Scale Back The Use Of It…


Ike Ike baby; who your scale tries to be...

Weight A Minute, Somebody’s Lookin’ To Get Slapped

The bathroom scale is like an abusive spouse; it will tell you something wonderful every so often to keep you attached.  When you’re least expecting it though, it might slap you into next week – just for being there, regardless of your good intentions. Like a spouse abused, a person will cringe, duck their head, and go back for more – every day.  Like any abusive relationship, this dysfunction is born of incompatibility.  Perhaps a separation might be in order…

A Tool, A Weapon, A Reminder

At the request of a client, I recently purchased a scale for my studio. I had lived without a scale for years because knowing my bodyweight has not been of consequence to me.  I can still wear the same jeans I wore in high school, I can run faster than my kid, and on a clear day I can still see my abs – so the scale has nothing to offer me. Still, I conceded my client’s request because I felt the scale might be an effective tool in her weight-loss project. It turned out not be useful, and the scale was soon put under a rack of dumbbells in my studio to gather dust.  A forgotten scale is like a forgotten land mine – watch out where you step.

Depression in sepia...

I paid nearly $200 for my scale and believe it to be accurate.  Aesthetically pleasing, my scale has lots of chrome and a sort of art-deco look to it, despite the digital display. My scale caught my eye quite a bit in the beginning. We were near each other for hours at a time, and it constantly winked at me.  Still, I resisted the temptation to step upon it – I need not know.

 The Slip

After 6 months of spending all day in the same room with my shiny scale, it got the better of me.  One afternoon I gave in to temptation and took a bite from this chrome apple in my Garden Of Eatin’; 172 lbs.  I thought nothing of it because the last time I had been on a scale nearly a year earlier I was… 172 lbs. See, no need for a scale.

 A couple of days had passed and I decided to step on my scale again – to confirm my 172 lbs. Oops; 176lbs. Wow!  What a fat tub lard I turned out to be. Four pounds in two days… sad.   

 Since I could think of no significant departures from my systematic eating and exercise behaviors that might have caused this weight gain, I decided a little more cardio would be in order until I arrive back to 172 lbs.  I made no eating changes – simply chose to earn my way back to 172 lbs. by burning some calories.

 Three days later I stepped on my scale once again; 169 lbs. Yeah me!  A little extra cardio served me well. Seven pounds down in three days – all was well again.  This meant I could eat a bit more to get back to 172. Carne asada burrito with extra guacamole, here I come…

Oh the goodness of my once-monthly carne burro... Thank you Robertito's!

…and there I went; 175 lbs. the next day.  Came and went for three or four days in this fashion; more food/less food, more cardio/less cardio, more bodyweight/less bodyweight. Then it hit me – I was caught in the deadly rip-current of scale ebb and flow. And I thought this only happened to the weak. 

 To reason my way out of this, and to support my commitment to a non-scale way of life, I conducted a non-scientific experiment yesterday.  I chose to weigh myself 5 times throughout the course of an average day in my so-called fitness life. Here are the results:

 6:00am, post 30 minutes of (hard) cardio on an empty stomach: 171

10:00am, after 1 full breakfast, and a mid-morning snack: 174

2:00pm, after lunch, and a light afternoon snack: 173

5:00pm, prior to dinner, but after 2 44 ounce cups of coffee: 176

9:00pm, after a 60 minute strength workout: 173

 In a single day I gained and lost a total of 10 lbs. – fluids mostly, and digesting foods. Sweat lost from hard exercise = weight lost. Forty-four ounce cup of coffee, two times = weight gained. Food in and food released = pounds gained and pounds released.

 For the example cited above, I will always suggest that should one choose to use a scale as a tool with their weight-loss effort, one should weigh his or her self no more than every 3-5 weeks, allowing enough time between weigh-ins to demonstrate legitimate fat-loss – separate and distinct from the 10 pounds which can be gained and lost by the actions of living normal day.

 Utility With Responsibility

I will concede to my friend Dr. J that a scale can be a sound tool to monitor weight-loss, or to monitor one’s healthy bodyweight.  But the effectiveness of the scale as a tool is directly tied to the responsibility of its use, and the understanding of its power to corrupt good intentions.  I suggest that if you use your scale regularly, yet fear the experience of the bitch-slap each morning, make one of the following changes:

1)      Put a renewed, more serious effort into improving your fitness lifestyle, possibly even recruiting the services of a fitness or nutrition professional, thus giving the scale a better chance to make you smile.

