Ditch the scale.
One moment came when I was switching out my winter clothes for my spring and summer wardrobe. I was worried – winter clothing is looser, covers up more and is a lot more forgiving than tanks, shorts and slim fitting capris. Would nothing fit? Before putting the most questionable items in my closet, I forced myself to try them on. My worry was for naught, everything fit. (Whew!)
Which is not to say I’ve been perfect. Every now and then, a waistline feels a little too snug for comfort. I focus on portion size, consume fewer treats, opt for tougher workouts and, by the time the item cycles through the wash and I wear it again, I’m satisfied with the fit. The important thing is, I’ve resisted the temptation to step on the scale.
Why did I do it? In short, regular weigh-ins weren’t working for me anymore. Two years ago, I embarked on a ten-pound weight-loss in ten weeks endeavor and chronicled it on this blog. I reached the goal and continued to weigh myself a few times a week to keep tabs.
I remained within a few pounds of my goal weight for over a year. But, then the weight started creeping back up. It was completely vexing. I wasn’t overtraining or undertraining and I remained vigilant about my diet.
Even though my clothes still fit fine and my weight remained in the “normal” range for my height on the BMI (Body Mass Index), the fact that the number increased and, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to lower really bothered me. Stepping on the scale became this dreadful, frustrating experience that produced a lot of self-doubt and negative self-talk. I began searching for the tell-tale evidence of “flaws” in the mirror that I was convinced were there because, after all, the scale was telling me so.
In the meantime, I was reading more and more about the short-comings of the BMI and fitness studies that were concluding scale numbers are less of an indicator of health and longevity than once thought. And I had my physical exam with my primary doctor. My numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid function, blood glucose, liver – weren’t only good, they were great. She told me whatever I was doing for diet and exercise was obviously working and I shouldn’t change a thing.
That’s when I realized every shred of evidence outside of the scale was proving to me that I was healthy and fit. Only my body weight number was nagging me. It’s then I concluded the scale no longer served any purpose in helping me with my fitness goals and, in fact, was detrimental. So, I ditched it.
Should You Ditch the Scale Too?
Here’s the most important fitness truth everyone needs to know: body fat loss is a by-product of getting fit. The problem is we tend to believe the opposite – that getting fit is a by-product of losing weight. We choose a number on the scale, a rudimentary appliance that can’t tell the difference between fat and muscle, and then we diet our way to that number. We judge how fit we are based on how close we are to a scale number. If that’s how you’re using a scale, you need to ditch it too.
But, if instead, you’re trying to eat healthy foods in proper portions at least 80% of the time and cardio, strength and flexibility train most days of the week for the goal of overall health and well-being, then the scale can be one helpful tool in your toolbox to assist you in measuring your progress and motivating you to your goal.
Once you reach your goal, however, I highly recommend tossing the scale and opting for waist and hip measurements or, more simply, staying in your goal-weight clothing, as the primary tool for fitness maintenance.
I don’t know for sure what accounts for the increase in pounds before I finally split with my scale. In all likelihood, I’ve gained lean mass. If there’s anything that’s changed for me between 2014 and now it’s that I’ve progressed the frequency, volume and intensity of my strength training. I suspect it’s only my vanity that cares about the reason why. At age 47, I’m trying not to care about vanity anymore.
What I know for sure is breaking up with my scale has been the one act that has felt the most liberating since I started my fitness journey nearly 30 years ago. And I have no intention of getting back together anytime soon.