Have you ever stepped on a scale after a week of “eating well” and having kept up your exercise regimen, but were immediately disappointed once you realized the number HASN’T BUDGED IN A WEEK?! What was the point of saying NO to the cake and extra glass of wine if it wouldn’t change anything?
Factors that affect weight
Although we only talk about calories in – calories out when it comes to weight, it’s a lot more complicated than that. In fact, our genetics, history of dieting, hormones, stress, sleep, medications, access to sidewalks, socioeconomic status, and weight stigma are only SOME of the factors that could move our weight up or down. Click here for more factors.
Why the scale can do more harm than good
Since we said stress is a factor in weight gain/loss, you can see how the obsession with the number on the scale and the dissatisfaction from said number could actually hinder our results. This dissatisfaction actually leads to:
- Physiological changes: Increase of cortisol and insulin, which helps us retain body fat and lose muscle mass (the opposite of what you’re likely trying to accomplish)
- Behavior changes: Restriction followed by binging, increased hunger, ignoring of hunger cues, disordered eating, and lower motivation for exercise are just some examples of behavior changes, which set the stage for weight gain.
Now the scale is still an objective tool, but not one without risk. Sure some studies will point out that those who weigh themselves regularly lose more weight, but here is what these studies missed:
- The studies are short term: Most people who follow a diet will regain the weight, and then some, likely due to metabolic changes and difficulty to maintaining changes long-term
- They don’t assess psychological health: If weighing daily causes stress, we’re definitely not improving health (health is a lot more than a number on the scale or your waist circumference)
Other ways to measure progress
If we decide to not use a scale, what are some other ways to measure success? Here are a few ideas, but feel free to add your own:
- Energy levels go up
- More confidence
- Better sleep
- Less back/knee/hip pain
- Reduced blood pressure/cholesterol/blood sugars
- Feeling satisfied after a meal
- Fewer binges/better relationship with food Easier to move around
- Improved strength and/or cardiovascular capacity (not as out of breath with exercise, more endurance)
- Feeling better in your own skin/better body image
- Improved mood/less stress
- Tried new activities or new foods
Weight loss or a number on the scale shouldn’t be your only purpose in life. There is so much more to life than trying to make yourself thinner. If you’re doing this for health reasons, remember that thin people have medical issues too and that weight loss isn’t always the answer. You can manage most conditions with behavior changes despite changes in weight! Click here for more