2)      Lower your expectations.

3)      Throw away your scale.

Depressed each morning...? Place your scale here....

No Weigh Or The Highweigh

My experience yesterday reminded me how deceiving the scale can be. This is simply a non-scientific reminder that even an educated and disciplined fitness enthusiast can fall victim to that sinister device.  When it comes to monitoring weight-loss, the scale might be a good tool, though I suggest two better tools to emphaszie; eat well and move. Be well.  rc

13 responses

  1. I do weigh myself every morning with the understanding that what I ate and drank the day before can effect the number I see. If I felt like a slave to the scale, I’d do just what you recommended and toss it.

    I used to own a pedometer and often used it to measure how long I’d walked or jogged or biked. It got to the point that the number was what I was working for and it sucked the joy out of the experience.

  2. OMGosh!!! I LOVE this post!!! You are so right and it does slap us especially those that weigh every day.

    Thanks for writing this! I’m going to share it with my friends. I think we can get way to caught up in what the scale says on a given day.

    Yes, when I lost my 60 pounds and now on maintenance I still use it, but never weigh more than once a week.

  3. Oh no Roy. For the first time we disagree on something. I see your point perfectly, but I do feel that the scale is a good accountability partner for me. I accept the daily fluctuations that come with the scale, but I weigh everyday. I have a three to five pound range that I float in, and if I hit that upper limit I take action.

    Every person is different. There are some that hate the scale and never weigh. Some weigh weekly, or monthly. I think the important thing is that we have something that keeps us accountable, whether it’s the scale or a favorite pair of jeans.

    Great post Roy!

  4. Very interesting post Roy. I am a weigher. I do weigh myself every morning BUT I also know that the scale is not the end all & I also know that it is a finicky creature.

    Too funny, like you, I did that thru the day test & do every so often. I even posted about it way back when. I did it because I knew how the scale would fluctuate during the day & I wanted to show that in my post. I put on a pounds just drinking 1 cup of coffee. Also, I will weigh more right after a workout then if I go back to sleep & then weigh myself a couple hours later… I am guessing due to the “engorged muscles”, :-), from the weights & all my water drinking even though I sweat like crazy too.

    And, like you, I am just one that fluctuates a lot… I am up almost 2 pounds from yesterday …. but usually I am up if I don’t exercise & it is a rest day… but sometimes I am not up. I am just a person that does not really stay stable, scale wise, and I know that! Some people can’t understand that.

    I have lived my life with these fluctuations. Something about my body that it goes up & down a lot & very easily. So, I guess since I have blabbed on about me, :-), I will still say that I use both the scale & clothes as my way to check things. It works for me.

    I think some people need it & some don’t.. if it effects people adversely & you become obsessive & crazed about it, don’t use it… if you can handle it & it does help you be accountable, then use it…….

    That dang fickle scale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😉

  5. HaHa!! This post is a true classic!!

    You scaled to pretty funny, yet true heights with this one, Roy!!!

    A romantic comedy of boy meets scale, boy chases scale until scale catches him, boy loses scale, boy and scale find that true meaningful relationship.

    I very rarely use a scale, and I do not own one. Once every few months maybe. I do think for some people and the weight issues they are dealing with, it has it’s place, even with every day use. Never more than once a day, however.

  6. This is a great post. I weigh myself every morning. I’m totally addicted to it!!! I think soon it’s going to be time to stop weighing myself every day, and maybe go to once a week. I’m scared that I will gain all my weight back if I don’t weigh myself every day!

  7. A follow-up by way of Karen at http://fitnessajourneynotadestination.blogspot.com/ Jody at http://www.truth2beingfit.com/ and Diane at http://www.fittothefinish.com/blog/. Based on thier comments, I sent them the follwoing emial: “Hi Ladies –

    I want to thank you all for your honest and insightful comments on this week’s post. I hear, and I very much appreciate what you have to say. I will reply to your comments individually later. I want to share with you though, a perspective through my eyes as a fitness trainer.

    For years I did use the scale as a tool. It was only in 2003 that I quit using the scale, and quit all measuring. At this point my focus became all about encouraging all the proper steps, and pointing out where those steps were, in a weight-loss agenda. My decision to drop the scale as a tool came when a woman, who had been working very hard for months, got on my scale and began to cry — because she had not lost a pound. The next day she quit her job and left her husband. This was not the first time I witnessed something like this. In fact, it had become painful for me to watch men and women cry, give up, or both after getting off the scale on a regular basis.

