Do you have a Love/Hate relationship with the weighing scales? You love to get on it, but you hate yourself when you get off it?
If so, then you need to stop weighing yourself. Immediately.
The Scales is a Tool, No More
When people say they want to lose weight, what they really mean is they want to lose body fat.
The scale is used by people who have a fat loss goal to track their progress. But it is far from an accurate way to single out the amount of fat lost.
The scale is merely a tool that measures your weight, which includes muscle and brain mass, blood volume, bodily fluid, stomach and bowel contents, AND body fat.
So just how accurate is the scale for gauging fat loss?
The truth is, the scale is useless if used every day. Things go in to and out of your body at different rates every day, which results in daily weight fluctuations.
Yet, this has absolutely nothing to do with your fat loss efforts.
It’s a Fraud
Your weight fluctuates wildly over 24 to 48 hours depending on what you ate and drank, the time of month, if you exercised, and how often you went to the loo.
The type of food you eat can cause massive fluctuations, namely carbohydrates.
When you eat an excess of carbs that is not used for energy straight away, it gets converted to glycogen and binds to water and is then stored in the body.
On average, the body can store up to 500g of glycogen. For every 1g of glycogen, the body stores 3 to 4g of water with it. This equates to a stored weight of up to 2.5kg between glycogen and water.
On the other hand, if you eat less carbs, you use stored energy reserves. When the stored glycogen is depleted, you also lose the stored water bound to it.
That’s a 2.5kg (or 5.5 lbs) shift on the scales, which has NOTHING whatsoever to do with fat loss.
It is exactly this weighing scales trickery that allures people into believing that they have lost 7 lbs of fat in 7 days as a result of their new diet, cleanse or detox. When all you have lost is mainly stored glycogen and water.
It’s a fraud.
Constipation also shows up on the scales. However, if you have a good bowel movement then you can lose up to 2kg… instantly!
Water retention and bloating, perhaps due to the time of the month, also show up on the scales. As do hydration levels – sweating shows up as a decrease and good hydration levels shows up as an increase.
Another influencing factor is inflammation, which can due to injury or even after a heavy lifting session. So the scales can go up if you weigh in the day after training.
Bearing in mind, this is normal and necessary for the body to get stronger as it rebuilds and refortifies.
The scales are rarely a reliable indicator of your progress. Daily weigh-ins can mess with your head, lead you to believe you are making no progress despite your best efforts, and ultimately make you feel like a failure.
If you absolutely insist on using the scales, then only weigh-in every second week, first thing in the morning after you've gone to the loo (number one and two), and in the nude.
No Set Formula
Urban legend has it that a good target weight loss per week is 1-2 lbs, which corresponds to a calorie deficit of approximately 3500-7000 per week.
Therefore if we eat 3500-7000 calories less per week then we will lose 1-2 lbs, right?
Physiologically, we are all different. We cannot control how our bodies will respond to a set calorie deficit. Just because we eat 3500 kcals less in a week, that does not mean we are guaranteed to lose 1 lb of fat. What works for Mary might not work for Jane - on the scales at least.
If you did not lose the 1 lb that you expected, then so what. It does NOT mean you did not try hard enough. It does NOT mean you were NOT focused enough. It does NOT mean you were not determined enough.
What To Do Instead
The scale is not the only way to monitor progress and it is certainly not for everyone. If you are obsessive over the scales and it has the ability to control how you feel about yourself then break up with it. For a while at least.
Think about it. Letting a random number (which can fluctuate daily because of a million other things other than the amount of body fat you have) dictate your self-worth is madness.
Find a better way to track your progress. Find a pair of jeans, or an outfit you once loved that is a bit snug at present. Monitor how you FEEL in this item of clothing over time and how you LOOK in the mirror while wearing it to track progress.
The scales should have no place in dictating how you feel about yourself or controlling your mood for the day as a result of the number it spits out of you. So ditch it.
Flip the scales. Go by how you FEEL in your clothes. Go by how you LOOK in the mirror.
Thanks for reading,
Karen - your local Nut Coach
[As published in The Herald on 2nd Feb 2015 as part of my weekly nutrition column - Look Good Feel Good]
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