I have a confession to make.
I’m addicted to the scales.
A couple of years ago I lost nearly 2 stone. I have completely changed my eating and my workouts over the 2 years since then, I’ve learned loads about nutrition and exercise, but I still can’t stop myself getting on those scales.
For a long time I’ve been considering ditching them completely, but I haven’t managed to bring myself to do it. I weigh myself once a week and I tell myself that I’m just monitoring trends in my weight so I can nip my natural pigginess in the bud when it gets out of control. But the truth is I’m just as obsessed with the number on the scale as I ever was, even though I know how unimportant it really is.
I’m obsessed with seeing how my current weight compares to my past weight. Especially in comparison with photos that show I’m a completely different shape and size now, but that’s just as unhealthy as an obsession with weight loss.
I still feel bad when the scales go up, even though I know all the tricks that would bring it back down by as much as 3lb in a single day.
So I’m weaning myself off. I’m ditching the scales, starting with only weighing myself monthly, but eventually I plan to ditch them completely.
Comparisons to past weights are irrelevant
Remember when I was skinny and I weighed 9 stone? If I weighed 9 stone now would I be skinny again? Maybe. Do I want to be skinny? Not really. I work hard to be fit and strong. I could cut my body fat to reach an arbitrary 9 stone. Would it benefit me? Would I be able to wear the clothes I had when I was 17?
My body composition is very different now and unless I know a whole load of other stats like body fat and VO2 max 9 stone me then and 9 stone me now would be a totally irrelevant comparison.
Comparisons to other peoples weights are even more pointless, as our height, body shape, body composition and lifestyle would all be completely different.
So why keep measuring weight and comparing it to an irrelevant ideal?
The scales lie
The scales don’t measure “fatness”. Weight merely indicates the downward force your body is exerting on the scales. Maybe gravity is particularly strong today? Maybe you have eaten a lot of carbohydrates to fuel for a run or competition. Or maybe you just had a pizza yesterday. Each gram of glycogen your body stores comes along with 3-4 grams of water. That water didn’t make you store extra fat overnight.
It could even be your hormones are making your body store extra water and increasing your weight.
It’s the reason I have huge issues with magic detox weight loss teas and fasts and people claiming they lose a gazillion pounds in a week. It wasn’t fat, it was stuff your body actually needs.
If you are concerned with body composition and aesthetics then your body fat percentage is a far better stat to track.
Even better still, focus on how you feel. Are you comfortable in your skin? Are you choosing to eat foods that make you happy and satisfied and nourish your body? Do you move your body, in whatever way makes you happy?
The scales can discourage positive behaviours
Gaining muscle can make you gain weight. Eating carbohydrates to fuel workouts can make you gain weight. Hell, being well hydrated can make you gain weight.
Note I said WEIGHT.
Weight is different from fat and gaining muscle and eating and drinking sufficiently to fuel your lifestyle are all positive behaviours.
I remember the days when I went to a slimming club and I used to refuse to eat or drink all day until after weigh in to maximise my weight loss. That’s not right.
The scales are a sucky motivator
Seeing a smaller number on the scales has only ever kept me motivated to do whatever diet or exercise plan I’ve been on for about 5 minutes.
Having that lovely skirt in my wardrobe still fit me, that could be a motivator. If it still fits me do I care if I’m 64kg or 74kg?
Running a faster 10k, beating my 27 in 5 personal best, a heavier squat, those are motivators too.
Seeing the difference in my muscle definition, that’s a motivator.
Jumping on the scales and finding out I’ve gained 2lb, that’s more likely to derail good feelings I have about the other stuff.
Weight goals are pointless.
Setting a goal weight might be a SMART goal, in that it’s easily measurable. But it’s not a LIFF goal and they’re the only ones that are worth having.
Achieving a certain weight won’t get you into vintage frocks, give you the body you think you want, give you more energy or make you any better at the sport of your choice.
The only goal measuring your weight is good for, is if your goal is to weight a certain weight, and if that’s your goal, why?
What are you hoping to achieve from it? Unless you are a jockey or making weight for a competition, it’s pretty irrelevant.
Ditching the scales will help you think more long term
Weighing yourself merely captures a moment in time. I can look back at 9 stone me many years ago and also remember times I lacked energy, or had bad skin. I can also look at 13 stone me many years ago and remember she also lacked energy and had digestive problems.
Without the scales you can focus on the important things and develop a more long term view. I have more energy, I feel healthier, and I feel stronger. Weight isn’t important.
Your weight doesn’t determine your health
Excess weight can go hand in hand with a number of health problems. Increased blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease as well as increased pressure on your joints and reduced mobility, but just because the number on the scales is lower, doesn’t make you any more healthy.
Everyone is built differently and will have a different weight at which they feel their best. Measuring your waist to hip ratio, resting heart rate or blood pressure can give you a better idea of your actual health. But ditching the scales is definitely a first step towards learning to listen to your body.
Do you weigh yourself?
Would you ditch the scales?