The Scale: Friend or Foe?

 

It was the summer of 2010. I was looking better, getting tons of compliments and feeling pretty good. But I wasn’t satisfied. I had set a goal for myself to drop 100 lbs. I was 10 lbs shy of reaching my goal, but a whole month went by with no movement on the scale. It constantly read between 260 and *gasp* 263! After having experienced consistent weight loss over a period of about 8 months, I finally hit a plateau – the number on the scale would NOT budge. I was still doing everything right – eating well, staying within a reasonable amount of calories for the day, running 3-4 days per week, hydrating, but I wasn’t dropping any more weight. I was starting to get frustrated and a bit depressed. Success started to feel like it was out of reach.

Then I started to think, “Hey, aren’t my clothes fitting better? I’m still getting compliments, and people tell me all the time that I look great. Why am I so worried about a number?” Why? Well, because I used it as the ONLY yardstick to measure my success and progress. No weight loss as per scale = failure. And that wasn’t healthy for my body or my mind.

So when you’re faced with the same issue (and if you’re looking to lose or gain weight, you will likely encounter this) what should you do? Here’s what I did to get the ball rolling again:

Find other metrics – I started using a tape measure to check my waist size and chest size. I found that I was actually trimming down still, but perhaps was retaining lean muscle (a good thing!) I also put more emphasis on how my pants and shirts fit, and how well I was able to do workouts (was I able to increase my reps, intensity? Did it feel a little easier than last week?)

Keep using the scale, but use it consistently – Personally, I weigh myself on my scale EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yes, I have my scale in the same spot in my room, and I weigh myself there every morning right after I use the bathroom and shower. Here’s the thing: I don’t move the scale from that spot! It’s always there. I don’t weigh myself at other times during the day. Consistency in all aspects of weighing yourself is key, because any deviation can and may lead to a different figure. I also don’t take this number THAT seriously anymore. Understand that IT WILL FLUCTUATE from day to day. I have learned to use it as a guideline, not a test.  Weighing yourself every day like I do may not work for you. Maybe every other day or every week will work better. Find what works, where it works, and what time it works and stick to that. If you forget to do it one day, wait until the next scheduled time to weigh yourself.

In the end, it’s how you feel that matters – Once I started to let go of my intense focus on the number and move towards how I was feeling, I started changing some things up. I felt stronger, so I increased the intensity of my workouts a bit. I was a little hungrier and actually ate a little more. I shook things up because it felt good and I felt good. And guess what? The number started moving again. I reached my goal.

Stepping on to the scale can be a mortifying experience for some people, but just keep in mind that it’s truly just a number – a measurement – and not a test. It doesn’t determine how successful you have been in your efforts or how successful you will be. After all…

Hope this helped ease the anxiety of stepping on the scale and provided some insight on getting past a plateau. I’d love to hear suggestions for future posts, so please comment below and let me know your thoughts.

~Martin Arroyo, CPT

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