When you step onto the scales how does it make you feel? Good? Crappy? Motivated? Frustrated? Does weighing yourself actually serve a purpose or does it just reinforce negative feelings about yourself? If it is the latter then you may benefit from taking a break from the scales and instead looking at alternative ways to measure your health and fitness goals. (I have listed these at the bottom of this article)
Why do you weigh?
I'm not dead set against using the scales but I urge you to ask yourself WHY you are weighing yourself. Using scales as an information tool to measure progress, or to keep general tabs on your weight if you feel it helps motivation can be beneficial. Unfortunately more than often women (and men for that matter) let their weight play a large part in how they feel about themselves and by stepping on the scales they can be doing themselves more harm than good. When we feel crap about ourselves we often lose confidence and belief in ourselves and our ability to achieve goals. Some even turn to food or alcohol which creates a vicious circle and inhibits the ability to move forward.
Are the scales telling you the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
I have worked with many people on a quest to lose weight and even when they look slimmer, their clothes fit better and everyone is telling them they look great, they still feel on some level like they have failed. Why? All because the scales aren’t telling them what they want to hear. If they hadn't used their weight in the equation they would have recognised that all other evidence was pointing to the fact that they were achieving results which would have gotten rid of unnecessary feelings of failure and doubt.
Below is a classic example of how weight isn't always reflected in how we look. I came across this image online last week; they are of the same woman, in the picture on the right she is leaner, and at the same time 2.5kg heavier than her previous weight. This is not unusual.
And here is NZ rugby player Dan Carter who at 92kg is technically overweight. Think he needs to lose a few pounds? The scales would say so...
other influences that determine how much we weigh
TIME OF DAY - When we wake up we are in a fasted state and therefore lighter. Throughout the day as we eat and drink we get heavier. Simple.
OUR WHOLE BODY - When we weigh the scales are telling us how much everything weighs; fat, bones, organs, fluids and of course muscle. If any of the body tissues increase then we gain weight.
WATER - Our body contains water and the amount of water affects how much we weigh. We can retain extra water through too much sodium/salt in the diet, not drinking enough water, lack of vitamins and minerals, a diet rich in refined carbs as well as hormonal changes during menstruation. Loss of water is a common cause of weight loss when we start a diet.
Teens and weighing
Are you still carrying insecurities from when you were in your teens? A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found that young women who frequently weigh themselves were more likely to have lower levels of self-esteem and negative feelings about their body. Carly Pacanowski, a dietitian in nutritional sciences at Cornell University, studied 2,000 adolescent boys and girls over a 10 year period. “What we found was that females who weighed themselves more frequently had greater weight concerns,” says Pacanowski. They also reported lower self-esteem and said they felt more depressed and less satisfied with their bodies than those who didn’t weigh themselves as often. Boys who more frequently weighed themselves had similar negative effects, but the impact on self-esteem was less.
Encourage teens to focus on overall good health through sensible nutrition that limits junk food for health benefits, rather than reducing foods to lose weight, and introduce exercise that is enjoyable or skill based to shift the focus from body image. Helping teens adopt a rounded approach to life and looking at vocational interests that give the opportunity to develop and achieve in other areas, may help to take the focus away from physical ideals and increase confidence in other areas.
Ditch the scales and adopt these 5 principles.
1. How do your clothes fit? This is how I measure whether I need to cut back, and find it to be the easiest and most accurate.
2. How do you look? Look in the mirror and recognise what looks good. Take on positive comments from others.
3. How do you feel? Note your energy levels, how fit/strong you feel, your state of mind, your attitude towards yourself and your health.
4. Are you working towards goals? Recognise if you are sticking to a healthy balanced diet, if you are exercising regularly and eliminating unhelpful foods and patterns of behaviour.
5. Are you being realistic? The ideal you doesn't have to look perfect. Work to being happy with you and recognising that perfection isn't necessary. Set yourself goals that do not seem a world away and enjoy the process of improving your fitness strength and overall health.
There are other forms of measuring; tape measures, body fat readers and these all have their uses and can be more accurate than scales but I would say don't get too caught up on numbers as they can make you feel rubbish, just work on liking who you are and what you see :)
Louise Appel, Personal Trainer
Louise Appel Personal Trainer, St John's Wood & Personal Trainer Maida Vale offers customised, individual Personal Training and Pilates at Lords Cricket Ground, St John's Wood. Personal Trainer Harpenden & Personal Trainer St Albans is located at EsTR Fitness.