Reasons to Ditch the Scale

Is the scale helping or hurting?

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How much do you weigh? While that’s not a question most polite people ask, I’ll bet most of you know the answer. Whether you weighed yourself this morning, yesterday or last week, chances are, stepping on a scale is something you do on a regular basis.

My next question is this: What do you think about when you step on a scale? Some common thoughts:

  • "That can’t be right."
  • "I knew I shouldn't have had that extra breath mint yesterday."
  • "Did I really gain 5 lbs since yesterday?"
  • "I haven’t lost a single pound. What’s wrong with me?"

Whatever you think about when you weigh yourself, one question you may not consider is this: Is weighing yourself helping you lose weight or standing in the way of success?

To Weigh or Not to Weigh?

For some of you, the idea of not knowing your weight on a regular basis may seem as foreign as not knowing you hate lima beans. This is true despite the fact that a scale, unlike lima beans, has all kinds of emotions, thoughts and beliefs attached to it. The moment you step on it, you decide things about yourself: Whether you’re fat or thin, whether you’ve succeeded or failed, perhaps even how you feel about yourself as a person.

For some people, the scale is an important and useful tool for maintaining weight loss but, for others, it can stand in the way of success. Which group do you fall into? If you’re not sure, learn more about the reasons you might want to ditch the scale.

Just Getting Started? You May Want to Ditch the Scale

The scale is a great tool for people who are maintaining weight loss. Seeing their weight each day is one way to make sure they're staying on track with their diet and exercise program. However, if you’re just starting a weight loss program, the number on the scale can be deceptive, making you feel that you’re not making progress even when you are.

Unfortunately, the hard work of diet and exercise isn’t always reflected on the scale for new exercisers, especially during the first few weeks. A few things that may happen when you start a weight loss program:

  • Delayed results - How long does it take weight changes to show on the scale? Most of us need several weeks of diet and exercise before seeing significant changes on the scale, and even then we may get different readings based on day-to-day weight fluctuations.
  • Unrealistic expectations – When you work hard at your workouts and diet, you may expect more than your body can deliver, which leads to disappointment.
  • Tunnel vision – We get so focused on the scale that it blocks out other things we’re getting out of our workouts. The long-term rewards of exercise aren’t always obvious when you’re a beginner and you forget there are other reasons to exercise and eat healthfully.

If you're discouraged by what you're seeing on the scale, consider weighing yourself once a month rather than daily or weekly to give your body time to adapt to what you’re doing.

Another option is to shift your focus from the minutiae of weight loss and concentrate on what you actually need to do get there, such as:

  • Showing up for your workouts - Set goals based on how many workouts you’ll do each week rather than how much weight you’ll lose.
  • Getting to know your body - You can’t lose weight until you exercise consistently and you can’t do that until you build endurance and strength. Take the first few weeks to experiment, condition your body and figure out what you’re capable of.
  • Learning how to exercise - If you’re a beginner, there’s a learning curve that may take you awhile to overcome. Give yourself space to learn good form, solid technique and effective methods of training before you put too much pressure on yourself to lose weight.

Discouraged? You May Want to Ditch the Scale

A friend of mine treats her scale the same way one might treat a poisonous snake. She hides it in her closet and lurches away whenever she accidentally catches sight of it. Many of us have the same visceral response to any scale – a shiver when we pass by the scale at the gym or instant dry mouth when instructed to stand on the scale at the doctor’s office.

Changing your lifestyle and habits is difficult enough without adding the pressure of losing a certain number of pounds each week. Your body won't always cooperate and you'll rarely get everything perfect from day to day. Starting off on the right foot means having:

  • A supportive environment of family and friends who encourage you to reach your goals
  • Realistic goals that motivate you day after day
  • A balanced exercise plan that fits your schedule and what you enjoy doing
  • A way to handle obstacles to exercise before they happen.

If the scale doesn't fit into that encouraging environment, it may be time for a change.

Do you dread getting on the scale every morning? If the answer is yes, consider:

  • Setting aside weight loss goals - Focusing on being healthy, fit and active can take the pressure off, allowing you to enjoy your active lifestyle. 
  • Find meaningful goals – Meaningful goals are the ones we stick with when times get tough. Consider joining a charity run or working out with a friend who needs support. You’ll remember the deeper reasons that exercise is an important part of your life.
  • Talk to friends or family members who exercise and ask them how they manage it. You may be inspired to learn how real people fit exercise into their lives.
  • Instead of watching the scale, focus on creating a healthy lifestyle. Living well almost always leads to weight loss. 

Is the Scale Lying to You?

While the scale can tell you how much you weigh, there's something more important you need to know: Your body composition. While many of us focus on how many pounds we're losing, what's more important is how much fat we're losing, something the scale can't discern. Losing weight may make you happy but, what if you found out you were losing muscle, not fat? Losing muscle lowers metabolism and, eventually, contributes to a loss of mobility and power.

This is one instance where the scale can lie, especially for new exercisers beginning a strength training program. It's possible to lose inches without losing weight, which means you're getting results even if they aren't showing up the way you're used to seeing them.

I often hear this question from readers who mention losing inches while the scale doesn't move. They wonder, "Why haven't I seen any results?" If you're experiencing this, one question to ask yourself is: Why do you believe the scale over your own experience? If you’re buying smaller clothes, you’re losing fat no matter what the scale says.

Too often, we believe what the scale is telling us rather than what’s in front of our own eyes, leaving us discouraged and frustrated rather than celebrating success.

Are you losing inches, fitting into smaller sizes and slimming down? If the answer is yes, that’s a good sign that you’re gaining muscle and losing fat, which is exactly what you want.

Instead of the scale, try other ways to track your progress:

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