How often to weigh yourself, or whether to use a scale at all, seems to be a trending weight loss debate. Do you weigh yourself every day? I do and I’ll tell you why. While, I’m aware that the scale doesn’t tell you everything….well, maybe a few of them do as now they have scales that can break down muscle, fat and water weight percentages, and can even tell you how much your bones weigh, thereby nixing any” big boned” theory excuses, the scale can still be a valuable tool. I find weighing myself keeps me accountable and in touch with the connection of what I eat and what my workouts do to the number on the scale. I know if I eat a lot of salty food or a lot of starchy carbs, the number can jump dramatically. I also know that if I have Chinese food, or God forbid, hit a Mexican restaurant with that dreaded and magically refilling tortilla basket, a four pound jump isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. I’ve also made up my own theory of some reverse gravitational pull that has my weight up two pounds every time there’s a full moon regardless of what I eat. Now it’s important to note here, that these daily increments are typically not a gain of actual fat, as it still takes a surplus of 3500 calories to gain a pound, but most of the weight is most likely a lot of water retention. If you’ve worked really hard to lose two pounds in a week, and then have that salty, starchy dinner on the weekend, and BAM four pounds show up on the scale, it’s no wonder people get discouraged and give up.
I managed to wake up one day and weigh 208 lbs., and while I certainly knew I needed to lose weight, I never felt THAT heavy. There are lots of “You’re more than a number” sayings, and it’s true, the number doesn’t define any of us. I use my number as one of a series of tools to maintain the goals I worked very hard to achieve. Do I think I’d ever let myself get to 208 lbs. again? No, but if you asked me in college if I thought I’d ever hit that number, I’d have said no then too. So rather than be a child who whistles past the graveyard, I just prefer to be aware of where the numbers fall, and then step off the scale and go about my day. Not to down play the importance of the non-scale victories. I kind of bristle when I hear that phrase, despite one of my proudest moments was being able to finally do three pull ups. Let me put it this way, if you are struggling to balance your checkbook, would you not use a calculator?
I warn people all the time when they start to have any success with their fitness and clean eating goals not to catch a case of the “comfortables.” The comfortables can strike at any time, and suddenly you start “deserving” a bit more decadence. When I was on the way down the scale, I would set mini goals of 5-10 lbs., as 96 pounds just seemed overwhelming. I would also only buy very limited clothes in the next size down. I’d limit it to one pair of black pants, one pair of tan pants, and a pair of jeans, and I’d purposely not spend a lot on them, and I’d tell myself that I wasn’t staying at this size long, so I didn’t need to get too attached to them. THEN, when I fit into the smaller size, I’d donate the bigger clothes, to avoid having “fat” pants to make myself not feel uncomfortable if my pants began to get snug. Now I give myself a three pound range to try to stay within. I try to use the same scale to weigh myself, and aim to weigh in at the same time of day, okay, and I also even take out my hair elastic before stepping on it, but that’s more because when I was in law school and we visited the Boston crime lab, I remember that their scale could tell you how much ink weighed on a piece of paper.
It’s much like that scene in the Princess Bride, when Vizzini has to choose which goblet to drink from and he says, “But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s?” Are you the sort of person who needs a gauge to be accountable in your weight loss quest? Like Vizzini’s choice, there really is no right or wrong answer, but figure out what really works for you.
I think everyone has an image in their head as to what they look like, and I can tell you from my own experience, it can easily be skewed. If I think back to my “before” picture, I can tell you that I felt heavy, but not 208 lbs. heavy. When I finally got to what I thought was my goal weight, I realized, I was the only one who didn’t see myself as too thin. I finally found my three pound goal range that I’m comfortable in, and I still weigh myself every day. Most days, I know what the scale will say before I step on it. Despite knowing how fluid the number can be, there’s still the occasional morning I’ll be mad at the gross unfairness of it all and jump up and down like Rumpelstiltskin if I don’t like the number I see. There’s also the rare, blue moon occurrence where the scale will inexplicably jump down.
“It is a wise man who rules the stars; it’s a fool who’s ruled by them. Over and out.” was a tag line of famed radio personality, Darrell Martinie, also known as the “Cosmic Muffin” who gave a national “weather report style” astrological forecast in the seventies and eighties. The Cosmic Muffin would deliver astrological reports to the nation, warn us whenever Mercury was in retrograde, and he’d always end every broadcast with this same phrase. With some poetic license, I’d suggest it’s a fit man who rules the scales, and a fool who’s ruled by them. Over and out.