I’ve been a ‘stepping on the scales’ addict for years. For most of this year I have weighed myself pretty much everyday. Now I know that I’ve been told many times not to do this and weigh myself maybe once a week but it becomes quite obsessional. I convince myself in my head that it if I weigh myself every day then this will keep me on track and there is evidence for some, especially men it would seem, this can aid weight loss.
The problem for me is this.
When I get on the scales every day and they say I’ve lost or stayed the same this really motivates me but there are two occasions when it doesn’t. Firstly, I get on the scales and I’ve gained weight! This easily sends me into a negative downward spiral of “I can’t do this”, “I always fail to lose weight”, “Oh! what’s the point!”…. and I reach for some foods that I know I shouldn’t. The second on bigger problem is when I have a bad day in terms of what I eat, I have a cooked breakfast, I buy a pre-packed sandwich and crisps at work for lunch, I have a big plate of pasta back in the evening and a few glasses of wine… I get on the scales the next day and lo and behold I’ve lost weight! This is the more damaging one because then I think “well, look at that! I can eat all that stuff and still lose weight!” And I them proceed to eat all of ‘that stuff’ again and inevitably put weight on!
So maybe I should just weigh myself less?
Well, I still have all of the same problems as I’ve already listed only the time period is different….. I’ve eaten well this week and put weight on “so what’s the point?” Or, “I’ve not done so well but look! I’ve lost weight! Great! Cakes and pies for me!”
So here is my consideration of my predicament….. Why do I want to lose weight? Well, surely it will benefit my health? Everything I read says it will. But, I’m healthy! I have blood pressure issues but several doctors and nurses have told me the problem is so bad that lifestyle changes won’t make much difference as it seems to be broadly genetic. It’s so high that the small, cumulative reductions from weighing a little less and drinking less alcohol and coffee will make little difference. I don’t use salt so don’t have to worry about that. In fact, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure two days after running a marathon – so was probably at the fittest I’ve ever been! The rest of my health metrics are spot on. Whenever I have stuff checked I’m told my heart sounds strong, my cholesterol is low, my blood sugar is a little high but still in the ‘normal’ range, and I don’t particularly have any ill health save the odd cold. I’ve never had a day off work for about 5 years… longer probably!
Mainly I want to lose weight so my clothes fit better, so that they are not as tight (without just resorting to the next size up lol!). Surely that means losing weight. Well, no, not necessarily. It means losing fat and being more toned. I know for a fact that when I’m hitting the gym regularly I can see muscle growth especially in my legs and arms and I know that the abs exercises lift and pull my stomach in and make my clothes fit better. The extra muscle will cause weight gain – or at least no weight loss if the gained muscle is balanced against the lost fat. So the scales aren’t the full picture. It’s what the weight in your body is comprised of! Muscle gain is good though as more muscle supports fat burning. I’m sure if you follow any fitness blogs or instagram accounts you will have seen pictures of people ‘before and after’ where after they look slim and toned but the caption will tell you they actually weigh more!
The problem with some of this is the cycle of weigh in and emotional response leads you to dislike your body and to internalise the ‘problem’. I’ll be feeling good, I get weighed, it doesn’t tell me what I think it’s going to tell me and I’m then demoralized. And it’s all the fault of my body! But who says what shape I should be or what I should weigh? It’s the images we are bombarded with on a daily, probably hourly, basis! Fitness models are all over the place! The reality is hours and hours of dedication, probably eating nothing but chicken and broccoli, and probably having the underlying physique and genetics. What’s my ideal body weight? Well it’s the body weight that is ideal for me…. the weight at which my health isn’t negatively impacted and at which I can go about my business without problem or compromise. And I know that when I hit a particular weight I run well and feel good. Now in reality I still look in the mirror and see fat I want to get rid of…. but I do feel good. And, interestingly, that weight is normally the point at which the weight loss diet starts to unravel. So maybe I have an ideal weight and maybe I know what it is and maybe at that weight I can go about my daily business without problem or compromise?
In her excellent blog Nia Shanks offers some ways to measure yourself instead of using the scales.
- How do you look in the mirror?
- How do your clothes fit?
- Are you following simple, stress free nutrition guidelines?
- How you feel. Do you feel strong and healthy? Do you feel better than ever? Do you have more energy? Are you performing well in the gym, or other activities? Do you find daily tasks easier?
- Focus on your actions. Are you eating well? Are you training consistently? Are your actions in line with your goals?
- Improved self-confidence and body image. THIS is what matters, and it’s one of many benefits to strength training.
You can read her full article here.
So, the scales are no longer on my agenda
They’ve gone. I’ll use some other way of thinking about my well being other than numbers on the dial!
I’ll report back and we’ll see!
Afterthought…..I do need to get weighed again one more time. My friend Tony and I have an annual wager around weight loss (or gain!) that will end in November. So I’ll get weighed for that! But then that’s it! But…. that weigh in will be interesting as until then I won’t get weighed! So let’s see what difference chucking out the scales makes!