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Scared of the Scales? No Weigh!

Dear Ellen, With the warmer weather I am beginning to panic about bathing suit weather and my weight. How often should I jump on the scale?

Scales are an easy, safe, inexpensive means to measure progress because generally weight loss equates to a smaller, slimmer body. This can be very motivating for some people but it can trigger emotions in others. Let’s ask ourselves some questions and consider some of the pros and cons for using the scales to find out if it’s right for you…

Consider this…the scale can be a trigger….

For many, when the number isn’t what they want to see, anger, self-doubt, or judgment sets in, which can lead to giving up on healthy goals, surrendering to emotional eating, and getting stuck.

Ask: Do I associate the number on the scale with my mood, confidence or self-esteem? Does weighing myself make me feel good? Bad? Other? Do I really need a scale to know if I’m on track?

Consider this… the scale does not necessarily tell the true story…

When you are eating right and moving your body, it can change the way your clothes fit, body shape, skin quality, energy levels and endurance. The scale may not show those changes. When you weigh in, you’re measuring everything that has weight, including not just body fat, muscle, and bone tissue, but also water from normal weight fluctuations as explained in my last article Surprised by the scale? No Weigh!

Ask: How is my energy? How is my endurance? How do I feel? How do my clothes fit? 

Consider this… the same weight can look completely different on each individual... 

Different people of the same height and weight can each wear different sizes, have different body shapes and have a different body fat percentage. While many people claim that “that muscle weighs more than fat” (a kilo of muscle and a kilo of fat both weigh a kilo), getting rid of a kilo of fat and gaining a kilo of muscle can have a huge impact on how your body looks due to the volume that kilo represents.

Ask: Why do I target a certain weight in the first place? Am I big-boned or small-boned? Do I feel and look toned? How do I feel? When do I feel my best?

Consider 9 other measuring sticks…

Remember, the solution to well-being and health lies in raising awareness, taking action and in progress and NOT in obsessing over a number!

  1. Tight or form fitting clothes. Ask: How do they fit and feel?
  2. A tape measure since your goal is not necessarily to lose weight but to reduce body fat or change body shape. Ask: What measurements are important to me and why?
  3. Waist to hip ratio which can indicate susceptibility to a number of health issues.
    1. Ask: What is my ratio calculation? For men, a ratio of .90 or less is usually considered safe while for women, a ratio of .80 or less is considered safe.
  4. Skin Calliper for measuring body fat since the higher body fat, the higher the risk of suffering from obesity-related conditions. Ask: Where do I lie on the body fat risk scale?
  5. Compliments from others. Ask: What have others said recently?
  6. Other positive changes as a result of a healthier lifestyle such as energy levels, sleep, mood or appetite. Ask: How do I feel? Sleep? Move?
  7. Doctor’s measures. Ask: How is my blood pressure? Cholesterol? Heart rate?
  8. Who you see in the mirror. Ask: Who do I really see in that mirror: spirit, soul, body?
  9. Emotions like self-esteem, confidence and happiness. Ask: How do I feel emotionally? Am I building a positive vocabulary to stay motivated? Am I setting a good example for my family? Am I inspiring Healthy Living?

If your main goal is weight loss

various research and my personal experience have shown that self-monitoring with a scale (whether daily, weekly or at your own personal pace) can spur people to reach their goals and keep behaviour in check. I usually recommend weekly weigh-ins, but you need to find your rhythm. Recognize how the scale makes you feel and only use it if you’re the kind of person that can handle the ups and downs. I would suggest not getting caught up on the actual number but focusing more on the incremental change in that number and understanding your body. Don't think of the scale as anything other than a compass, something we use when losing weight to keep us going in the right direction. It's just a tool, no more and no less.

However

different people are motivated by different things and a one-size fits all solution may not be effective. I suggest that if you do not like the scale, remove it from your world! Don’t give up out of frustration since all healthy behaviours are worth the effort! Start listening to the signs your body gives you and trust that your efforts are paying off. Focus on the journey instead of the result…it’s never too early to start being happy!

Speaking of journeys…is your summer journey bringing on healthy BBQ questions? If so, read next week’s article BBQ Stress!

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