Over the years, I’ve dealt with my fair share of weigh-a-holics. That is, people who step on the scales far too often. Some do it every day of their lives. Morning and night. Some step on and off five times in ten seconds in the hope that a lower figure might magically appear between their feet. Then they do it again thirty seconds later. Sound familiar?
No, not crazy at all.
Some people give away their personal power to the ‘almighty scales’. Sadly, their morning weigh-in will either make or break their day. And their mental and emotional states. Some people think that if they step lightly onto the scales the figure might be lower. And some think that leaving part of their foot off the plate will yield a better result.
An Unhealthy Relationship?
Overall, I’m not a big fan of scales. Sure, they have a place in the world of health and fitness and sure they can be a useful resource but far too often they become a source of anxiety, stress and frustration. Of course, weight is a relevant issue in the getting-fitter-healthier-and-sexier process but many (many, many) people have an unhealthy relationship with their scales. You might know such a person?
Very well, perhaps?
Heavy Ain’t Always Bad
Before I share the following ‘How to weigh yourself sensibly’ tips, keep in mind that – in terms of health – body composition is much more important than bodyweight. Some heavy people are relatively lean (like me) and some light(er) people have a high body-fat percentage – which puts them at greater risk. According to a typical height-weight chart, I am currently obese and approximately 13 kilos (29lbs) overweight. In reality, I am heavy-ish (92 kgs, 202lbs) but not fat at all. My current body-fat percentage is about twelve. In fact, I don’t want to be any lighter because, for me, that would mean losing muscle. See? Weight is an issue but not always the issue.
So, with all that in mind, when should you avoid the scales?
1. Most Days. In most instances, weighing yourself every day is unnecessary and unhealthy. And often leads to obsessive thinking and behaviour. Weekly weigh-ins are adequate for most people in most situations.
2. When you’re at someone else’s place. It’s best to weigh yourself on the same scales each time. That way – even if the scales are not perfectly calibrated – you will get a more accurate indication of what’s actually happening with your weight.
3. When the scales cost ten bucks. As a rule, the cheaper the scales, the less accurate they are. It’s my experience that most domestic bathroom scales are inaccurate – usually on the light side. For the last twenty years, I’ve listened to people complaining about how ‘heavy’ the scales are at my gym. Sadly for those clients, the scales are very accurate.
4. When it’s 8pm and you’ve eaten a cow for dinner. Under normal conditions, we’re all heavier at the end of the day. Not fatter, heavier. Natural variability means that somebody like me can easily weigh 3-4 kilos (6.6-8.8lbs) more at night time. Which is why it’s best for us to step on the scales at the same time of day each time. Preferably, first thing in the morning.
5. When you’re wearing hiking boots. Clothes can weigh as much as 4 kilos (8.8 pounds), so weighing yourself in the buff is the preferred option for accuracy. If that’s not possible, wear as little clothing as possible and wear the same clothing each time.
6. After you’ve just completed a strenuous workout – unless you’re measuring pre and post-workout hydration levels. It’s easy to shed more than a kilo (2.2lbs) of water weight during a one-hour sweat session, so don’t delude yourself with a temporarily low reading on the scales. Water ain’t fat. By the way, one litre of H2O (or sweat) = one kilo. Exactly.
7. When the scales are sitting on carpet. Make sure the scales are on a solid surface (tiles, timber, concrete), otherwise your reading could be inaccurate.
8. Certain days of the month (you can skip this one boys). I know you girls don’t need me to spell it out for you but, yes, for menstruating women there will typically be somewhere between two and seven days per month when your weight is temporarily inflated due to increased water retention. Probably best to avoid the scales during this time.
9. When the thought of weighing yourself puts you in a state of anxiety. Stepping on the scales means whatever you decide it means. If you think and believe it will be a stressful experience, it will be. Weighing yourself can be a simple data-gathering exercise or it can be a traumatic event. If you can’t master your fear of the scales then you might want to use another evaluation tool for a while. Weekly girth measurements, monthly body-composition testing and monthly fitness testing are all reasonable alternatives.
10. When you’re happy with how you look, feel and function. If you look good, feel good and are in good health, who cares about a stupid number?
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