The psychology of the scale

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The scale is a funny (funny strange not funny haha) tool to use in the weight loss process. Most people have an incredibly unhealthy relationship with their bathroom scale.

If you get on the scale and rejoice because it shows a lower number than previously or burst into tears because the number is higher, you have a problem with the scale.

Unfortunately, we put too much credence in the numbers that are displayed. If the number is down, we consider ourselves successful and conversely if the number is up, we are a failure.

The scale is an appropriate tool to use to rate our progress. You just need to understand it’s flaws. Our weight is determinant upon many factors. Yes, if we gain body fat, the scale number will rise (all other things being equal). But, that also holds true for muscle gain as well.

The real reason that the scale fluctuates is “water retention.” Sodium intake, carb intake, temperature changes, stress level, lack of sleep, etc can all have an impact on water retention, thereby causing a residual increase in scale weight. It’s the reason there is such a discrepancy between your a.m. weight and your p.m. weight.

So, how do you stop the “crazies” from ruining your day? Some people refuse to get on the scale, they boycott it. That is one option which will certainly help to eliminate anxiety. But now you have no way to quantify your results. Yes, you can use your clothing and jewelry as a yardstick, but you can’t put a number on that.

Plus, that option is grounded in fear. Fear can be a motivating factor but it causes all kinds of side effects.  Fear can be crippling.

I suggest facing your fear and gaining a new understanding of what the scale is actually telling you.  Weigh yourself every day. Record that weight so that you can go back and compare it.

I usually compare 5-7 days worth of results. In other words, I average them out. So if the most recent average is lower than the previous average, it is a more accurate reading. The average eliminates those high and low days that happen over the course of the week. Therefore, eliminating the stress associated with that high day and the unrealistic expectations levied by the low day.

You also have to understand that muscle gain will happen if you are working out. You need to calculate that in.

The main skill you need to have a healthy relationship with your scale is “patience.” I have had multiple conversations over the last week with clients who are on the verge of frustration. I inform them to “chill” and stay on track and the weight will follow along. Going off the program will certainly cause a negative scale reaction. These clients listened and within a day or two the scale did as I expected and caught up.

The scale is useful as a long term tool to judge progress. The problem is that we try to interpret the results too soon. It is the reason that bookkeeping is done monthly. Yes, the results are recorded daily, they just aren’t evaluated until there is enough data.

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