By Caroline Mackey, RNCP, ROHP, CNP, PTS
Holistic Nutritionist & Fitness Trainer
Oh the scale. That often most dreaded piece of equipment in the household. It’s now digitized and can tell you any number of statistics including body weight, fat percentage and so on. Having and maintain a healthy weight is of course very important. However I have found for both myself and clients that using a scale can be more detrimental than helpful.
Having lost well over 100 pounds I am intimately aware of how much the scale can be a huge stress and also an addiction. You know when weigh-in day is happening, and for some they end up weighing themselves every day. Your day or week will be shot or made by that number of the scale. You mentally review what you’ve eaten, have you been on track, will the number reflect all your hard work? And more often than not, that number is not what you want it to be when you step on the scale. We do the shifting of the weight ‘dance’ to see if it’s really that number or is it just the stance, and so on. And for many of us when the number is not what we had hoped for, it’s incredibly demoralizing, disappointing and demotivating.
There are many reasons that the number on the scale may seem ‘off’ that have nothing to do with the healthy choices and lifestyle that you’ve been living that appear to not be reflected in the scale. Water retention and dehydration can be an issue. If you’re working out, muscle weighs more so the number on your scale may go up not down. For women, at different times of the month you will retain water related to your cycle. What you ate that day and your bowel movements also affect the number on the scale.
At the same time, you can become addicted to the process, because on the days when the number goes down it’s an incredible feeling of awesomeness. And you want to recreate that as often as possible. It’s an emotional roller coaster and our self-esteem and worth can be directly tied to what we see on the scale.
Researchers back up what I have found to be true about the scale. Cornell University did a 10 year study following 2,000 teenage boys and girls that found those that frequently weighed themselves reported lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression and more body image issues.*
So how can you track progress in a more healthy way? First of all, throw out the scale. The weigh-in at your annual physical will give you the number; the only reason to weigh more often than that is if you feel something is drastically off track. Unexplained large losses or gains in weight should lead you to the doctor right away for a check-up to ensure your health is ok. If you’re working on losing weight, you can track inches lost once per month by measuring your chest, waist (measure at the belly button), and hips. Or you can determine progress by how your clothes fit. Accountability with yourself is important; if you feel your clothes, conversely, have been getting tighter of late, then you know it’s time to assess your eating and lifestyle habits and ensure your nutrition intake is healthy and that you’re moving your body regularly.
The number on the scale does not define us. The most important determinant of a healthy weight is how you feel – can you sleep well, do you have good energy, does the food you eat nourish and uplift, are you strong and fit, do you feel comfortable in your own bosy. Those are the factors that are most important. So join me in saying no to the scale, and saying yes to a healthy and balanced life where the number we weigh is not an obsession.
*Cornell Study: http://www.jneb.org/article/S1499-4046%2815%2900633-8/abstract