The Scale…A Friend or Foe?

When trying to lose weight, the scale can be a tool to help track progress.  In this way it is your friend because it can help you to determine if you are on track and keep you honest.  However, I also feel that it can be your worst enemy and one of the main reasons people “give up” when trying to loose weight.

The scale is a measure of body weight NOT body fat.  There is a big difference between these two things.  Body weight includes fat, but it also includes muscle and water among other things.  Of these, it is the fat that people are trying to lose.  Weight can fluctuate 1-2 pounds or more from one day to the next.  In fact, it can fluctuate this much within a day…have you ever weighed yourself before and after drinking a glass of water or at the beginning and end of the day?  The difference is not because you gained or lost fat, the difference is water weight.  Many things cause water weight to fluctuate (i.e. the climate, hormonal changes, salty foods, the time of the day, etc.). 

If you start an exercise program and are building muscle, the scale can be deceiving.  Since muscle weighs more than fat, you can be losing inches and have a more desirable body composition but you may not see the number on the scale go down as you had hoped.

Since there are so many variables that influence the number you see on the scale, it is important that you don’t put too much emphasis on the number.  Focus on the process not the outcome!  If you are creating calorie deficits, weight loss will occur if you give it time.  Focus the how your cloths fit, your energy levels and how a healthier lifestyle makes you feel. 

It takes time to lose body fat…remember that there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat.  So, don’t weigh yourself everyday.  It is unlikely that you will create a 3,500 calorie deficit or surplus in one day, so the changes on the scale will not reflect body fat.  Weigh yourself once a week on the same scale, at the same time of day, to track progress over time.  If the number goes up, think about the week.  How did you eat?  Were you exercising?  Were you keeping food records?  If you think you did well, then stick with it and see what the number is next week.  If not, then think about what areas you can improve for the next week.

If the scale dictates your mood, also read the following article “4 Signs It’s Time to Step Off of the Scale” by Jason Anderson.  It is a great article that may help to keep things in perspective.