Are you caught in the trap of checking the numbers on the scale? Do you worry (obsess?) over an unexplained increase in your weight? It makes sense, right? If how much we weight determines how healthy we are, then gaining weight means we’re not as healthy and something is wrong, right?? After all, the scale is all about numbers and numbers don’t lie.
Actually, when they are on the scale, they do! Before we bust this myth, check out the first two posts:
- Intro to The Healthy Weight Myths Series
- Then read about why healthy does not necessarily mean “skinny.”
What The Scale REALLY Tells Us
We are taught to believe the scale. We are taught to believe in losing those last 10 (30? 50?) pounds, because we aren’t at the right weight. If we can just get the numbers to go down a little bit more, then we’ll magically be at a “healthy” weight. But…
The only thing that the scale can tell us is how much we weigh. Waiting for the punch line? 😉 Well, our bodies are made up of a lot of things:
- Internal Organs
When the numbers go up or down on the scale, we are taught to assume that it’s fat that we are gaining or losing. Why should we assume that??
Our weight shifts based on so many variables. When we become focused on those numbers, we are doing nothing but needlessly tormenting ourselves. Here are just a few things that can make the scale say something different from one day to another:
- Water: Dehydration can make is seem like we’ve lost a little weight. Often, “water weight” is a big player in the numbers. Eat too much refined salt? You’re retaining water. (Unprocessed salt is actually a health food, though, so don’t avoid it!) Have you been out in the heat a lot more than usual? Sweating off water and not drinking enough can make it seem like you’ve lost fat when you’ve really only lost water. Hormones shifting will also cause water retention, which can affect the numbers from one week to the next.
- Muscle: Muscle weighs more than fat. This is huge, friends. We’ll have a post dedicated specifically to this topic, but I want to point out that a person can be either thinner and more toned OR he/she can be bigger and flabbier while weighing exactly the same number of pounds! Ever started to exercise and then quit from the discouragement of the scale not going down, or even going up?? That’s why.
- Clothing/Shoes: Depending on what we’re wearing, clothes and shoes can make enough of a difference to cause discouragement. I’ve known quite a few ladies who “weigh more” in the winter, without realizing that their winter clothes and shoes can add five pound to the scale!
- Time of Day: Our weight can change a bit throughout the day, based on how much we’ve had to eat or drink. People eat about 2 pounds of food a day and drink many more pounds of water.
Think about it for a minute. One day, it’s the morning after eating a meal crammed full of refined salt, it’s cold out (so you’re wearing heavier clothes), your long hair is wet from the shower, you just had a massive breakfast and drank tons of water (hey, all that salt makes a person thirsty!) and a week ago you started doing some squats every day. Alone, none of these things are a huge deal. In combo, they could raise the scale 5 to 10 pounds! And we didn’t even touch on the cyclical hormones that can mess with weight for the ladies.
Another day, you haven’t had any refined salt, you were sweating off extra water in the heat and didn’t drink enough water, it’s warm (so your clothes are lighter), your hair is dry and you haven’t eaten any breakfast yet. You quit the squats several weeks ago and are now losing muscle mass that you had gained. This day, you could weigh 5 to 10 pounds less than “normal.”
That can swing the scale 10 to 20 pounds (it usually isn’t that drastic, but the point is it *can* be)!! All of that weight “loss” and “gain” without any fat loss or gain even happening. You see? The scale lies. Think of all the heartache we could skip if we just chuck the scale!
We’ll have another post to talk about better ways to keep track of our progress without the scale. If you absolutely cannot live without the scale, follow these steps to get most accurate weight without obsessing.
- Weigh yourself only once a month: Make it be the 1st of the month or whatever day you will remember. You’ll be able to see any alarming shift, but the numbers won’t be something that takes center stage every day or week.
- Weigh yourself first thing in the morning: Before eating or drinking anything (and after using the bathroom), hop on the scale.
- Wear the exact same clothes each time: Either wear the exact same clothes or no clothing at all.
- Avoid big weight-shifters the day before and the day of: Avoid excess refined salt the day before (Chinese food, for example) and stay hydrated without going overboard. Make sure that your hair is dry, especially if it’s long.
Don’t let the numbers on the scale become an idol or a demon in your life. Personally, I could easily get sucked into obsessively checking my weight and analyzing what caused it to go up or down. Since I know this about myself, we don’t even have a scale in the house. If you are able to have a scale and not put too much stock into what the numbers say, that’s great. This post is for people who, like myself, read too much into the lies that the numbers tell us. 😉