Tell me something more frustrating than the &*%$@ fluctuating numbers on a bathroom scale....
.... That feeling you get when it's down like three pounds overnight. Sometimes you're even more elated because you've "been bad" and were dreading seeing the number.
... Or the other feeling when you've "done everything right" for a week but you GAIN a pound or two.
Then people start telling you "muscle weighs more than fat" and you're still so disgusted you could scream.
And don't even get me started about plateaus, getting weighed at the doctor, or the numbers inching up with age.
Why am I talking about this?
As a health coach, weight is something that everyone I've talked to brings up.
For pretty much everyone alive today, the scale has been the main way we've measured so many things:
But here's the thing: the scale tells such a tiny part of the story.
Besides, there are so many factors out of our control that impact the numbers on the scale that it's hardly a good indicator of anything.
So I strongly urge my clients not to weigh themselves very often, if ever*.
Stick with me here....
Why isn't the scale reliable and why wouldn't we weigh ourselves at all?
There's nothing wrong with having a general idea of your weight. When we gain or lose large amounts of weight, it can impact us in many ways, such as our heart health, energy levels, sleeping habits, aches and pains, and a host of medical conditions as a result of malnutrition.
Also, sudden, unusual, significant increases or decreases in weight can be symptoms of a health issue that you should consult with your doctor about. If that kind of situation is going on, though, you'd know by your clothes getting a lot tighter or looser despite not changing anything about your eating habits or exercise.
But using precise or constant weigh-ins as an indicator of our progress, health, or value as a human being isn't helpful physically, mentally, or emotionally:
Finally, as someone who had years of crazy disordered eating of all forms and a horrible relationship with my body, I know the scale made it worse. I've found that it's SO much healthier and more empowering to focus on other indicators of progress and health because:
So what should we do instead of weighing ourselves?
Focus on what you can control much more than the fickle numbers on the scale. Focus on health habits that will bring you the lasting results you're really looking for. Re-write your goals and re-frame what you tell yourself and I'm betting you that you're much more likely to succeed!!
1. Follow the 75/25 rule.
Studies are showing that food quality intake accounts for about 75% and exercise accounts for about 25% of our body health and getting into better shape.
Although there are always disagreements and conflicting studies, a consensus is that clean, "real," unprocessed, unrefined, lean, low sugar foods are the healthiest for our bodies, inside and out.
There are also many ways you can customize food groups and macros to best work with your body type and improve your results. This refines your health and energy. There are over 100 different dietary theories, including nutritional programs by blood type, metabolism and diagnosis, which I studied them in my coaching training. So I highly recommend that you consult with me or another qualified professional that will work with you to find the best diet for your body type.
Ideas to track this instead of your pounds on the scale: set some benchmarks for yourself, increasing them every few weeks. Count your reduction in sugar packets, bleached flour & flour products, cans of soda, frozen & boxed foods, sugary granola bars, chips, crackers, etc. Count how many times you passed up fast food, ate home cooked meals, or ate a clean snack instead of a candy bar, chips, or cookies between meals. Tally all the nutrients you're adding to your diet instead of focusing on what you're being deprived of. Track your macros on an app.
2. Work out 3-4 days a week.
At least start with one day a week. Just start somewhere.
Ride a bike inside or out. Go hiking or cross country skiing. Use an elliptical. Try Yoga or Pilates. Go to Spin class, Barre class, TRX, or Zumba. Take hip hop or ballroom dance. Go to the weight room. Find a fitness class that uses weights. Use machines. Get a personal trainer. Put on leg weights and go for walks. Try any of the many free internet or TV exercise classes. Walk briskly or run. We're so fortunate nowadays that there are so many to choose from.
Think back... we seem to all have one or two types of physical movement that we haven't despised. Or try one of the many new ones. Make it your goal to try one once a week for the next few weeks and then increase to two and so on.
3. Track your repetitions, amount of weight on the barbell, speed, and finishing times.
It's such a kick to see blatant numerical proof that you're stronger, faster, and fitter than you were a few weeks before.
Keep an exercise journal. It's wonderfully encouraging!
4. See how you can reduce medications through healthy food and fitness.
Eating clean food, reducing sugar, exercising 3-4 days a week, and getting outside can dramatically reduce the need for medications from both chronic conditions and by boosting your immune system.
You will likely see your need for antacids, digestion aids, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatories go away or subside dramatically. Many people see an end to their health conditions by cleaning up their diet. Importantly, that doesn't come from calorie counting and tracking the scale.
5. Change your focus to sustainability rather than weight loss, set long term goals and do sparse check ins.
Very little identifiable or important progress is going to happen in one day (as mentioned above, water weight loss or an initial loss that only results in a plateau doesn't create the results you're looking for), and we shouldn't be doing anything so punishing or depriving to our bodies to try to notice a difference in a day anyway. Even a week isn't an important focus.
The diet culture model has done nothing but create up to 97% failure rate and an ever-increasing amount of people with eating disorders. Part of that reason is the idea that we can "lose 10 pounds this week" or two weeks, or before our reunion or a wedding.
The point is sustainable change. So with regular, sustained changes you will see results that continue over the long run, even for years. You'll feel it in your clothing, strength, and stamina that things are changing.
6. When you do check in, use body fat, a tape measure, and clothing size, not the scale.
Remembering that the point is a body size and eating habits that nourish our health, these measurements will show your progress much more effectively. Even better, because these don't change overnight (the way we expect our weight to), you're forced to focus on the habits that will lead you to your ultimate goal, rather than putting all your stock in day to day fickle changes in weight.
We build muscle and lose fat by: doing weight-bearing exercise (especially if you're over 40!) and cardiovascular exercise. The more muscle, the faster your metabolism. Cardio is not enough. Switch up your exercise so your body doesn't get used to doing the same thing all the time and plateau. Besides, different types of exercise use different muscles.
Track the various types of workouts you're doing. Schedule days to work on upper body, lower body, cardio and outdoor activity. Every month or so, measure your body fat or take your measurements.
7. Celebrate the wins!
Instead of measuring your progress on a scale, measure your progress by length of time you're sticking to a new lifestyle.
Set up rewards and celebrate your wins every week for making new choices. Increase the reward every week, not for hitting advanced weight loss milestones but for strength and endurance ones, or body fat losses or medication reductions.
Please, please hear me: this does not mean that unless you have 100% perfection, you've blown it, that day was a bust and you've failed. This means that you've made a choice or several choices every day or even throughout the week that are moving you forward in your health.
What should you do now?
First, what's your biggest scale frustration? What resonated most with you about changing your approach, and which of the ideas might you try this week?
Second, information isn't transformation! It takes more than lists of ideas to make it work and last in your busy life, so click here to schedule a consult call if you just haven't been able to put all the pieces together by yourself.
To you, your life, & wellness!
Happy you're here! This is where I give you food hacks and habit tricks so you can break free from out-of-control eating & cravings and feel so much better in your own skin.
♥ join the movement ♥
Debbie Thompson, B.A., M.S., Certified Health & Life Coach
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