If you have never struggled with a weight problem, I know the following scenario may sound crazy.
But if you have, you know exactly the angst we weight-challenged have associated with the scale. You jump on the scale in the morning and your weight registers up 3 pounds from yesterday. Crushed, you check at 10 a.m. and it’s up again! You figure, OK, I’ve had breakfast and beverages so of course the read is higher. But that somehow doesn’t diminish the blow of the numbers. And it doesn’t make you feel any better.
Still, this doesn’t stop you from weighing a couple of more times that day, hoping for the best at bath scale roulette. The next morning you do the same thing. Except this time the scale reads 2 pounds lower than yesterday. Wow! You must be doing something right! Then the next morning….
This is classic OCW – obsessive compulsive weighing. Back in the day I was a season ticket holder on the weighing OC team. This is a disturbance that has many faces. Yours may look a little different yet have the same demoralizing effects.
It doesn’t need to be that way. I’m living proof that the scale can be your friend, a tool in your healthy fitness quest. You may be among the ranks of those who figure the best strategy is to throw the scale away because you’ve had it with the emotional whiplash. But this is living in fear and gives more power to the scale than ever. There is another way. Let’s see what the research says about weight and weighing in. Then I’ll tell you a little bit about how I’ve befriended the ‘numbers beast’ to my benefit and how you can too.
When it comes to stepping on the scale, what is the truth: does it help or hinder weight management?
It’s a source of common, often emotionally charged, debate: will weighing yourself help you to lose and/or manage your weight?
I’m an all-cards-on-the-table kinda woman when it comes to fitness stats – spare me the wishful thinking and give me the facts. So I’ve cultivated the now healthy habit of weighing in regularly to help track and keep my weight in check. Thank goodness I no longer “OC” about it, as in the old days. Now it serves compatible purpose.
How did I make the switch from OCW and letting the scale readout manage my moods? More about that later, I promise. In fact, I’ll bring you an entire article and guide as follow-up.
First, it’s high time someone did some research on the positives or negatives on weighing when it comes to weight management and actually it has been done. The results were reported by The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Here’s the study prompt as background:
Admittedly, self-weighing has received “conflicting endorsement” in the obesity literature – from both researchers and practitioners alike! Some recommend it is a key strategy for weight management. Others caution that self-weighing can be an emotionally loaded practice that can cause negative consequences, psychologically speaking, with weight management failure. The purpose of the research by the IJBNPA was to evaluate the evidence. That is, evidence regarding the use of regular self-weighing for both weight loss and weight maintenance.
The study consisted of, primarily, a literature review. That means, the researchers reviewed previous studies on self-weighing. Interestingly, 11 of the 12 studies reviewed indicated that more frequent self-weighing was associated with greater weight loss or weight gain prevention. The reviewers admit that the studies were not perfect. And believe me, from my experience in research it is darn-tootin’ hard if not next to impossible to have “perfect” research when it comes to human behavior – too many variables. But the researchers concluded – their findings from 11 of the 12 reviews conducted – that there does not seem to be, after all is said and done, anything bad about weighing yourself. As a matter of fact:
Based on the consistency of the evidence reviewed, frequent self-weighing, at the very least, seems to be a good predictor of moderate weight loss, less weight regain, or the avoidance of initial weight gain in adults. More targeted research is needed in this area to determine the causal role of frequent self-weighing in weight loss/weight gain prevention programs. Other open questions to be pursued include the optimal dose of self-weighing, as well as the risks posed for negative psychological consequences.
Truthfully? I find that the scale DOES help me stay on track. Yet I also am quick to caution you on other elements to consider when weighing.
Keep in mind: factors other than fat gain can contribute to weight gain on the scale:
- added muscle can mean added weight that benefits you; at the same time, inch loss with a stable weight is a powerful indicator of increased and maintained muscle mass, something you definitely want. Yet keep in mind that muscle is hard won. You don’t gain 5 pounds of muscle in a week. Or two weeks. As muscle is challenged, and being built, it will retain more fluid in the tissue in the process of repair and growth that can show up on the scale as well.
- weight can fluctuate somewhat “wildly” (we tend to freak out about 2 – 3 pounds) from day to day depending on hydration, sodium intake, carbohydrate intake, hormonal profile, and other dietary or pharmaceutical factors. It is the averages over the course of weeks that is a more true indicator.
- time of day makes a difference. Always weigh first thing in the morning, before drinking or eating, and in the same lightweight, minimal clothing.
How to get off the fear of the numbers and make the scale your friend
It is possible to cultivate a detachment from the numbers that allows you to use the scale objectively for your purposes of weight management. I’ve done it and so can you. Stay tuned for the followup guide: Be present with your poundage: How to weigh mindfully, get out of fear of the scale, and use the bath scale to help you lose weight.
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[Reference: Int J Beh Nutr Phys Act. 2008 Nov 4;5:54. The Impact of Regular Self-weighing on Weight Management: A Systematic Literature Review. VanWormer JJ, French SA, Pereira MA, Welsh EM]