Your Scale is Keeping You Fat

I was one of those crazy people allowing the number on the scale to dictate my mood, my attitude and my self-worth. It was ugly and it was 50 shades (or more) of crazy. I would get up in the morning and not allow myself any coffee or water. I’d drive to the gym and workout with my trainer. No water still because, duh, I hadn’t weighed myself yet. When I got home, if my hair was even slightly damp with sweat I would blow dry it before getting naked and getting on the scale because of course, if my hair was wet, that was unnecessary extra weight!

Many of these mornings I would get home from the gym excited. I felt leaner, I saw changes in the mirror, my clothes were fitting better and I felt stronger in my workout. I’d be so excited to get on the scale and I’d predict what my weight decrease would be. It was all fun and games until there was no change. Or, far worse, the number was up from the morning before. My mood would crash. I’d question everything. All my excitement was immediately gone and I started analyzing the last 24 hours looking for any points of weakness that I could blame for the numbers on the scale. I’d cancel out any and all of the non-scale victories I had just been celebrating. I was a failure. I was never going to reach my goals.

Stepping on the scale could take me from feeling empowered, motivated, strong and proud to dejected, frustrated and resigned in a matter of a few seconds. Many times it made me throw the day away, giving in to my cravings and getting off track because in my head, my hard work obviously didn’t matter!

I lived in this cycle for months and months. Sure, sometimes my weight went down. In fact, oftentimes it did. But the more it went down, the more I grew to expect it to always go down. And the reality is the more fat you lose, the harder it gets to continue to lose. This is true for a number of reasons. First, your body gets used to the changes that once seemed dramatic and so it takes more time to see and feel results. But also  (and what was such a huge source of scale frustration for me) the leaner I got, the more intense my workouts got. The more intense my workouts got, the more muscle I started to gain. I was getting smaller because I was burning fat but I was also gaining muscle. Let’s say I lost 1 pound of fat and gained 1 pound of muscle – that one pound of muscle is FAR smaller than the pound of fat and it sure as hell looks better on my body, but the scale? No change.

Finally I decided enough was enough. I needed to stop caring about the number on the scale. If I woke up in the morning, easily pulled on a size 6 pair of jeans, loved the way I looked and felt healthy, would I care if the scale read 150 versus 135? Um, no. I want to look good and feel good. I had only convinced myself that the numbers matter.

Here’s the rub: accountability is VERY important to me. When you have a lot of weight to lose, you need to be sure you’re making progress. Checking my weight every single day was an easy way for me to ensure I was on the right track. And that worked until it stopped working. It worked until it started working against me.  At that point I had to make a change and turn to other forms of accountability that would allow me to monitor my progress but wouldn’t undermine my hard work and results. Here are a few of the things I started to do:

  • Take pictures
    • I hate pictures. I avoid them at all costs. But in the privacy of my own bedroom, I’ve taken head shots and full body shots every few weeks since I first started losing weight. It’s a great way to monitor changes and stay motivated. When I’m having a hard moment, I look back on my pictures and its very encouraging to objectively see how far I’ve come.
  • Measurements
    • I find this to be a major pain in the butt but it’s a very objective indicator. I measure in just a few different places (chest, waist, belly, thighs) and re-measure every week or two. You can get a fabric tape measure at your local craft store for a dollar or two and I bet you’ll find that even when your weight doesn’t change, your measurements go down!
  • The Jeans Test
    • This is a fun one. Do you have a pair of pants that are too small? It’s perfectly ok if you can’t even get them all the way up your legs. Don’t have a pair? Go buy a pair! Squeeze them on as best you can and then snap a picture. A couple weeks later, do it again! This one is definitely my favorite because it feels so good to be able to button them for the first time! I’m currently working on a pair that I can barely squeeze over my hips and it’s fun to see the progress week by week.

Accountability matters. Measuring your progress matters. But scales are tricky. If it works for you….proceed with caution. If it doesn’t, stop torturing yourself!!


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