Theoretically the scale is a very helpful tool if you are trying to lose or maintain your body weight. For some though, stepping on the scale is more of a psychological battle than the logical use of a simple tool that measures weight and nothing else. The tricky part is figuring out, and then admitting, whether the numbers on the scale will motivate you or derail you. It helps if you understand what the scale is telling you.

Your bodyweight can vary from day to day and sometimes hour to hour depending on a wide variety of factors that we all experience on a daily basis.  A pound or two increase here and there throughout the day doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about your progress, your level of fitness, your body composition, or how you look. It just means that your body has temporarily taken on a little cargo throughout the day that will probably be gone as fast as it came. So it’s very important to avoid becoming obsessed. Stepping on the scale more than once a day, or even daily is a red flag.  That tells you that the scale has stopped being a tool that measures only one aspect of your progress and that you have allowed it and what it tells you to become something destructive to you.  

For women like Bethany, the scale is a tool she uses to stay on track.  She owns a clothing boutique and works long hours with very few breaks most days and that lack of structure with her meals can quickly stifle her weight management efforts. She explains that weighing herself every few days helps her stay abreast of where she is, stating, “a weight gain of 5 pounds is easier to shed than one of 10 pounds.” Bethany keeps things in perspective and doesn’t let the scale or what it tells her become the sole measurement of where she is with respect to her progress and how she looks. Yet there are others who crumble and give up on themselves and their weight loss efforts if they see as little as a one-pound increase.

A healthy and beneficial approach to using a scale is to weigh-in monthly. That along with the mirror will give you a much better idea of how you are progressing. The best time of day to weigh in is first thing in the morning after emptying your bladder and without clothes on. That way the many factors that will affect your bodyweight throughout the day don’t get on the scale with you. For women, it’s also best to weigh in at the same time of your menstrual cycle each month.

Remember though, the scale is just a tool to tell you how much your body weighs.  It can’t tell you if you have lost fat and gained some healthy body shaping muscle. So if you experience a 1-5 lb. weight gain that month, don’t flip out! This is a normal fluctuation. However, if you have drifted higher than 5 lbs. then it may be an indication that it’s time to clean up your act!

The scale is just a tool that some may find useful for motivation, but remember that it can’t tell you how you look and how you look and feel is the real measure of progress. The best solution is to get off the scale and simply educate yourself on smart eating habits. Then follow an exercise and healthy eating plan to achieve your fitness goals.

By Liza Hughes RN
Lifestyle Coach to Women

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