Revised on 24.12.2022
As all my mornings do, this morning began with a trip to the toilet, disrobing down to my undies, and standing on the scale. It gave me a number, I recorded it in MyFitnessPal and HappyScale, and I went about the process of getting ready for my day. Sometimes the number on the scale is higher than the day before, sometimes it’s lower, and either way, that’s ok. It is my body. I know my body.
It wasn’t always this way. Despite living in intimately close proximity for 20-something years, my body and I had never been properly introduced. Since I didn’t understand her quirks, I certainly didn’t listen to her. That changed through the most unexpected of sources; the humble of a demonized bathroom scale.
In my many early attempts to lose weight, the advice I heard from weight-watchers leaders or celebrity tv-personal trainers was always the same: “DON’T WEIGH YOURSELF MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK!” “Stay off the scale!” Since I wanted to do things right, I stayed the hell away from the scale until the weekly weigh-in, when that number could make or break my whole week. If I gained any weight or even maintained when I had done everything right, it was heartbreaking. I felt like a complete failure, which eventually led to the conclusion that I was just meant to be obese. That led to quitting the diet program altogether.
The best way to overcome the scale fear is to face it. Head on. LIKE A BOSS!
When I started losing weight for the last time, I decided to observe my weight daily. Instead of waiting for the end of the week to face the dreaded scale, I stepped on it each morning and casually noted what had changed. I compared what I had eaten the previous day to the change in the scale. If the scale went up and there was no food-related reason for it, the number inevitably went down again a day or two later, often dropping to a new low weight. “How interesting,” I thought. As a scientist, I sought explanations for what I was seeing. The most credible physiological explanation is water retention. It’s almost always water retention.
Water retention masks fat loss.
I won’t sugarcoat this. At first, confronting the scale is really scary.
You will second guess yourself and wonder if what you’re doing to lose weight is working or not.
It will be emotional to face the numbers on the scale.
It will be sobering.
The numbers will bounce up and down.
Water-based weight fluctuation is usually the reasoning cited for advising staying off the scale as much as possible, so we “feeble-minded folks won’t be disheartened by wild fluctuations in your scale weight.”
But this advice does you a fundamental disservice; it prevents you from getting to know your own body!
Your body has unique patterns of weight fluctuation, and if you don’t learn your patterns, it will be hard to settle into maintenance, which is the whole point of this weight loss shit: to lose weight and keep it off!
Guess what? When you reach your goal weight, the number on the scale is still going to bounce up and down in your own body’s pattern! You’re going to be living in that body until you die, so you might as well learn as much as you can about it sooner rather than later. (Unless they invent body transplants sometime soon, but that’s super weird, so don’t hold your breath for that…)
I estimate that it will take at least a couple of weeks to get comfortable with the numbers and fluctuations on the scale. When that happens, a glorious revelation occurs! You’re no longer afraid of it! Regularly confronting the scale helps to desensitize yourself to it.
Repetition and exposure to the stimulus (the scale and the numbers on it) allow you to divorce the negative emotions (shame) from the action (weighing yourself). There is so much to be gained from using the scale as a tool. So I encourage you to face your fears!
To start getting to know your body: step on the same scale ONCE A DAY, first thing in the morning, after using the toilet, and wearing the same amount (or lack) of clothing.
Track your weight in an app like I’m using, which will help to smooth out some of the fluctuations in weight so you can see that your efforts are working. Not only will this seriously lessen the difficulty of transitioning into maintenance, but you’ll be able to catch problems before they get worse. Suppose you see increases in your weight day after day when your body doesn’t usually do that. In that case, you’ll have to check your accuracy with weighing and measuring, as well as your accuracy with logging your food. Usually, this will help you get back on track. It puts the control in your hands. Control is powerful. You are powerful! You can do this! ?
* THE SUGGESTION TO WEIGH DAILY DOES NOT APPLY TO PERSONS WITH A HISTORY OF EATING DISORDERS. IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING OBSESSION OR COMPULSION WITH FOOD/EXERCISE/WEIGHT/RESTRICTING, WHICH AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH AND/OR QUALITY OF LIFE, PLEASE SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP ASAP.