How Often Should I Weigh Myself?

This is a question most personal trainers and weight loss counselors hear at least once every day. The diet industry has taught us that "weight loss" is the most important goal of any diet or fitness program, and therefore the scale has taken on immense importance in the way of affirmation of diet plan success. Until now. Itís high time we set a few things straight about the weight a scale should carry in our lives (pun definitely intended).

First of all, the most important thing to understand about the scale is that it is only one small indicator of improvement. Other indicators of progress include: our increased energy level, how our clothes fit, how we feel, what we see in the mirror, our attitude, our decreased cravings for junk food, comments from friends and associates, our measurements, our increased strength and endurance, our improved ability to get a good nightís rest, etc.

That said, I like to encourage clients to weigh themselves once per week or less often- maybe even once per month. I can hear the gasps and groans of irritated readers now, as they wonder how they will ever know if their plan is working. But let me assure you, there are many reasons for my lack of enthusiasm over the scale.

The main reason is that people who are trying to lose weight often find themselves in Number Obsession Mode, where they proceed to weigh themselves several times per day and literally obsess over the number displayed on the little window. Unfortunately, they donít understand that our weight fluctuates by 3 to 5 pounds throughout the day, or that it fluctuates throughout the month due to hormonal changes, water weight, and other factors. Expecting to see daily results (and being disappointed by these "mysterious" fluctuations) only leads to disappointment and burnout.

Disappointment and burnout that occurs in the early stages of adapting a new healthy lifestyle may often lead to abandonment of that lifestyle because new practices havenít had the chance to become ingrained habits.

Another important reason to limit scale contact is so that we focus more on the other benefits and indicators of healthy lifestyle success. If we canít look at a number on the scale, maybe we will be more inclined to look elsewhere for evidence of progress, such as those indicators listed above.

Finally, a scale does not measure body composition. Even the scales that claim to do so are not completely accurate and are prone to wide fluctuations. (Imagine the surprise at "gaining" 7% body fat overnight!) A professional measurement of body fat done by a personal trainer or a doctor would be a better indication of body composition than any home scale.

Breaking the scale habit can be difficult. If you are unable to resist the temptation to step on for a quick peek, try some habit-breaking tactics to overcome this fat loss pitfall.

Remove the batteries and/or move the scale to an inconvenient location. Mark your calendar with a once-per-month Weigh Day. Make sure it is not the week before or during your period, as you will undoubtedly experience water gain during this time.

Focus on the other benefits and indicators of progress and enjoy them. Remind yourself that the number on the scale is no indication of muscle gain. Schedule an appointment with a trainer to measure your body fat.

Plan your goals around miles, laps, sets, reps, and/or clothes size rather than on the number you see on the scale.

Before long, youíll be saying "So long!" to your scale and focusing on the more tangible benefits of all your hard work!

Melinda Rice is a fitness consultant and writer based in Northern California. She manages Successful Fitness (http://www.SuccessfulFitness.com), a personal training program that incorporates concepts of psychology, nutrition, wellbeing and fitness into a Lifestyle Transformation plan. You can reach her at melindarice@comcast.net.

Submitted by:

  • Name: Melinda Rice, CPT
  • Date: 01/10/06 at 11:33
  • Email: contact@successfulfitness.com
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