The Truth about the Numbers – What your Scale Refuses to Tell you
Many experts have suggested that frequently weighing yourself allows you to measure bodily changes, maintain a consistent weight, and hold you accountable. In my opinion, however, your bathroom scale can be very detrimental to your weight loss success and self esteem in general.
It shocks me that to this day—even with endless access to above-average educational tools—women judge their fitness, weight loss success, and overall self-worth by this insanely simple measurement. I always wonder how many “failed” attempts at weight loss have been the result of not seeing the number you wanted quickly enough. And think about it: How much of your own anxiety, depression, disordered thinking, and self-destructive behaviour has been caused by this insignificant expression of your overall body mass? Sure, maybe a scale has its place, but I personally do not think every member of society should have one, especially women and vulnerable young girls.
We have now entered a “sexy is strong” world, which has been a big step in the right direction in many ways. And yet, the whole perspective of the number on the scale has never gone away. Women still want to see as low a number as possible; the only difference is that now they also want to lift weights and obtain more curves. It’s confusing all around, and it is completely sabotaging and brain-busting.
The truth is, there are many reasons why that number on the scale fluctuates or refuses to budge, but we seem to completely ignore all of these reasons most of the time. Rant done, here are some things to remember before stepping on the scale:
- That number on the scale will take awhile to change. It takes about 4-6 weeks to visually see a change in your overall body composition. How many times have you quit on something before a 4-6 week mark? Did it really “not work” or did you become impatient with the process and start cheating your diet a lot? Changes in your body composition take time, yet it is extremely common for people to just say “nothing works” before a plan has even had time to work in the first place.
- Stop attaching a specific timeline to the number you want to see. It is unfair to say you want to see a specific number on the scale or lose a certain number of pounds. Having a goal is one thing; being unrealistic is another. If you are weight training and following a plan with an adequate amount of calories, the process is going to be very slow in terms of the number on the scale. You will see visual body composition changes before you start to see the numbers change.
- Your past eating behaviours have an influence. If you have been following a plan with zero cheating for 2-3 weeks, you may feel better due to less bloating, heightened sleep, and that much-needed sugar detox. However, 2-3 weeks is not long enough to see a big change depending on your past eating behaviours. If you were a crash dieter, a lover of fad diets, or a panicked binge-eater who engaged in behaviours like cutting carbs to lose pounds, then more healing needs to be done to repair the internal metabolic damage. It will take about 4-6 weeks to heal said damage before you see a tiny change on the scale even though you will LOOK and FEEL leaner. If you are new to a weight training program and a good meal plan, you could potentially gain 8 pounds of muscle for example and lose 8 pounds of fat. You will look way better and have amazing results, but the scale will not show this achievement. Make sense?
- Many factors contribute to your weight other than body fat. Your scale does not take into account water retention, muscle mass, muscle glycogen, bone density, and what you retain or have not excreted (poop). If you are lifting more weights and following a proper weight training program while eating well, the number will be stagnant because you are gaining muscle, but you will LOOK LEANER (in about 6 week’s time with a lot of dedication). If you are someone who weighs yourself AM and PM and you see a fluctuation, this is likely due to water retention. Do not be alarmed or throw yourself into a tizzy; these are not actual pounds of fat you have gained in a day. Gaining 5 pounds of fat in a day, for example, would be physiologically impossible and you would have to change your pant size from day to night if that were the case. So next time you see those numbers fluctuate between AM and PM, rest assured that you aren’t a scientific wonder who has the power to gain 5 lbs. within 12 hours.
- Eating more than you are used to after an extended period of eating clean can throw the numbers out of whack. If you have been on a serious clean-eating bout and then have a cheat meal, do not rush to the scale to weigh yourself. More often than not, the number will be higher than your typical baseline weight from the previous day or even a few hours prior. Please do not stress or panic; there is a physiological explanation for this and it does not mean your meal has made you gain pounds of fat. What has happened in this case is that you likely ate more carbs, fats, protein, and calories than usual, causing your muscles to absorb and store glycogen. You will likely look a bit more “full” in terms of muscle appearance the next day due to the “beefed up” muscle glycogen. Don’t fret! You will drop back down to your baseline weight when you go back to your clean eating ways in a day or 2 and all hope is not lost. FYI: this is actually why people “carb up” before endurance events or right before they step on stage for fitness shows—so their muscles can sustain their exertion, or so their muscles look more “full”.
I hope these explanations ease some of your minds and make you a bit more aware of the trickery of the scale. The overall takeaway of this post is that overall BODY COMPOSITION is a much more important indicator of your success. How you look and feel and how your clothes fit is a way better measurement of your efforts. Your body needs to heal on the inside, reverse any pre-existing metabolic damage, and stabilize blood sugars before it shows anything on the outside. It will take about 4 weeks to visually see results if you are being strict and not cheating, and 12 weeks to see very good visual results. So keep going, don’t give up hope, and for the love of fitness and health, stay away from the f***ing scale.
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