How many times have you got on the scales after a great week of exercise and healthy eating, only to find the number looking back at you is exactly the same as last week, or in some cases even higher? And how does this make you feel? Frustrated? Upset? Depressed? In this article, I’m going to explain why it’s time to step off the scales for good and how doing so will help you to rediscover your confidence and happiness.
The Weight Myth
It has been drilled into us by society and the media that weight is the most important measure of progress. When you see a friend who looks slimmer, the automatic question you ask is “how much weight have you lost?” We ask this question without even thinking as weighing has become so ingrained in our culture.
TV programmes such as The Biggest Loser focus solely on the amount of weight lost, newspapers frequently publish articles on the ‘best weight loss diet’ and progress at slimming clubs is measured by standing on the scales every week.
There is a constant pressure to lose weight and this often drives us to do unsustainable things such as very low-calorie diets or excessive amounts of exercise to make sure that the number on the scales keeps getting lower. Is this any way to live?
Weight Loss vs Fat Loss
Before going any further, it is important to highlight the difference between weight loss and fat loss.
Weight loss is a reduction in total body weight which is made up of body fat, muscle, stored energy and water. Fat loss is a reduction in total body fat only.
The big problem with the scales is that they can’t tell us what the weight lost/gained consists of. If you get on the scales at the end of the week and have lost or gained a couple of pounds, that weight could be from any of the areas listed above (body fat, muscle, stored energy or water).
In order to improve your body and/or health, body fat is the area you need to reduce while minimising the loss of muscle in the process. Losing muscle can be detrimental in the long-run as it slows down your metabolism, making it very difficult to keep the weight off once you’ve lost it.
Extreme diets greatly increase the chance of the weight lost coming from muscle. This is why people who follow these diets may see initial weight loss but will often end up back where they started after a few months, as their metabolism can no longer handle a normal food intake and so stores a large amount of body fat when they go back to eating normally. This then leads to yo-yo dieting which can be very damaging to the body both physically and mentally.
Another problem with the scales is the emotional attachment that many people develop to them.
The scales can often determine how you feel for the rest of the day. If they don’t show the number you were hoping for, you may feel disheartened, frustrated or upset, and this will constantly play on your mind for the rest of the day. The scales can also ruin motivation as you will feel that the hard work you are putting in isn’t getting the results you deserve so may think “what’s the point” and give up on achieving your goals.
There are many areas that you could be making great progress in that the scales can’t measure including your confidence, energy levels, how you look, skin, sleep, fitness levels and overall happiness. These areas are far more important than a number on the scales so it is important to focus on them and break away from the scales for good.
So without the scales, what can you use to measure progress instead?
Progress photos are by far the best way to measure progress if your goal is to improve the way you look. Take a photo from the front, side and back every 4-6 weeks and you will have an accurate picture of how your body is changing. A bikini is best as you will be able to see the changes in your body much more clearly but go with whatever you feel most comfortable in. Body measurements can also be used to measure changes in your body as well as how you feel in your clothes.
If your goal is to feel better, write down exactly how you feel right now, being as honest with yourself as you can. Include how confident you feel with your body, what your energy levels are like throughout the day, how well you are sleeping, how stressed you are, what your skin is like, how fit you feel, how happy you are and anything else that you think is relevant. Repeat this exercise in 4-6 weeks’ time and compare the two. If you are following a good programme focused on sustainable results and improving your quality of life, you will be amazed at the difference in how you feel.
As you can see, the scales are a very poor way of measuring progress and do far more harm than good. The small progress you are making each day is another step towards achieving your goals – don’t let the scales ruin this for you. Step off the scales for good and you will lead a much happier life in the long-run.