Whether you want to lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds you are stepping on that scale regularly to measure your success. How else will you know you have achieved your goal when your measurement of success is the number of pounds? But it can’t be all about the scale. Here’s why.
The Scale Lies
Imagine this. It’s Monday morning, you haven’t weighed yourself all weekend because you know what you did. As you step on the scale you start recalling your choices….pizza and beer, dessert at that restaurant Saturday night, mimosas at brunch. This is going to be bad. You hold your breath as you look down and….no change! Haven’t gained an ounce. Nicely done!
Now reverse it. You have been eating on plan all week, got all your workouts in, drank plenty of water and you can’t wait to see your results for all your hard work! You step on that scale and…nothing. Or worse – you’re up a pound. WHAT? How??? Soon you find yourself discouraged and may even give up.
You know that the first scenario is not the way to lose weight and the second plan of action is the right one, so why do you put all your faith in that number? You are smarter than this.
Muscle Weighs More Than Fat
We have all heard this one. You use it as an excuse when you don’t want to admit you have been off track. You tell your friends the same thing when they feel discouraged. You may have also told that same friend that the torrential downpour on her wedding day was good luck. Or – Maybe he just got really busy at work, he’ll text you, I know it. It feels like a white lie to make ourselves feel better. When it is in fact a reality. If you are working out and lifting weights as a way to achieve your weight loss goal there is the possibility that the scale won’t change as rapidly as you would expect. That doesn’t mean you aren’t making great progress.
I noticed this during the bulk of my journey. I should clarify that I myself am a scale checker and will need to refer back to this post often in my own moments of weakness. So when I saw the scale stuck for weeks, sometimes months, it would be incredibly frustrating. My diet was clean about 95% of the time. Workouts, 5 days a week. I know as an intelligent person that eating healthy and working out is a better weight loss method than the alternative. Logically we all know this and yet still the discouragement is real. But those weeks or months when I was “stuck” in a plateau would be the times that the compliments would start. “Wow Liz, did you lose even more weight?” or “You look fantastic!” and then I would smile and say thank you, but inside couldn’t help but think Then why doesn’t the scale go down?? Those were usually the times my coach would provide sincere feedback that he can see how hard I am working and it shows. Always perfect timing.
It was often coincidentally when I would start hitting PR’s left and right in the gym. I brought my deadlifts above 200 pounds. I will NEVER forget the day that I realized I could deadlift more than my body weight. Incredible day. Those little milestones meant just as much as that number on the scale. That’s what kept me going. Staying on track, trusting the system, and keeping my eyes forward always paid off. I was still losing fat, I was just getting super strong. Still measuring those pounds, just on a barbell instead of on my body.
Bloat sucks. It is a difficult thing to control. So many things can cause it, and unfortunately I am sensitive to all those things. A hot day, an airplane, too much wine, too much salt, a long walk (seriously), and of course – dairy. I can go out to dinner and by the time I get in bed my fingers are little sausages. I can feel it in my face, the way my pants fit, even sandals start to get tight. It is the most uncomfortable feeling. I love to retain water.
The biggest reason of all, I don’t drink enough water. That little tidbit everyone talks about being important….it actually is! I struggle with this daily. Where I used to say, “okay today I will get up and go to the gym” now I tell myself “OK! I am going to drink TWO whole bottles (reusable) of water today!” and what happens? Maybe a couple sips. Coffee all morning long! I don’t miss a drop there! But then water….nothing. This excludes while working out of course, since my already dehydrated body is sweating out whatever is left. Drinking water is so important. Plus it keeps your skin glowing, your mind sharp, and your bowels moving – which could also make a difference on the scale.
Some NSV’s to watch for
- How do your clothes fit? – This is such a fun one when on a weight loss journey. I love going through my closet and weeding out the clothes that no longer fit. This is a chore I have always had, but this time the clothes are too BIG! That is way more fun. A new clothing size is about 20 pounds difference (there’s the scale again) so if you aren’t that far yet, feel for how they fit on your body. The jeans may button easier. The t-shirt might have more give to it. It’s another way to see that you are changing. I kept one pair of jeans every time I got into a new size and have the bag in my closet. Whenever I need a reminder of all that I have done, I pull that bag out. Motivation overload.
- Take your measurements – This is an old WW tip that I learned and it really does make you feel better when the instant gratification is lacking on the scale. Take them of your shoulders, bust/chest, waist, and hips. See if there is a difference. If you really want to get crazy you can measure your arms, thighs, etc. but depending on your workouts, this could be misleading…Super proud of my CF quads! I don’t do this one that often since the clothes seem to happen rapidly for me, but I took my measurements just before I went in for the abdominoplasty and was re-inspired. I counted 21 inches that have been shed from my body. That is almost 2 FEET of human being – gone!
