Taking the first step is the most important thing you can do. For today, I want you to take a step – off the scale. Your scale is like your worst ex. It’s a liar; deceitful, manipulative and behaviorally inconsistent. It’s most dangerous characteristic? It’s intoxicating, luring you in day after day with the promise of better things to come.
It’s time for you to end the dysfunctional, toxic relationship with your scale. Kick that SOB to the curb.
The scale only measures weight. More times than not, weight is a poor indicator of how we feel. Medical studies are showing that weight is not indicative of overall health. Tara Parker Pope writes in the New York Times:
Despite concerns about an obesity epidemic, there is growing evidence that our obsession about weight as a primary measure of health may be misguided.
The scale doesn’t just reveal fat lost and gained. Step on a scale in a moment and be delighted by a loss of several pounds, but that weight may be from water and glycogen depletion. Re-hydrate yourself properly and that delight morphs into concern over extra pounds. A crash diet may shrink the glowing numbers on the scale, but comes at the cost of muscle. Most of us don’t aim to be skinny and flabby. Tone is more the aim.
Case in point, in the picture on the left, I weigh 215 pounds. I stand 6’1. My body fat was around 5 percent. The man on the right is listed at 6’1, 220.
The ripple effect of relying on the scale is dangerous. Even if you don’t weigh yourself in an obsessive-compulsive fashion, your mood will inevitably be impacted by natural weight fluctuation. You follow a nutrition plan to a tee for weeks or months, gaining some muscle and losing some fat. When you weigh in, however, you’re floored that you’ve not lost a pound. Maybe you even gained a few; muscle is about 18% denser than the equivalent amount of fat. You throw your hands up in disgust, thinking “this is pointless” and go back to your less than stellar eating habits.
By the way, I wouldn’t, unless you’ve got extraordinarily thick skin, measure body fat as an alternative to standard weigh-ins. Some folks naturally carry higher body fat, and I don’t see how insecurity around your body’s natural tendencies will provide the greatest level of motivation.
For women, avoiding body fat as a measuring stick is even more critical. According to Runner’s World:
Although many female athletes try to reach lower body-fat percentages (14-16 percent), doing so can also alter their hormones and have a cascading effect in increasing cortisol levels from perceived stress, disrupting the menstrual cycle, increasing risk of bone injuries, and decreasing overall performance.
Instead of focusing on weight or body fat, use the following three measures and your mind will be every bit as strong as your body.
- How do you feel? Are you moving around well? Do you get out of bed in the morning feeling lighter on your feet than when you started your plan? Are you smiling more? Are you excited about continuing your lifestyle journey?
- How do you look by comparison? Are you noticing new muscles that were not there before? Are you seeing definition in your face that was not apparent prior?
- How do your clothes fit? Are the pants that you couldn’t button easily now loose? Are your arms filling out that t-shirt better? Are you excited to try on your little black dress because you sense it will illuminate your curves more now?
Checking these boxes will be a much truer indication of your success in achieving your fitness goals and making healthier lifestyle choices. If you know you look and feel better, you are losing baggage, if not weight. Are you ready to take that step?