Should You Weigh Yourself?
Some time in the last few years, I put away my scale. I haven't stepped on it at all for months. And, do you know what? The universe didn't explode. Should you stop weighing yourself, too?
When Weighing Hurts.
It's been months since my last weigh in. It's been a few years since I weighed in regularly.
I can still fit in my clothes. All is still right in the world. But, with a history of eating disorders in my younger days and a challenging postpartum experience the third time around, the scale just didn't feel like my friend. I dreaded stepping on it. I didn't step on it often enough to actually track trends -- usually I weighed in when I felt I'd been "on track" for a few days or when I felt I'd been "off the wagon" for a few days and wanted confirmation of my "virtue" or "failure."
But, the truth is, I already knew whether I'd been active and eating healthfully or less active and indulging in comfort eating and wine. Sometimes, lots of wine. The number didn't change anything. The yucky feeling I got when it confirmed my weight gain could crush me for the day. Maybe worse, the validation of seeing a lower number was like a "fix." It gave me a high that fuelled old habits of deprivation and overindulgence. Which means by the next time I stepped on the scale I had likely over-restricted myself, then run out of self-hating willpower and ended up over-indulging...leading to a higher number again. And then the restriction cycle started again.
Sound familiar to anyone?
When Weighing Helps.
There are some weight-loss & weight-maintenance behaviours that are proven, study after study, to be very effective: keeping a food journal, planning your meals, telling your friends and family about your goals, choosing exercises you enjoy, and -- last but definitely not least-- weighing yourself regularly.
At BB, we generally recommend our personal training clients weigh themselves in the morning, if they weigh themselves at all.
If you decide to weigh, I suggest once every 2 weeks. You can alternate each weighing with a waist measurement on alternating weeks. The scale gives you an amalgam of trends in your fluid levels, fat loss and muscle gain, but the waist measurement indicates trends in fat loss and decreasing inflammation, particularly. In fact, the waist measurement is the more reliable and important of the two.
Weighing too frequently, especially during the changing times of pregnancy and postpartum, shows every "blip" on the radar. Tracking weight should be about trends, not an obsessive record of every ounce of water weight gained or lost. After all, when your weight fluctuates day by day, fluid retention -- not fat loss -- is to blame.
Many people find regular weigh-ins keep them motivated and provide a check-in to assess how their behaviours are helping or sidelining their weight goals. If you are the type who is very motivated by metrics and numbers, rationally keeping a record of your weight might help you rein in overindulgence before it causes more than a pound or two of gain.
How to track without weighing.
You know weighing is helping you if you do it without obsession. You know it's okay if you don't find your mood affected by the number. You know it's okay if you're comfortable doing it no matter what your recent habits have been, and if you don't change your behaviour in anticipation of a coming weigh-in.
But some people—women in particular, I believe—are simply never satisfied with the number they see on the scale. Some women stand on the scale every morning, stark naked and nervous, awaiting the day's fate. Will I be lower than I was yesterday and feel successful and confident? Or will I be higher than I was yesterday and feel I am worthless, incapable of sticking to my goals and destined for failure?
If you worry, obsess, plan, prepare, or punish yourself over a weigh-in, you might be better not weighing at all.
There are plenty of ways to evaluate your fitness level. Here are some ideas.
- How many push-ups can you do in a minute? Challenge yourself once per month while you continue to work on improving your form.
- How quickly can you run or walk a mile? Track your time once per month.
- How do your clothes fit compared to a year ago?
- How long can you perform a plank with perfect form? Has your plank form improved? Are you able to do it from the toes instead of the knees? Challenge yourself once per month.
- How do you feel in your body? How is your energy level?
- What is your waist measurement? Measure around the belly button once every 2-4 weeks while also working on core strength and posture to further improve your appearance!
Weight is just one indicator of fitness and if you remember one thing from this blog, I hope it is that weight is by no means the most important indicator of fitness. After all, as you challenge your body you grow muscle. A fit, muscular woman of 150 pounds can look very different from an inactive woman with less muscle, but also weighing 150 pounds. The scale doesn't know the difference.
Challenge yourself. Be better every day. Be stronger. Be fitter. Be leaner. Be healthier. Be happier. Be truer to yourself.
These things are not always synonymous with "lighter."