- Notice your fitness goals – And if you don’t have any yet, make some! How fast or long are you running now? Does anything seem easier to do now versus when you started? Or maybe you get out of bed easier. Hustle up the stairs without getting out of breath? I have a distinct memory of carrying two toddlers up the stairs with ease. An excellent reason to get in shape. These changes are happening because you are doing the work. Who cares about the scale when you are improving your quality of life? Read that again…
Who cares about the scale when you are improving your quality of life?
- Check your mindset – Do you suddenly find yourself automatically heading to the gym without a personal pep talk? Are you saying no to bad food choices at parties without even much consideration? Maybe in the past you would have cringed at the thought of going hiking on date night, and now that sounds really fun! How is your confidence lately? Not just in the gym, but at work, with friends, strangers, perhaps public speaking – do you notice a difference? When you check in with yourself you can see how you are evolving into a healthier person physically and mentally. This counts too.
Other Bizarre Yet Very Common NSV’s
We all have those little every day things that we subconsciously notice when we are being hard on ourselves. Little insecurities that no one knows about.
- The towel wrap test – I still celebrate this all the time looking back to a time when the ends of the towel didn’t meet around my body. Staying at a friend’s house or a hotel made me nervous when I would get the towel. Would it be a tiny one? Would anyone notice? Now, they all fit!
- An accidental mirror sighting – This is a big one in the passenger side of the car. I would catch my reflection in the side mirror and see 6 chins. Any confidence I had that day – vanished. Now I still expect to see the chins and they aren’t there. I am surprised by it every time. Wrinkles…that’s a different blog post.
- Chairs, seats, confining areas – Airplanes! The anxiety of the seat belt. Is this something only women do or is it universal? I care a lot if someone sees the slack of the seat belt. I used to say a little prayer that it would click. There were a couple years where it was getting close. And now I don’t have that problem. The fear is still very real – old habits die hard. But with time that will vanish. I experienced one just yesterday when laying in a beach chair and noticed that my arms on the arm rests seemed very far away from my body. And of course, my brain thought, this chair is weird! Because it couldn’t possibly be that I am smaller now, right?. When I checked my sanity, I did a little happy dance in my head.
- Body twitches, itches and such – I will scratch my shoulder and notice it feels bonier. I will reach behind me, you can imagine why, and it seems easier. The space between the wall and the chair – will I fit? Here we go…No problem!
All of these are little celebrations that should be recognized. The more I do this the more important I find them to be. I am sure my friends are tired of me stopping conversation to point out that I can do something now. Most of them are naturally skinny little brats that don’t know the first thing about this stuff which makes it worse. Kidding! They are always super supportive and amazing and celebrate with me. Because these things are a big deal!
The scale can only measure my weight, it can not measure ME.
The scale is just a scale. They don’t even agree with each other. So how can you take it so seriously? Sure I check it. I had enough to lose that it is ONE unit of measure that I use. My weight loss goal is 100 pounds. And as of this morning I have SEVEN POUNDS TO GO! And I will celebrate like hell when I get there. But then what? So what? Do I get to stop? PPPFF! Psshhh. K. Maybe I will level out at 110 pounds lost. Maybe I will be killing it at CrossFit (not maybe, I will be) once recovery is done and I will gain 10 pounds of muscle. I am not going to dwell on that for one second. I will be proud of those pounds.
I have a goal of 100 pounds because it sounds like a nice number. Not because it is a number that I think labels me as a skinny person. In fact I think it is still above what doctors would say is healthy for my height. But I have a workout program that strengthens muscles significantly. I have shoulders and hips – no matter what. I cannot fit a box that someone else formed for me. There is a number that as young girls we were taught that women should weigh to be considered “skinny”, “thin” or “in shape” from movies, magazines, commercials, etc. It is somewhere around 110 – 120 pounds. Ladies – think about it! In the 90’s that is what was communicated to us and to our mothers. I think my skeleton alone weighs more than 120 pounds. This cannot be a universal expectation. Maybe your healthy weight is 140, or 105 if you are a tiny human. Who says 120? Men aren’t exempt from this either. They want to be 200 pounds of pure muscle! UH! BRO! Why that number? Who made that standard for you? Get to happy. Get to healthy. Get to confident. Get to strong. That is much more valuable than what the scale shows.