.  Developing a healthy relationship with your body and food is essential.  If that means you need to make body composition changes to achieve this, then you must make a true effort to change.  Learning to use the scale in a healthy, objective manner will help curb your negative feelings and assist you in achieving your goals.  If you aren’t happy in your current state then make a change.  Life is far too short to be authoring a story that is different than what you wish it were.  The great thing about it is that you can begin bettering yourself this very moment.  Stand up and take a walk.  Add an extra serving of vegetables at dinner tonight.  Choose water over soda.  Momentum is a real phenomenon and the small things add up.  Once you push yourself in the right direction the pieces will fall into place and you’ll wonder why it took so long to start.
Good luck and I wish you nothing but success.