Let me start by asking you a couple of questions:
Have you ever stood on the scales following a period of dieting or watching what you eat and been horrified at the numbers you see?
Do any of the following words match how you might have felt?
Yes, to any of the above? Then you might relate to this story.
I recall leaving a weigh-in session, following a week of what felt like extreme food deprivation on a diet and crying my eyes out because I had gained 1 pound. To make matters worse, I then spent the evening sobbing into a wine glass, unable to speak to my friends and family.
Sound extreme? I think anyone who has experienced diet culture and been on and off the scales in their lifetime, will probably relate to this story to some extent.
The truth is, there is very little clinical evidence to suggest that weighing yourself is an effective tool if you are trying to lose weight. Other measures, such as; improvements in physical fitness; how your clothes feel; how well you feel in yourself; and whether you have more energy and are sleeping better are far more effective measures that are far better for your well-being.
The 5 Reasons
It’s a Trigger
Seeing a number on the scale can set the tone for your day. It can affect your mood and how you behave around other people. Whether you deem it to be good or bad, the number that you see can trigger emotions like shame, anxiety, sadness, or at the other end of the scale, euphoria, pride, and achievement. It can also trigger behaviours like over-eating and bingeing – “I’ve done well this week so I can order a pizza tonight”, or, “Sod it, I’ve tried so hard and made no progress, I’m a rubbish person, what’s the point?”
Weight Fluctuates ALL the Time
Hormones, how much water we are carrying, whether we have had a number 2 (yup, you read that right) will all affect the number on the scale. There is a wealth of physiological reasons why our weight can fluctuate.
All humans experience weight fluctuation day-to-day. The change can be as large as four or five pounds, mainly due to fluids, salts and what happens in the WC!
Muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue and therefore weighs more. If you have been exercising you might be building muscle which could affect the number on the scales.
And when it comes to hormones, changing Oestrogen levels in women can affect weight retention and loss, again affecting the number we see at different times.
The Number On The Scales is NOT a Measure of Health.
A huge amount of clinical studies prove that body size is not an indicator of how healthy a person is. Weighing ourselves does not tell us how functionally fit we are, how much sleep we are getting, how good we are at managing stress. All those things are far more important to our long-term health and longevity than how much we weigh.
It Distracts You from Your Innate Body Cues.
Focusing too much on your weight can distract you from paying attention to your body’s in-built signals of hunger, exhaustion, and stress. When you become disconnected from the signals and let the number on the scale dictate what you should and shouldn’t eat, you lose touch with your hunger cues and can become stressed and unhappy.
It Throws You Off the Path to Achieving Your Goals.
Focusing on the numbers on the scales distracts us from focusing on our goals. As I have pointed out here, if you don’t see what you want to see, it can ruin your motivation to exercise and eat well. In other words, it can prevent you from adopting a lifestyle that is about looking after yourself LONG TERM.
If you are thinking about improving your diet or making some positive lifestyle changes, ultimately, I wouldn’t berate anyone for making the choice to weigh themselves. All I suggest to my clients is that if you are keen to do that, to have an awareness of the (science-backed) points I have made here so that you can be kind to yourself in the process.
If you are starting out on trying to change a few lifestyle habits for the better, then I also suggest not weighing yourself for a while at first. Try taking a break from it for one month and see what happens. Notice how you feel and how you behave. I know the thought of it is scary. It will feel like giving up control. And you are – by getting rid of the scale and not weighing yourself, you’re putting your trust back in yourself and your body (rather than an external tool) to guide you and tell you what it needs.
Changes in mindset and in health take TIME. So overall, be kind and patient with yourself.