Linda* is a 58-year-old lawyer. She weighed herself daily after reading the news reports that weighing yourself aids in weight loss. This is what she found:
It impacted her mood, but not her habits.
Starting the day with a negative can cascade into an uphill battle.
She realized she weighed more than she thought she did…
…which caused her to become upset.
She learned that “fat days” and “thin days” aren’t necessarily about what you weigh.
“Fat” or “thin” on a given day was not directly linked to her current weight. She noticed that it was possible to feel bloated (more on bloating here) while the scale was trending downward or to feel OK despite the fact that she had had gained
She was shocked by how quickly her weight shifted.
She’d heard about “water weight,” but before this experiment she thought it wasn’t true and didn’t really believe. In the past, the scale would occasionally go up or down several pounds between weekly weigh-ins. She, like many, believed she had lost or gained fat. Something different was going on.
Like every facet of your health journey, get curious about the reasons and triggers causing you feel a certain way or see a particular measurement on the scale. Get curious about your body. A quick fix, single-minute-in-time read out on the scale tells you very little. What’s behind the number tells you more. You may want to consider these factors to tell you the most about your health, your weight, and your outlook on how to address both:
How do you feel that day? Happy, sad, bloated, stressed, refreshed…
How often are you sick?
Do you get at least seven hours of uninterrupted quality sleep?
How are you able to cope with the daily stresses of life?
Imagine viewing the scale as something your doctor uses as a tool — once a year. Imagine not attributing any particular importance to the number. If you must, when you weigh yourself, note or journal it and note long-term trends over time.
The psychological effects of weighing are all over the map, as evidenced by “Linda.” The research abounds on the benefits for daily weighing for the “overweight” yet it also is abundantly clear it can wreak havoc on your view of your body and those around you (moms with kids, take note).
In 2015, a group of four scientists conducted a review of the research, which was published in Health Psychology Review. They found a number of factors may influence the psychological impact of self-weighing. They found self-weighing draws attention to the body and can highlight discrepancies between current and desired shape or weight. Self-weighing may result in worse psychological outcomes among those who are sensitive or concerned about their bodies.
Holding onto unrealistic and un-achievable body composition goals may hinder your progress because they are a stressor on your body and can disrupt levels of cortisol, the stress hormone causing real health issues. As Summer Innamen, a Certified Nutritional Practitioner through the Institute of Holistic Nutrition and a Body Image Coach who helps hundreds of women to ditch their “diet demons” says, “This can manifest into various behaviors such as micromanaging your food and supplement intake (“maybe I just need to eat more kelp?”), becoming guilt-ridden if you miss a workout, and being obsessed with measures such as body fat percentage and weight.”
Instead of setting scale weight goals, set goals around your exercise performance, being consistent with eating habits, getting sleep, and being content. Working toward these goals will result in your body naturally forming its healthiest appearance.
Get rid of the goals with a number attached to them: dress size, body weight, improving the size of a particular body part, and body fat percentage. Instead, aim for something concrete and achievable like a real pull up this year or taking a yoga class three days a week. Leave the screen time for between 8am and 8pm, or brush your teeth while balancing on one foot. The achievable goals are endless and can be super fun.
This way you can turn the number obsession into a meaningful and specific passion…and you will be much more likely see positive results.