March 22, 2015
The scale. A measurement tool that seems to have so much more power than simply displaying our body weight in pounds. The scale tells us how ‘good’ we are at eating healthy, it tells us how attractive we should feel and it also tells us what our next move with food will be, doesn’t it? Depending on your relationship with the scale, you may or may not agree with the statement above, but in my line of work this is an incredibly prevalent mindset. I am ready to pull out all the stops to change this.
I hope you can both relate to this description of the scale and see how overblown our relationship with this tool has become. The point of today’s post is to educate you and inspire you to change your relationship with your bathroom scale or maybe, kinda, if you want to consider the thought to GET RID of your scale altogether!?
What the scale does:
The scale measures your body weight. Some scales also measure body fat percentage with calculators that are grossly inaccurate.
What the scale does NOT do:
Give you a snapshot of your health. Give you an idea of how well your healthy habits are playing out. Give you a suggestion about how much muscle definition you do or do not have. Give you permission to eat a certain way after seeing a number you do or do not like. And finally, the scale does NOT give any insight into how worthy you are of anything.
The challenge is that we believe a change on the scale or attaining a certain number on the scale will equal a certain size of jeans, a certain look or even a certain feeling of worthiness…
IT DOES NOT.
I hear this all the time – “I have eaten clean and done all my exercises for a few weeks and the scale has barely moved, what the hell? I need to at least see some results in order to keep up with my habits and stay consistent.”
What this describes is a situation that keeps us locked in the all or nothing mindset. We eat clean, follow our workout programs and expect a certain number (or any change) on the scale. When the scale number does not change, goes up or does not go down enough we throw in the towel, get frustrated and think we need a more strict approach.
We then eat more strictly, exercise more intensely, see a little change on the scale, go back to our old habits and the scale goes up again. The answer lies less in your eating approach and more in the fact that you keep using the scale to determine your actions! Healthy habit change works when we choose habits that are enjoyable, successful and easy to maintain every single day. Keep eating your greens, lean proteins and drinking a ton of water, each and every day without the scale, but instead because you love how you feel and you are adopting a different lifestyle!
The point is that continuing to use the scale never gets you out of this pattern of up and down habits so you are even less likely to see changes over the long term.
My answer to you today is an in-depth one that will challenge your knowledge of physiology, mindset and your traditional relationship with the scale.
The scale sucks for measuring what your physique looks like.
The scale keeps you tied to expectation. We expect that eating a certain way for a week or two should illicit a change on the scale. But the scale only measures our entire body mass, it has nothing to do with gaining muscle and losing body fat. Even if the scale decreases by a pound over two weeks, we become frustrated because clearly our efforts are not showing any results. This is so, so wrong!
Successful long term body composition change is slow, up-and-down and does not always equal a large change in the number on the scale even when our body can become leaner, stronger, healthier and potentially attain a smaller size.
Rachel Cosgrove, a New York Times best-selling author and leading authority on women’s physique change says that long term dieters are a population who are often tied to the scale the most. Due to years of weight loss and re-gain, this population tends to have a higher body fat percentage compared to muscle mass ratio. We know that chronic dieting causes us to lose both muscle and body fat and then re-gain body fat when we go back to our normal, everyday eating habits. Not only does this population crave change on the scale the most, they also have the highest ability to put on muscle mass when they adopt or increase their training regimen. A decrease on the scale is unlikely even though they are becoming leaner, and losing body fat.
Check out my good friend, Michelle Rycroft of Ripped By Rycroft.
Michelle graciously gave me permission to share her progress photos that were taken over a three year period. Note: she weighs the exact same in both pictures yet looks very different in terms of muscle tone and physique. Had Michelle relied on the scale as her only measurement tool and source of validation, she would likely have never been able to see the results she created.
The scale has zero bearing on how effective you are at implementing healthy habits.
I joke with my Blast Fitness Lifestyle Club ladies all the time that if I had used the scale to measure my progress over the last three years, I would have been so disappointed! I have probably lost 4-5lbs of body fat in the last few years (at times it was closer to 8lbs) and I have weighed myself twice in the last year, and only a handful of times in the years before that. With all the effort I have put in to eat consistently healthy all year long, a weight loss of 5lbs in 3 years is an epic fail by traditional measures.
My own progress photos - I do not own a scale so weighing myself is not part of my regular practice. I do it from time to time (usually at my client's homes!) to check in but never as a measure of weekly progress.
Knowing what I know and feeling the way I do, I consider my progress a major win! I can maintain my weight, size and body composition relatively easily. I don’t notice swings in body composition as much as I used to and I feel much better physically. Remember, we all have normal ups and downs in our physique and weight. I certainly do not weigh the same everyday or every week. I have no idea of my numbers on a daily basis because I do not own a scale, but my pants fit comfortably and my measurements are steady.
On the whole, I am leaner, more consistently with less effort. That is a win in my books.
I place all my efforts on creating a lifestyle change and zero effort on what the scale says and how that should dictate my future actions. I have less expectations of how eating a certain way should make me look and instead I work on placing my efforts consistently on the big rocks that I know make a difference in the long term.
But what if I have __ lbs to lose?
I am adding this question into this post on purpose because it will undoubtedly come up. Perhaps you believe that you have 20 or 30lbs to lose and are already making the case for why this post does not apply to you. Let me stop you right there. This post applies to you regardless of your weight today and regardless of where you want your weight to be.
I have been two or three sizes bigger than I currently am and weighed 30lbs more than I currently do. Using the scale does not have to be your main tool for measuring progress. Try journaling about your healthy habit journey every day, use girth measurements like your waist circumference and hip width as measurement tools and take progress pictures over long periods of time to see how your efforts play out.
I have seen many clients and friends use the scale as their main measurement tool only to be disappointed and struggle with long term implementation of healthy habits.
I have also seen many women feel like the number on the scale has something to do with their beauty, worthiness and power. I have felt beautiful weighing 10lbs more than I currently do and have felt miserable weighing 3lbs less than I currently do. My mindset determines my happiness, NOT the number on the scale.
It is time for this madness to stop. How are you going to change your relationship with the scale? How will you change the relationship your friends, daughters, sisters and mothers have with their scales?
I will change our collective relationship with the scale by starting with this post and continuing to be honest, authentic and real with you. Do the best you can with the information you have, and when you know better, get busy doing better.