The scale is one of the biggest liars in your life. If you ask it the same question five times throughout the day, you will get five different answers, with each answer being just as potentially flawed as the next. Too many of us find ourselves being defined by the number on the scale. We tie our self worth to the number it generates, thinking that we must be doing something right if the number goes down in our attempt to lose weight, while also thinking that we must be failing at life if the number increases.
The number on the scale won’t bring you happiness. The quicker you realize this, the better off you will be.
Can you tell me what you’re going to do when you get those six-pack abs or when you finally get to that ‘magical’ body weight for which you have been striving? You’re likely going to realize that you still have the same problems you had before.
Weight Gain Does Not Equal Fat Gain
I’ve had clients get concerned when they see the number on the scale start to increase by one pound, then two… then five pounds within a week, despite closely following their nutrition and hydration plan. I have news: this is normal.
Your daily weight can drastically fluctuate due to hydration, water balance, electrolyte load (especially sodium), carbohydrate intake, hormones, lack of sleep, stress, climate, and a variety of other factors.
Also, I’ll speak nerdy to you: in order for you to gain a pound of fat, you would generally have to eat a surplus of 3,500 calories. If you’re closely following your nutrition plan and haven’t had any “off-plan” meals, then the likelihood of you gaining a pound of fat isn’t very realistic since that would entail you consuming over 3,500 extra calories above your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories needed to keep your body functioning at rest).
Be realistic with yourself when you see that number pop-up on the scale and ask yourself if any of the above factors could be attributed to an increase on the scale. I personally find that stress and lack of sleep are HUGE indicators of weight gain for many clients, including myself. In fact, getting less than seven hours of sleep can play a huge role in obesity as indicated in this study.
Ultimately, just remember that weight gain doesn’t always equal fat gain.
Your daily weight isn’t the only number you should rate your success on. First of all, it’s only one piece of information. Secondly, it’s more ideal to consider your average weight over a period of time instead of riding the roller coaster of your daily weight since your daily weight can fluctuate due to the variety of factors that I outlined earlier. Looking at the trend of your body weight is key, not each daily weigh-in.
But, like I already mentioned, the scale is only one piece of the data to be analyzed when it comes to weight loss or gain. Sure, the number it generates can be a valuable piece of information when you are on a journey to weight loss or gainzville, but it shouldn’t be the ONLY piece of information that you use.
In addition to body weight, it’s best to consider these few other pieces of information when analyzing the success of your nutrition and wellness plan. I use the following to evaluate the progress of my own clients when they work with me in any of my nutrition programs:
Body fat percentage
Circumference measurements of various parts of your body (waist, hips, chest, thigh, arm, etc.)
Body fat percentage: Your weight could stay the exact same for several months, but your body fat percentage could be decreasing throughout that period of time, which is a great indicator of success since that means that you’re increasing your lean mass (more muscle!). The more muscle you have, the more fat you are able to burn. When it comes to measuring body fat percentage, the key is picking a method of measurement and being consistent with that method during the course of your journey. Don’t choose to use bioelectrical impedance for your baseline measurement, and then switch to using the DEXA scan, or vice versa. Pick one method of measuring body fat and stick with it. Yes, some methods are seen as more superior than others, but I won’t compare body fat measurement methods here — I’ll save that for a future blog post instead.
Circumference measurements: Measuring the circumference of various areas on your body is another great source of information that can show progress that you may not necessarily see reflected on the scale. Generally speaking, it is best to measure the waist, hips, and chest at a minimum; you can always include measuring your thighs and upper arms as well. Increases (gainz!) or decreases (possible loss of body fat) can be seen over a period of time; so, just like body weight, don’t take your circumference measurements every day. Instead, take your measurements weekly or every other week and track the trend.
Progress photos: Progress pics help to document any changes to your body that you may be able to see visually since you see yourself every day. When you look at yourself every day, it’s difficult to notice all of the physical changes that may be evident to others. The primary visual changes you may see include less bloating and ‘puffiness’ as well as seeing any changes to your overall muscular development as your body recompositions itself. Always start with baseline photos and compare them to your most current photos to note any changes you may see.
Biofeedback: Biofeedback includes listening to your body to check-in and see how it’s feeling as you progress. (This is my favorite source of information to use with my clients.) You should try to check-in with yourself once every 1-2 weeks while you’re following a nutrition plan (and even when you’re not following any set ‘plan’ and are perhaps at a maintenance level or are simply looking for a constant state of wellness). Ask yourself things such as:
How is my sleep? Am I getting at least 7-8 hours a night? Do I feel well rested?
How is my recovery? What’s my average resting heart rate?
How is my stress level? Is it increased, decreased, or constant?
How is my mood?
How is my overall daily energy?
What about my energy levels while training?
How does my training feel? Am I slugging along in the gym at a snail’s pace, or do I head into every training session with a fire inside?
Looking at these various measurements will help you corroborate the validity of the number on the scale.
Your Relationship with the Scale
The number on the scale won’t ever be a source of happiness. The quicker you realize this, the better off you will be. The number on the scale should only be a small piece of information for you. It is only a number.
Some numbers can make you feel happy, while others can make you feel worthless. But, again, it’s just a number. It doesn’t define you. And, as pointed-out above, it isn’t the only indicator of success when it comes to overall health and wellness, so try not to hang on every number the scale generates.
How to Have a Healthy Relationship with the Scale
Ask yourself: why do you want to hit a certain number on the scale? What is your WHY? What is the significance of that number? Where did you get that particular number? Do you think it’s the best weight for you because some magazine told you so? Stop it.
Stop telling yourself that a certain weight will make you feel amazing and happy and will solve all of your problems. The scale has never received the Nobel Peace Prize, so it will not solve the internal war you have with yourself.
I’ll be blunt: sometimes we set unrealistic goals for ourselves. We want to lose 20% body fat in three months. We want to lose 25 pounds in six weeks. Gaining weight doesn’t happen overnight, but we expect our weight loss to happen immediately — and if we aren’t able to lose weight at lightning speed, then we start to hate ourselves and get a huge case of the “f*ck its” and proceed to binge ourselves into oblivion.
Instead of setting such difficult — and sometimes unobtainable — goals for ourselves, try focusing on making small changes that can have a huge impact on your health and wellness. Go for a daily walk. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Drink 20 ounces more water each day. Take baby steps towards your goals by making these mini goals first. You will do nothing but set yourself up for success by accomplishing each of these mini goals first.
Overall health and wellness doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens with consistent effort applied over a period of time through healthy habits. Consistency instead of perfection breeds success, which is why habits are so crucial to establish. Stay consistent, don’t worry about being perfect, and try not to give a damn what the scale says every day.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?
Interested in learning more about flexible eating and how to enjoy the foods you love? Comment below or email me, and I’d be more than happy to help you make sense of it all.
If you’re interested in having your macronutrients personally calculated for you to meet your goals, or having a customized nutrition plan built just for you and paired with attentive coaching, then check-out my Services page first to see what I offer. Message me and we can arrange a time to chat for a free consultation.