There are three reasons why you should stop relying on the bathroom scale to measure how well you’re doing with your weight loss and exercise goals. I’m certain that you’ve heard them all before, but the third one may surprise you.
1. The Scale Is Not Your Friend
Getting weighed on a bathroom scale is addictive. You get on, look down and pray for good news. If the scale says you’ve lost weight you’re ecstatic. You decide that you deserve to treat yourself to some high calorie confection that you don’t need. If it’s bad news you feel defeated and depressed.
You may very well decide to treat yourself in this case too. You’re bummed. You need comfort from something delicious to ease the pain of you beating yourself up for the rest of the day.
The worst part is the scale is unpredictable. There are weeks when you think you’ve done great. You went to the gym three times this week and passed on the double cheese pizza. Surprise! You’re up two pounds.
How often do you get weighed? Once a week? Once a day? More than once a day? Your life is a roller coaster of emotion that is wrapped around a number. You’ve become a bathroom scale addict.
I see this all the time with the people that I work with in weight management sessions. Some days they walk in and say, “I don’t even want to get on the scale today.” My answer. “Don’t.” If it’s going to hurt your feelings then skip it. Most of time they still want to weigh even if it ruins their day. The weekly weigh-in is a ritual in most – if not all – weight loss programs, thus we’ve become addicted to it even though it’s not the best measure of our progress. It can be a huge set-back for our attitude and ultimately our success.
2. Muscle Tissue Has More Density Than Body Fat . . . .
which means if you’re exercising while you’re trying to lose weight the scale may not react in the way you’re hoping it will. We’ve all heard this: muscle weighs more than body fat. It’s not exactly true.
One pound of muscle = 16 oz. and one pound of fat = 16 oz. Sixteen ounces of muscle takes up less space than the pound of fat does. So, if you lose a pound of body fat and gain a pound of muscle mass, the scale won’t change but you will have lost a bit of body mass since the fat was taking up more space. You may actually gain a little weight when you start working out. I hesitate to even put that in writing, but it’s true.
Weighing in constantly after starting an exercise program is like checking the scale every day after starting a diet. We expect instantaneous results. If the scale isn’t moving we decide we’re doing something wrong and get discouraged. We may even decide the exercise isn’t doing anything except making us hungrier and chuck the workouts completely. Big mistake.
Staying away from the scale after beginning an exercise program is key to keeping the motivation going. The exercise will help you feel better, look better, improve your cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and increase your energy. Focus on enjoying the physical activity for its own virtues. It’s going to take time for the fat loss, muscle gain, and metabolic changes to occur. The scale is nothing more than a constant reminder of how long it’s taking.
3. The Tape Measure Is Your Friend
It knows when you’re working hard, have your portions under control, and are skipping the morning McDonald’s Sweet Tea ritual. It also knows that muscle tissue takes up less space than body fat, and it doesn’t fluctuate by three or four inches every time you eat something with too much sodium.
I have worked with individuals who were doing weekly weigh-ins along with waist circumference measurements. When they reach a point that they are totally discouraged with what the scale is telling them we will do a waist measurement which will always reflect their efforts.
The scale gets stuck but the tape measure doesn’t. It gives a much truer picture of where we’re at on our journey and for whatever reason does not trigger the same agony as a needle on a scale that doesn’t move does.
It’s Possible To Lose Body Fat Without Losing Weight
Research has been done on the effects of exercise on waist circumference (belly fat) with or without weight loss. My Healthy Waist.org says that “Although weight loss is the ideal outcome of chronic exercise in overweight individuals, the evidence suggests that even when body mass does not change, regular exercise can markedly reduce intra-abdominal fat and shrink waist circumference (belly fat) accordingly.”
It goes on to say that in studies that have been done where individuals consumed calories equal to the number they expended during exercise, so that they did not lose weight, waist circumference declined. And that “exercise training can significantly reduce total and abdominal obesity even with little or no change in body weight.” Go tell that to the scale!
Tape Measures Are Only $2 at CVS
The ultimate goal is to get back in your favorite pair of jeans or a gorgeous dress for the Christmas gala. We don’t necessarily need the cooperation of the bathroom scale for that. If you’re working on a weight management strategy that includes exercise, put the bathroom scale on hiatus and invest in a tape measure that you can purchase at the local drug store for $2. There’s no guarantee that it will help you reach your goals sooner or that it will be easier, but it will get you off of the weigh-in roller coaster that has you at the top of the ride one day and on the bottom the next.
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