Bathroom Scales: Friend, Foe or Both?

Of course, if one is interested in losing, maintaining, or even gaining weight, bathroom scales are pretty much a must have item. Without scales, we have no way to measure our success, nor do we have a good method of knowing when we need to adjust our nutrition when the weight is not coming down as we hope. But, the scale can also be one of the worse items you can have for monitoring your weight. One of the hugest mistakes you can make when losing weight is to have an erratic approach to weighing yourself. Some dieters lose their blooming minds by jumping onto their scales as often as they open the door to their refrigerator. They will weigh themselves multiple times a day, not out of any kind of rational thought, but more out of a fear that they might once again fail themselves in their weight loss endeavor. Many people will weigh themselves after every time they go to the bathroom to see if they lost any weight. Many will weigh after each meal in order to see if they gained. None of this constant weighing will give you any tangible information that will help you over the long haul. All that constant weighing will accomplish is to drive you mad, it will add to your stress, which will once again lead you to the refrigerator or pantry.

What I advise, and what I do for myself is to only weigh one time per week at the very most. I get up on Saturday morning and step up on my scale one time and see what it reads and then step off. No matter what the scale reads, I do not get back onto it. I note the number and move on with my day. I do not react to the numbers unless I see a trend of it either rising or going lower over the course of about four to six weeks. One high reading is nothing, one high reading can simply be a result of water retention because something I ate had a little higher sodium content than what I normally consume.

Are you aware of how much your body weight can fluctuate just by water retention?

I have seen my own weight fluctuate by as much as nine pounds in a single day.

When you weigh yourself too often to judge your success or failure with weight loss, you are setting yourself up for aggravation or a false sense of success. You might experience critical self judgement based on a momentary reading, or, you might believe you can cheat a little because you have done so well for the week.  If you begin having self doubt over a temporary gain, or begin creating a reason to reward for a significant loss, you are only setting yourself up for failure. It is the trends that matter, not single readings.

Skip the scale ballet!

If you are the type who weighs too often, you have likely done what I call the “scale ballet”. The “scale ballet” is where you try to coax your scale into giving you the best reading when you step onto it. You might try stepping onto it very gingerly, you might try balancing your self fore or aft to manipulate the reading, you might even try keeping some of your body weight off of one foot as if this is going to help bring the weight down. Given that bathroom scales can be off in their accuracy, you are only hurting yourself by doing the “scale ballet”. Here are a couple of considerations if you are prone to doing this:

By trying to cheat the scale, you are only cheating yourself.

If your scales can be manipulated by how you stand on them, you need to chuck them in the trash and buy good scales that are accurate.

Stay Focused on being SMART!

Set yourself a “Specific” weight loss goal that focuses more on your level of body fat as a percentage of your weight rather than on a random number you would like to see on the scale.

Make tracking towards your goal “Measurable” in more than one way. Of course you want to see the number on the scale go down, but pay more attention to how you look and how your clothing fits. Your percentage of body fat matters far more than the number on the scale.

Make your long term goal “Achievable” by setting yourself many short term goals in order to get there. If you need to lose one hundred pounds, you need to only focus on ten pounds at a time. But, at some point your focus will need to shift to your overall body fat rather than your actual weight.

Make your goal be “Realistic”. Focus on being the best that you can possibly be rather than trying to be like someone you saw in a movie or on Instagram. It serves no good purpose to set yourself up with an unachievable goal. When you are not realistic, you are only setting yourself up for a miserable failure, you will crash and burn every time.

Make an effort to be “Timely” in achieving your goal. No, I am not saying to rush yourself, but you should set yourself up with a reasonable timeline to get to your goal. We recommend you set a goal of one pound per week for weight loss. This is realistic and very doable. But remember, single readings on the scale should not be the reason for making drastic changes to your nutrition and exercise.  It is long term trends that matter, not single scale readings.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Great post, David. Scales are definintely a good way to follow an upward or downward trend. Scales don’t paint the entire picture, however. As you know, body composition is key. Every so often, I try to take the under water body fat test called Hydrostatic Underwater Testing. It has a very high degree of accuracy and measures my body fat and lean muscle tissue. It’s very inconvenient and if you’re claustophobic, I don’t suggest trying it. My husband did the DEXA scan (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry ) since he had trouble with the Hydrostatic test. In my opinion, the DEXA scan is not as accurate but it’s much more convenient. Stay safe and healthy.

    1. David Yochim says:

      Hi Frieda. Yes, the hydrostatic testing is the most accurate but not for the claustrophobic for sure.

      At home, I typically use military body weight and measurements in conjunction with our pictorial chart to compare myself against. This may not be perfect, but is close enough since I’m not a competitive body builder. Thanks for such a great comment!

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