I have a long distance client who is striving for fat loss, and at least twice a week, we have some version of the following texting conversation:
Client: I weighed myself this morning, and I lost five pounds since Wednesday. :)
Me: There could be any number of reasons for that, and five pounds is more than you want to lose in 48 hours. Stay off of the scale.
Three days later, I have this text with my morning coffee:
Client: I weighed myself this morning and I gained five pounds back since Friday. Ugh. :(
Me: (After sending a few face palming gifs) There could be any number of reasons for that. Please see Friday’s text about staying off of the scale. Stay. Off. Of. The. %$#$##% Scale.
Do you know what an M80 is? I think it’s a quarter stick of dynamite. Find a safe place and take one to your scale. Or a sledgehammer. Either or. When you're striving for fat loss, getting on the scale everyday is tempting, and a scale does provide information. It provides a number. But a scale does not:
1. Measure self-worth
It doesn’t measure self worth, but it can sure trick you into believing a litany of awful things about yourself. If the needle or number goes up, you’re judging yourself for not working out more, not working out harder, having a piece of birthday cake (it was your birthday. Eat cake), or not adopting the 17 puppies in the Sarah McLachlan commercial for ASPCA.
Suddenly everything about you feels bad. And if the number goes down you have a good day. You are more than the number, whether it goes up or down.
Let me say this one more time:
You. Are. More. Than. A. Number.
2. Tell the whole picture
A person’s weight can swing a few pounds up or down in the course of a day. There is an excellent article on the science of variances that can mess with your weight here, but glycogen storage, water retention (as it relates to high sodium consumption), and for women, their monthly cycle, can all affect the number you see on the scale. Scales also don't account for muscle mass. If you've adopted a new exercise routine that includes strength training, that number on the scale will likely go up. For the love of all things holy, please remember this.
3. Indicate progress
My client/friend is a former competitive athlete, and for her, the scale is like a competition she needs to win. But her version of winning and losing is with the scale and only the scale. (We're working on this) Part of the fitness process is finding other ways to measure progress. If you added five pounds to your squat from the previous week, that is progress. If you added more reps and more sets than you did last week, that is progress. If you are even doing weighted squats, that can be progress.
I could devote an entire post to measuring progress, and likely will in the near future. I understand that the scale provides information and every time we head off to a doctor's appointment or chiropractor or wherever, we're asked to get on the scale to provide that information. But it's not the only information that matters. Sure it's part of the equation, but it's not the whole equation.
Do yourself a favor and pull out that pair of jeans that you need to do the shimmy shimmy shake to get into. After a few weeks of working out, put those on again. Is there a little less shimmying and shaking? Do they just slide right on?
That, my friend, is progress.
For many folks, getting on the scale is a habit. The scale is in your bathroom or your Harry Potter room under the stairs and it pulls at you when you walk by. Put it in the garage, stick it in the basement, or have a camp fire and use it as kindling.
Because you are more than a number on the scale.