Ditch The Scale
By Nell Adams
Congratulations! You’re on a journey to transform your body, spirit, and mind. Being open to a new personal challenge takes a lot of courage, consistency, and self-compassion. The first step is making the decision to make these shifts. That choice is the hardest part, right? Not, exactly. The next step is where a lot of us get stuck.
Determining goals and objectives can be a struggle. Especially without guidance catered specifically to your body, experience, and lifestyle. There is a wealth of information online, but many of us find ourselves in a million open Google tabs unsure which advice to trust and follow. To make matters worse, many of us set vague goals, choose random objective weights, or base our program on other people’s #bodygoals. We have all been told that weight loss is the best measure of success, particularly as women. Pop culture influences and marketing haven’t helped that cause. While it is true that the key to positive change is to create goals, too many of us turn to the scale.
The scale is not a reliable reflection of your health, wellbeing, and progress.
Wait, what?! The truth is, the scale will not provide meaningful, measurable, or sustainable goals. Trust me on this one, I wouldn’t lie about something so serious.
Here are 4 points to keep in mind when it comes to the scale and goal-setting:
- The scale is not consistent
If you want a reliable tool, the scale is the wrong one. The number that shows up when you step on the scale is influenced by too many factors. Not only could a scale show you something different every day, but it could also show different numbers throughout the day.
Your weight can be affected by many factors on a daily balance such as:
- The time of day. Your weight may significantly fluctuate throughout the day. You will see a different number if you weigh yourself first thing in the morning after emptying your bladder than if, say, you weigh yourself right after a big cup of a coffee and lunch.
- How long ago you ate. Food intake will obviously affect the number on the scale. Especially if it hasn’t moved through your body yet. The water content of the food will also slightly increase your weight immediately after eating. If you must weigh yourself, it’s in your best interest to only do so at the same time of day.
- Hydration levels will dramatically shift the number. As humans, we are 50-65% water. Most exercise plans require a lot of water intake, which would affect water retention and therefore show higher numbers on the scale.
- Whether you went to the toilet recently will also show a difference in weight.
- How much you’ve been training. Inflammation and water retention can increase by almost 10% when you’re intensely training.
- Your salt intake can increase water retention and therefore increase your weight.
- Your menstrual cycle can alter your weight because of hormonal shifts (if you must weight yourself, at least compare this weight with the same time on a monthly basis rather than day by day). Period related weight gain of around 1-2 kilos is to be expected. Factors such as sugar cravings increased water retention, and less exercise can all affect the weight during your period. Your weight and hormone levels work hand in hand – for example, a weight gain or loss of about 20% could even lead to missed periods.
- Muscle weighs (slightly) more than fat.
There are some debates about the actual weight of muscle vs. fat. But what is most important to know is that muscle is denser. A kg of muscle is the same as a kg of fat in terms of weight but they do not take up the same amount of space. Your body composition can be changing while the numbers on the scale are not. A more reliable way to measure this progress would be a 3d scan of your composition, but not all of us have access to that technology.
Seeing a Biokineticist can help significantly when it comes to understanding your body’s composition and needs. A Biokineticist (see our suggested list here) is like a personal trainer with scientific knowledge who can provide information about your specific body composition. With weight loss comes many other shifts. This is why it is important to work with a holistic practitioner to assist you in a more broad range of measures: such as blood pressure, joint health, psychological wellness, and more.
Body composition is also an important factor at play. Fat can be stored around vital organs and places that go beyond what we see in the mirror. Your body’s unique shape is less about a number on a scale and more about a relationship between the levels of fat and lean body mass (muscle, organs, bones). A biokinetic can assist you in finding a balance that works for you and your body’s needs.
- Results take time
Keeping up with even the best results will have a lag time. Results will show up in 4 to 8 weeks, at the earliest. Most results, however, will take 4 to 6 months and come from long term lifestyle changes. Weighing yourself daily can reduce your motivation to tunnel vision.
Tunnel vision means:
- giving up or beating yourself up if you don’t see changes immediately (many people don’t)
- To meet daily weight goals, you may start making decisions to skip meals or over-exercise.
- This will result in you becoming more tired, less fit, and less committed to the long-term goals you have set.
Ultimately, weight loss is a poor motivator in the long term. It is much more sustainable to remember your personal reasons for undertaking this journey, then get back to work with the knowledge that results will come in due time.
- There are better indicators of progress
It is both normal and a good idea to want to monitor your results, especially if you are working hard with nutrition and exercise. Seeing incremental progress is a great motivator! But this is exactly why the scale will most likely leave you more discouraged.
The goals that you have set will be individualized, which means that the only point of comparison you have is yourself. Having a goal weight might not be in line with your body’s needs. For example, your healthy weight will not be the same as somebody else’s.
More meaningful measures of progress can be task-based. Here are some ideas:
- Setting a goal to be able to double the number of push-ups you can do
- To be able to run 10 minutes longer than usual
- Challenge yourself to always take the stairs
- Cook at home one more night a week than usual
- Another helpful measure is your own wardrobe. Trying on clothes to see how they fit.
Download an app or get a planner to track this progress and give yourself a time frame to complete the task.
Sometimes it is impossible to dodge the scale altogether. But the scale is only an effective tool when used correctly and periodically. If you absolutely need a measure, look into meeting with a personal trainer who can measure your BMI or invest in some measuring tape to use on a weekly basis. Meeting with a Biokineticist is a reliable way to find out more about your body composition, costing less than R200 per consultation.
Don’t let a scale dictate how you feel about your progress – let how you feel determine that.