By Nikki Anderson
From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource
Even when they have made strides towards eating healthier and increasing their exercise programs, most people gauge their real success by the numbers reflected on the scale. Yes, weve all heard that muscle weighs more than fat and that water retention can skew the numbers. Yet, the scale holds the most weight (yes, pun intended) when determining our dieting loss success or failure.
Our entire mood can be dramatically affected by the daily weigh-in. We can be on top of the world one minute because we have completed our 45-minute aerobic session, yet one step on the scale reduces us to tears. How can I work out that hard and NOT lose weight? You may believe that the session was pointless, because of what the scale says! The beastly apparatus on the floor has become the expert in weight loss feedback. If the scale does not show a shift in weight (lower numbers) every day, then somehow we think we have failed.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Scale Positioning: You know, you stand on the scale anticipating a decrease in numbers. Well, it doesnt show the numbers youd like to see, so you figure that simply moving it ever so slightly in one direction or another will adjust the numbers in your favor. You continue to re-position the scale until just the right numbers show up!
Time of Day: Everyone knows that your weight is generally at its lowest first thing in the morning. However, just to make matters more interesting, you weigh yourself before going to the bathroom and then after. Ahhhh, an eighth of a pound difference. Someone might get the impression that simply going to the bathroom is an effective means of losing weight. Whatever works, right?
Foot Positioning: You are standing on the scale and the number isnt quite where it should be. First, you move your feet forward. Nope, still not the right number. Hmm, maybe moving them back a bit might get that number where it is supposed to be. With every little shift and adjustment, there is hope that the numbers will reflect a positive change. Oh, wait a minute, gotta take off the socks. They count for at least a couple of extra ounces of weight. And, the dance continues.
Needle Placement: Standing above the scale, you see that the needle is placed just a bit to the left of the zero. Heck, that will add what, another ounce or two to the ideal numbers. So, you move the knob in an attempt to perfectly center the needle over the zero. Somehow it seems impossible to set the needle directly in the center. Why not just go ahead and knock off a pound simply to accommodate the inaccuracy of the needle! We do and, lo and behold, we have lost weight! Yes-s-s-s-ss!
MDs Scale vs. Home Scale: Ok, so what is it about the doctors office scale? Why do we all seem to weigh ten pounds more on the doctors scale than on our home scale? Why not bring YOUR scale to your next doctors appointment -- just to show who is right and who is wrong when it comes to true weight.
Sick Weight: How many of you have been excited at the thought of weighing yourself after a nasty bout with the flu? Cmon, everyone has done it. WOW! Check it out, I lost three pounds. Who cares if it meant three days of bonding with the ceramic bowl, a whole three pounds was lost! Yes, illness can bring about all sorts of joy, now, cant it?
Pig-Out Scale: Fess up! After an overindulgent evening at a wedding or birthday, how many of you step on the scale just to see the real damage that was done? Just to reinforce the facts that: yes, we have no self-control and yes, the scale WILL punish us for overdoing it. What a great way to reinforce our lack of discipline!
Ok, so you get the idea. The scale has become our gauge when we evaluate our failure or success with weight loss. But, heres the important thing: a scale can provide guidance, but it cannot tell you how your overall health is doing. A scale simply provides a number that can make or break your day. And, why? Why do we allow an inanimate object to wreak havoc on our emotions? Whose great idea was it that the scale is king?
Cmon, we KNOW when weve eaten too much, and we KNOW when weve had a really healthy nutrition week. We KNOW when weve exercised regularly, and we KNOW when we have not. Why must we continue to rate our weight loss attempts with a scale when, more times than not, it isnt an accurate reflection of our overall health?
The truth is, the scale can work as a motivating force behind our weight loss efforts, but remember that as much as
that scale can build us up, it can tear us down. So, what to do? How can we reconcile ourselves to the fact that the scale is NOT always our best friend, and it often doesnt give us the straight story?
Well, it begins with understanding the job of the scale. The scale is not a buddy to bond with, because it hides the truth -- the truth being health vis a vis weight. Though many of us know that dropping a few pounds will enhance the quality of our life, the scale isnt always the best source for positive feedback. Making small changes over a long period of time will get us to a healthy goal, but the scale may not reflect positive numbers fast enough.
What often happens is that we then get impatient, frustrated and blow off any attempts to move forward. After all, the scale said it wasnt working, and the scale is always right, correct? WRONG! The scale cannot tell you that you have begun to make some positive lifestyle changes or that your body composition is changing. NO, the scale only shows that weight has shifted without explanation, because the scale doesnt care what the explanation is.
Its the scales job to show you a number. Once we understand that the job of the scale is simply to tell us actual body weight and nothing else, you can begin to view the scale simply as a monitor vs. a health evaluation.
I have worked with thousands of women who often gauged their success by the numbers on the scale. And, more often than not, because the scale didnt shift in a manner that they thought was good, they quit. The interesting thing is that no matter how many times they felt the scale failed them, they still counted on the scale to encourage their efforts. You KNOW that the scale is going to shift! One way or another, thats a given. So, why set yourself up for a mental game that can ruin the best of intentions?
Here are some ways to measure your weight loss success rather than using the scale. By the way, when it comes to weigh-ins, weekly weigh-ins are sufficient. If youre doing the 3 times a day weigh-in, youre doing yourself (and any attempts to change your lifestyle) a serious disservice. Heres the scoop:
1. Clothing: You know how it feels to put on a skirt or dress youve been unable to wear for a year? Nothing is better than being able to comfortably fit into that article of clothing that you considered giving away because you never thought youd be able to wear it again!
2. Attitude: When you begin to eat better and exercise more regularly, you will find yourself feeling more positive about the changes youre making. Having a positive attitude plays a large role in keeping you motivated and moving forward. Feeling positive allows you to make more decisions that are positive!
3. Taking Up Less Space: Before I lost 50 pounds, I always felt like I took up an unusual amount of space wherever I went. Whether it was a party, a meeting or work, I always felt that I took up more space than anyone else there. Once the body and the weight start changing, suddenly the space you take up seems much smaller. Getting into your car, getting on the train, going to the movies or flying. Any of those venues can give us a feeling of taking up a lot of space. Once your nutrition is healthy and your daily activity increases, those spaces will magically seem to have more room!
4. Active Participation: I dont know about you, but before I lost my weight, going anywhere with friends or family was dictated by the amount of exertion involved. The thought of long walks, or heaven forbid, climbing something, was an immediate, No thanks. Once I started practicing a healthier lifestyle and my body began to respond, I wasnt as reluctant to try new things and go places.
5. Friendly Comments: The best part of changing your lifestyle to healthy eating and daily activity are the comments youll begin receiving from others. Being told, You look great! goes a long way in reminding us that our efforts are well worth it.
A scale cannot measure feeling great, and looking great cannot be seen through a scale. Making positive lifestyle changes and connecting with the way your body responds to them is a wonderful way to reinforce the benefits of eating well, exercising well and living well! Scale down the need to weigh in every day and get your reinforcement through a means that makes sense!
Nicki Anderson is president and owner of Reality Fitness, a full-service personal training studio in Illinois. She is also a certified personal trainer and fitness practitioner -- and the author of Reality Fitness Inspiration For Your Health And Well-Being. You can learn more about Anderson and her philosophy by going to www.realityfitness.com .