Do you have a love–hate relationship with your scale? You know … you love the thing when it tells you what you want to hear, but when it tells you you’re up five pounds nothing would make you happier than to drop it from the top of a skyscraper and watch it shatter into a million pieces … ker pow!
A few weeks after weigh loss surgery, I invested big bucks into a really good scale that measured weight and body fat. I loved that thing … because the numbers kept going down. But a year out from surgery, that scale started telling me things I didn’t like. Like that my weight was starting to creep up a bit.
So, I panicked and did what a lot of people do when the scale exposes a truth you don’t wanna hear … I broke off our relationship. I put that sucker in a box, covered it with my old fat pants and buried it at the back of my closet!
But, you can’t live in denial forever. When it’s time for your annual exam, the doctor’s assistant is going to make you step on that scale no matter how much you protest. And, it’s even worse to discover you’ve gained even more weight than you suspected when someone is looking over your shoulder, right?
All this drama made me ponder the age-old conundrum … do you ignore the scale, or do you weigh regularly … and if so, how often?
Let’s dig into the good, bad and ugly of weighing. We’ll start with the downside and then dig into the benefits.
For those of us with a history of obesity, it’s not uncommon to have a LOT of emotions tied to the readout on the scale―and those emotions lean to the negative if the numbers don’t align with your ideal body weight.
Con #1—Possible Depression & Low Self-Esteem
In some people, frequent weighing can cause depression and negatively impact self-esteem and body satisfaction. That’s according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior that followed 1,900 young adults over ten years. It concluded that 80% of the girls who frequently weighed themselves seemed to become obsessed and exhibited dangerous weight control behaviors.
Con #2—Can Mess with Mindset
Frequent weighing can actually improve and/or support mindset. However, for some it instead messes with their heads. Which category do you fall into?
Do you recall a time where you were doing EVERYTHING by the book … eating healthy and following the rules your doctor provided? Exercising regularly. Keeping properly hydrated. Getting plenty of sleep. But, you step on the scale and it’s up a pound or even two from the day before. And your weight’s still up the day after that, and the day after that. What a total MIND BLEEP! Right?
How do you react? Does the scale mess with your mindset? If so, does it trigger unwanted behavior? Do you turn to comfort food? Do you say, why bother working out today if I’m gaining weight? For all you know, you’re retaining water … but, does it mess with your mind?
Con #3—Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story
Daily visits to the scale don’t tell the whole story. Is it that time of month? Did you consume too much salt yesterday? Are you constipated or dehydrated? Did you gain muscle? Is stress impacting your cortisol levels and wreaking havoc on your body? Just because you’re up a pound or two, doesn’t mean you’ve gained fat. And just because the numbers go down, doesn’t mean you’ve lost fat either.
So, there are clearly some negatives to frequent weighing. But, how about the positives?
There have been a ton of studies on the science of weighing, many of them with positive outcomes.
Pro #1—Increased Weight Loss
Most of the studies I’ve uncovered suggest that hopping on that scale regularly has a positive impact on weight. What’s more is that the more frequently people weighed themselves, the more weight they lost.
For instance, the University of Michigan studied 1,800 dieting adults. Those who weighed once a week lost an average of 6 pounds. However, those who weighed themselves daily lost an average of 12 pounds—that’s double the results!
Pro #2—Less Regain
The same study also found that those in the group weighing once a day were more likely over a two-year period NOT to regain what they had lost. Similar studies, including one by Cornell University, produced similar results. Other studies independently studied happens when people decreased their weighing frequency. Surprise, surprise … they gained weight.
Now, if you stop for a moment to let this all sink in, it makes sense. That’s because it creates … AWARENESS!
Pro #3—Increased Awareness
Trying to maintain a rightsized body without frequent weighing is essentially like flying blind! You don’t know if you’re about to fly right into a mountain, how much fuel is in the tank or where you’re going to land.
If you weigh every day, you begin to better understand your body and what makes your weight fluctuate. You begin to understand if the fluctuating number is something to worry about, like if you’ve really gained a pound of fat, or if you’re just retaining water.
Your increased awareness, empowers you to catch weight gains before they escalate … make behavioral changes to not only prevent additional gain, but drive the numbers back down to your ideal weight.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS …
So, knowing the positives and negatives about weighing, what should you do?
If you’re NOT prone to depression, low self-esteem or mind games here’s a really cool solution … kind of a happy medium.
Consider weighing first thing every morning --- not thinking of the scale as an evil demon, but merely as a tool to gather data. At the end of each week, average the number for those 7 days by adding all 7 days and dividing by 7. Use that weekly average as the true measure of your weight. That will give you a more accurate read, while helping you get in tune with your body.
Listen, the truth is we’re all different. You’ve got to do what’s right for you. Carefully think over the pros and cons of weighing every day, talk about it with your medical advisors, and determine what best fits your lifestyle. But, most importantly, remember … like your surgically-enhanced tummy … the scale is ONLY a tool.
I weigh every morning and it has changed my life for the better. I can share with you that it has helped me enormously in my rightsize living journey. Not only do I weigh daily, I keep a log of my weight. The act of doing this has helped me to reframe my weight as data that enables me to make informed choices.
Additionally, weighing daily has helped me to better understand my body and how my behaviors impact my weight. It has enabled me to understand patterns, pinpoint foods that were not as healthy as I thought and know when to be concerned by weight gain and when it’s no big deal. If the number on the scale goes up, I can course-correct immediately before things get out of hand.
So, how about it? Will you decide to weigh or not to weigh?
Until next time … live with purpose, live with courage, and live with delight!