and why nobody should!
Anyone interested in losing weight (or gaining weight), knows the love/hate relationship that forms between human and that small mechanical or digital device known as ‘bathroom scales’. Emotions that waver between
excitement ……. dread …………. anticipation ………… depression …. suspicion …….. fear ……….. eagerness ……… dig fingernails into the floorboards reluctance ….. pride ……….. guilt ….
Who else can relate to that list of conflicting feelings?
When I began my low carb lifestyle journey, we did not have scales, never having replaced our old ones that refused to work ever again after a battery change. So I spent the first eleven weeks having no idea of my progress in regards to losing weight. Bearing in mind I am doing this for health reasons first, weight loss second. Eleven weeks of living in the bliss of ignorance and knowing by the fit of my clothes that change – my body size – was happening.
Then we got scales.
Now I am sure everybody knows the golden rules when it comes to weighing yourself. The Crown King of those rules has to be “Don’t weigh yourself any more than once a week”. You know it, right? I know it. I KNOW it. Yet, my last week proves that knowing and following are two uncomfortably opposite distinctions.
Before I launch into my personal story, let’s have a refresher of the ideal weigh-in process.
Do not weigh yourself too often. Once a week is perfectly adequate.
The body naturally fluctuates in weight from day to day, and during each day, too. Fluid retention or fluid loss (exercise, dehydration etc); timing of bowel motions, and any other number of reasons. Our bodies are not machines that undertake certain tasks by a specific deadline so we can get all our numbers lined up in a correct and pleasing manner. No! Our bodies are living, organic entities that are influenced by factors so numerous it would need a super computer to track it all.
Weigh at the same time of the day.
For much the same reasons as above. I weigh in within a 1.5 hour window. It varies so widely because it depends on whether it is a work day or a home day (I only work part time). Weighing at the same time gives us the best opportunity to get a reliable benchmark of progress.
Wear similar weight clothes when weighing in, or go nude.
Eliminating variances is the important part here. The weight of our clothing can vary hugely, particularly with seasonal changes. A summer dress is going to weigh far less than a winter sweater, polo neck and singlet. Eliminating these extraneous variables will give us a more accurate and reliable picture. That’s why I weigh in my ‘birthday suit’. It’s easy, no fuss, no thinking involved.
Use the same scales and in the same location.
Scales vary widely and the differences can be alarming or overly positive. The doctor’s surgery will read differently to those at the gym, to those at the nutritionist’s office, to the ones in your home. Your regular weigh in scales are the only ones that matter, wherever they are. If required to weigh on different scales from time to time (such as at a Doctor’s request), then don’t use that as your guide. That is for their records of progress, not yours.
Also use the scales in the same location. The surface of the floor matters and can affect how the scales work. Never weigh on a soft surface such as carpet. We tuck our scales away under a seat in the bathroom. When I pull them out I line it up with particular marks on the floor to eliminate potential variances (we have an old house – almost 100 years old – with an imperfect bathroom floor).
Weighing is not about how much you’ve lost!
It’s not. Really! Weighing oneself is far more useful to determine trends in your body weight. We get so caught up in the numbers. “Oh no, I only lost 100 grams this week and last week I lost 200 grams. I MUST be doing something wrong.” This is a destructive thought process. The thing we should be noting and excited about is that the downward trend continues. It’s all good! Focus on the trends over weeks and months to get a realistic portrait of how you are progressing. Drawing up a simple line graph can be an excellent method to encourage yourself and show the real truth.
Sometimes the scales will not be your friend. They will just show a wrong picture of how you are progressing. I believe this is particularly true for women who go through additional body changes on a monthly basis. It is easy to become discouraged when those scales brandish their bleak news in your face. Here it is particularly important to remember the trend. If the trend is going the wrong way after a month, then perhaps revisit things. Are you more stressed? Have you been out to eat more than usual, attended a celebration or been through the holiday season? Has a new food been introduced or a change of medication? and numerous other factors… Otherwise take a breath, look at your overall progress and celebrate that you’re healthier than when you first began.
So, let’s take a look at my first week with scales and show you how not to do things the way I did.
The image below is a chart of my first week having scales. First up you can tell: I immediately broke the biggest rule! I weighed every … single … day! (Please note I’ve dropped off the beginning of the measurements. I’m not ready to share the rest yet, if ever.)
So here is how my thought process went. The bits in blue are my honest reactions and thoughts as experienced after each weigh in.
Day 1: The first time weighing in.
“Hurumph. Not as bad as it could have been but still an unfriendly number.”
Given that I’d already been at this business of low carb-ing for eleven weeks, that means the number was once higher. Not a comforting thought on one hand, on the other, a smidge comforting. Ah, the complex mind.