    You guys depend on your scales to maintain, and I totally appreciated and respect that — because you are all fitness-minded people who take supreme care of yourselves. My thoughts on the scale have much more to do with those who have let themselves go and require leadership to get hold of their bodies. Proportionally, these are not good candidates for daily weighing. My experience is that these are the ones most bruised and beaten by the scale.

    Diane, because you came from obesity, and used the scale as a tool, you are an exception to the rule — based on my own (granted singular) experience. I think it’s great — truly. But I have been face to face with a lot of carnage out there and often times, it is just as ugly as a bruised eye or a battered cheek.

    Thank you so much for letting me share these thoughts.”

    Each was kind enought to repsond. Here are theri thoughts:

    Karen: Hi Roy,

    My own trainer has told me similar stories and also recommends tossing the scale. What a heartbreaking story about the woman who quit her job and left her husband. How much despair must she have been feeling to go to such extremes.

    In the six months since I’ve been blogging I’ve read hundreds of entries from bloggers who are emotionally tied to their scales. I truly think that it’s hard for them to understand the concept of using other means of measurement. I’ve found that these are the same people that don’t believe that increasing the intensity of their workouts could benefit them as much, if not more, than working out for longer periods of time. This must be a frustrating part of your job.

    Jody: Roy,

    I agree, the scale can be bad for some people…. really bad. For others like me that have “an understanding” of it & the craziness of my own body, I find it useful among many other ways to check myself. My clothes are really the best indicator though as the scale can be good & the clothes not so much and vice versa! Some days, I do want to throw the damn thing out the window because my body has never been one to stay at a stable weight day to day

    Diane: Roy,

    Thank you for your email to us. I understand your position and I respect it. I too have dealt with many bruised and broken people. When I work with them I encourage them to use the scale if it is helpful for them, but I don’t “preach” daily weigh-ins for anyone. Some people allow a number to defeat them, and for other people that number encourages them.

    I’m glad that you are making a difference to people in your lives. I hope they appreciate your concern and caring.

    Thank you karen, Jody, and Diane for taking the time. Your insight means so much!

  8. Sheri: 60 pounds is quite a feat!!! Use it, but don’t abuse it!!! The scale that is….

    Dr. J: It’s a story with a happy ending — boy and scale agree to disagree 🙂 And yes, as we have discussed, the scale does have it’s place.

    Carla: From the looks of your blog pics, you could go a year without weighing and I think you would still be ahead of the game!

  9. I’m obviously still dealing with the carnage and will be for sometime. It only took me a good three months to realize what Roy is saying fits my personal situation to a “t”. When I was training with my personal trainer he would tell me much the same thing. “Who cares about the scale? Why is that an indicator of your success? If you do everything I tell you to do, the weight will eventually come off. Just trust me.”

    Sometimes one has to actually want to LISTEN and follow the advice of others that know what they are talking about. I refuse to let a scale dictate my moods. I went through that whole abusive relationship many times in my life and it’s just not conductive towards a healthy lifestyle. I don’t know what clicked for me, or when I realized this. Just one day I decided to trust my trainer and believe it. I decided to trust my body too. That may be the most important factor.

  10. Bobbie: Very insightful and always appreciated. I had actually written soemthing else for this week, but you inspired me to bring this back and update it.

    “trust my body too” — so important. Our bodies speak to us 24/7. But if we’re not listening, we won’t hear them. Listening is the key. Thank you ffriend!

  11. I weigh a few times a week, I don’t have a scale at home, do it at the gym. If I didn’t weigh myself, how would I know that I lost 50 pounds? I understand that it drives many people bats*%t, but I have gotten used to its jumpiness. I weigh all times of day, use the scales at about 6 different gyms, and like salt. I know how bouncy it is, yet like Diane, I happily tolerate a 5 pound range. I’m still trying to lose, and it’s slow enough to not really see on the scale, but I am comforted by it, it’s a lifestyle check. When I get to (or accept) maintenance, maybe I’ll buy clothes that fit well enough to tell me I’m stable, but I’ll probably still weigh. I’ve watched the scale almost every day for 2 years, I don’t take it personally. Better the scale than to yoyo, which of course I don’t think would happen, but nobody ever does.

  12. Julie: Epic response, and proves uitlity of the scale without obsession.

    ” If I didn’t weigh myself, how would I know that I lost 50 pounds?”

    I will chew on this one for weeks. Thank you!

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