Day 2: Down 800 grams
“Oh my gosh, wow! One day and I’m down that much! This is awesome. I knew I was losing, but oh wow. I know I’m not supposed to weigh every day and I didn’t expect a result, but having a scale is a novelty. Amazing! I feel so good right now.”
The justification for weighing myself; the overexcited reaction. Trouble brewing, but no, I’m more sensible than that. Hahaha.
Day 3: Up 150 grams
“Yesterday was so great; I’ll just see what’s happening today. Wouldn’t it be jaw-dropping if I was down even more? It won’t show anything, but I’ll just do it for interest’s sake.”
Yeah, like interest cares in the slightest. 150 grams up. Still happy. That means over a kilo down in 2 days. I was still thrilled. Okay, sensible head on: I’ve got this, no sweat. The justification continues, but the mood is okay.
Day 4: Down 500 grams
“What?! This is crazy! I’m so happy. Wow! Wow! WOW!”
All day I was saying to my husband “happy numbers” with a silly grin plastered across my face. I was literally delirious. That’s over 1 kilo ‘lost’ in 4 days. It was at this point that the line was crossed and I had hooked onto the daily weighing train. Train crashes aren’t my thing and yet I was still headed for one at full speed. Where was Keanu Reeves when I needed him? (Speed movie reference). I could not wait until the next morning to weigh in again.
Day 5: Down 700 grams
“Somebody pick me up off the floor! I can’t believe it. CRAZY!”
At this stage I was basically singing “happy numbers” all day. The grin was permanently affixed; I felt fantastic. I felt thin. LOL I was already imagining a plunging graph, a 2+ kilogram loss for the week, and reaching my goal in just months rather than years. Yep, I’d say my train throttle was stuck at full.
Day 6: up 200 grams
“Pffft. Up 200 grams? Who cares. I’m still down 1.65 kilos in less than a week.”
I was still claiming my happy numbers, though reserved them to a few quiet smiles directed at my husband. This is where a little niggle began developing in my head. The numbers I’d been experiencing – too good to be true? I had to weigh in again the next day, just to reassure myself.
Day 7: up 700 grams
“Hmmm. Okay…I guess. I’ll go to the bathroom and come back and check again. Really? That didn’t make any difference? I’m still losing overall; so that’s good. But what if it’s up again tomorrow? That’s only 950 grams lost for the week.”
Some reassurance I got out of that, huh? Hoping that urinating might change the numbers – really? All manner of railway crossing alarm bells and traffic barrier engagements that I was ignoring.
I suddenly felt nervous. What if my weekly weigh in showed I hadn’t lost at all, or just a few hundred grams? I could feel the disappointment pulling at me. Doubts about myself and my ability to lose weight; fear that the scales would tell me a horrid tale the next day and hope that they wouldn’t. I spent far too much of the day with the thoughts rummaging around in my head and I couldn’t seem to throw them off the train. The health over weight loss stance was about the only thought which abandoned my train ride.
I spent the day feeling fatter. I’d tug at my clothes periodically and decide they were no looser than they had been two months ago. My energy levels and my mood dipped. I wasn’t a basket case by any means; but I could tell the difference it made to me psychologically. Even recognising it I remained unable to shake the downturn in happiness and confidence.
Day 8: (the proper weekly weigh in day) down 250 grams
“It’s a loss. That’s good. I’m down 1.2kg for the week.”
Not much of a celebration in those subdued thoughts. I definitely felt relief that the scales again moved down, and yet the stronger emotion was by far disappointment. I feel disappointed. I had seen wondrous changes and I felt like I’d done something to let them slip away. And yes, I had done something – I’d set myself up for that feeling of disappointment.
Worse, I felt like I had gained weight. I haven’t! I’ve lost 1.2 kilograms. How crazy is the mind talk? How easy is it to psych ourselves out? This is fresh; today was my weekly weigh in day. As I record this I marvel at how ludicrous it sounds to be so hung up over those numbers. Yet I know I bought fully into it, despite my knowing NOT to weigh every day. I was sure I could keep aloof of the daily numbers and treat it as an experiment. I can handle it! Yep! Ah, NO!
I didn’t handle it. I began to have negative thoughts and the old insecurities and self-criticisms were only too eager to board my train for the ride.
This is the PRIME reason why no one should weigh themselves every day. It is self-defeating, dangerous to our equilibrium and just plain misrepresents the trend of our bodily journey.
Don’t do what I did. Even sitting here typing this I am wanting to weigh again tomorrow morning. I need NOT to. I need to be strong until this train is firmly back under control and the desire no longer tempts me.
My internal dialogue still says: “It doesn’t matter if you do. You know weight fluctuates. Just see what’s happening for interest’s sake”.
I will resist. I hope you do too.
Happy and healthy body journey to you all,