The Lies Your Scale Tells You and 5 Steps For Weight Loss Success
Written by: Jennifer Barrows
What if you found out that there was someone very important in your life that was lying to you? Think about that for a moment. Be honest. What would you do? Would you confront this person? Would you be able to believe anything this person said to you ever again?
Well, guess what… you are being lied to, lured into false beliefs, measuring your worth based upon these lies and you keep going back for more. Who am I talking about?
All my life, I lived in a family of women who were obsessed with the scale. They all tried diet after diet and for them, the truth of their success was in that number they were faced with every week. If that number moved up, they felt like failures, worthy of punishment, worthy of restriction and deprivation and negative self-talk. If the number moved down, they felt successful, unless of course, their number didn’t move down “enough”. They were given weight goals to achieve and if they were not reaching their goals fast enough, they gave up. But this obsession wasn’t entirely their fault! Mainstream media bombards us every day with messages that to be truly happy and healthy, we need to lose weight and pay attention to the number on the scale.
If you can relate to this, you’re not alone.
It wasn’t until I faced my own struggle with weight that I understood what the women in my family went through on a daily basis. I was taking medications and one of the side effects was weight gain. I quickly put on 75 lbs. There were times when I weighed myself every day, sometimes several times. Each time the scale went down, I celebrated. Each time it went up, I berated myself with everything I could have done better. All the hard work I put in each day to eat healthy food and all the workouts I sweated through suddenly had no meaning. When I was able to start getting off of my medications, I quickly dropped 40 lbs. And while I was thrilled, I still wanted to drop the rest of the weight… and fast!
For several years, I have followed a health and fitness plan that offers 12 week challenges throughout the year. There were so many times I would get to week 5, week 7 or week 9 and decide that because I wasn’t seeing any weight loss on the scale, that I must have been doing it wrong and I would give up and go back to living on junk food and lattés. I had no idea that I had actually been making good progress over time because my only tool of measurement was the scale.
I wasn’t seeing big numbers towards my weight loss, so in turn, I thought I must have been doing it all wrong, which meant I wasn’t good enough to win the challenge (insert negative self-talk here). The truth is, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Once I realized that the scale was lying to me, I realized that I had actually made amazing transformations each time I had participated in the program. My results from my last challenge showed only 2lbs lost on the scale, but I went down two sizes! My before photo showed a bloated stomach and my after photo showed a much tighter midsection. In the last couple of years, I have gone from being bloated and sluggish, having high blood pressure and high cholesterol to having perfect blood pressure, good cholesterol numbers and although I have only lost half of the weight I gained from the medication, I am able to wear the clothes I wore before taking the prescription drugs.
I tell you this story because chances are, you can relate and I want you to know that you are not alone!
But enough about me.
Here’s the deal about your scale: It is mean and nasty and doesn’t tell the truth about your health. The number you see each week does not undo all of your hard work. It does not magnify that little bit of chocolate you had on Tuesday. And it does not define your success.
Here are two big reasons why your scale is a liar:
1. Normal Daily Fluctuations
If you weigh yourself every day, or even several times each day, you will likely see weight changes of up to 5 lbs. The reasons for this include water retention, the level of inflammation in your body and whether or not your digestion is moving smoothly.
Have you ever worked out really hard, only to see a gain on the scale the next day? Wouldn’t it make sense that by burning calories, that you would weigh less the next day? Logically, sure. But here’s what really happens…
When you work out, you create micro tears in your muscles. As these tears heal up, they leave behind a tiny bit of scar tissue and that is how your muscles get toned and grow. Any time your body is injured, inflammation happens. Your body rushes fluid and white blood cells to the site of the injury so that it can heal. Your body sees the micro tears from working out as injuries and rushes fluid and white blood cells to the muscles to aid in healing. That is part of the reason your muscles are more pumped up after your workouts. This process can temporarily add a little bit of weight to your scale.
Water retention can contribute to scale weight. Believe it or not, you retain more water if you are dehydrated. Your cells and tissues need water in order to work correctly and if you aren’t drinking enough water each day, your body will hold on to what it does have so that it can maintain life. Note: The same goes for lack of nutrients – and food! Your body stores all the fat it can to use for fuel since it doesn’t know when it will get its next meal. This is why eating well balanced meals throughout the day is so important.
If your digestive system is clogged up, you will see it on the scale too. The colon can hold onto several pounds of waste. It is important to stay hydrated and make sure you are eating enough fiber to keep things moving along.
2. Muscle Volume vs. Fat Volume
I am sure you have heard it a million times: “Muscle weighs more than fat.” It sounds true, but think about it: five pounds of muscle weighs the same as five pounds of fat. Five pounds is five pounds. That’s physics. There’s no getting around that. The big difference is how much room (or volume) each takes up in your body and the rate at which you are burning fat, as opposed to the rate at which you are packing on muscle.
Muscle tissue is much more compact than fat tissue, so if you are made up of a lot of muscle and not much fat, it is possible to weigh more than someone who looks larger than you, but has more fat tissue than muscle.
The way this works on the scale is that if you are eating well and working out, you may be adding muscle to your body before you are burning the fat off. This can throw you off because you are seeing gains on the scale. If the scale is your only tool of measurement, beware! You might think you are failing and quit right before your body crosses the line into burning off your extra fat tissue.
Your body needs to burn calories in order to maintain its muscle tone, so the more muscle you put on, the more calories you burn. Pair that with a healthy eating plan, and you will become a fat burning machine. It may take time, but you are going to eventually see the results pay off in your favor. Your body will begin to shrink and tone and guess what… your scale may lie to you once again, showing you either a tiny weight loss, or maybe even a gain.
And that’s okay!
Finally, a word about all those people you know and all those people you see on TV who have lost hundreds of pounds on whatever quick-fix plan they are following. Yes, it is probably true and if you fall into the category of obesity, you will likely see loss at the beginning of your journey. (Remember my story of dropping weight immediately after stopping meds and getting on a good plan.).
The most important thing here is to make sure you are choosing a plan that is healthy, covers all your nutritional needs and that you pair daily movement with your healthy eating plans.
Your plan should be sustainable for the long-term and not just a crash diet. Make things easier on yourself by following these 5 simple steps to success:
- Set A Realistic Timeframe. Put your new plan into chunks of smaller time frames and celebrate your victories (even the small ones).
- Measure Your Success. Take measurements at different intervals, such as every four weeks, eight weeks and 12 weeks. Make sure you have more tools than just the scale to measure your progress. Taking measurements is great! Comparing how your clothes fit at different times during your plan works too.
- Write It Down. Keep a journal and track your food, exercise, thoughts and progress. Be honest with yourself without judgement.
- Know Your Numbers. Check in with your doctor and keep track of the numbers that really matter: your blood pressure and cholesterol are two big ones.
- Find Support. Working with a Health Coach is a great way to check in on how you are feeling and help you sort out any negative self-talk that may derail you.
Above all else, don’t measure your worth by what number your scale shows you. You are worthy and deserving of vibrant health, energy to do the things you want to do, and total happiness.
And deep down, you know you rock!
Jennifer Barrows is an Empowered Single Mom, Writer and Certified Health Coach, practicing north of Boston. She received her health coaching certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in December of 2013. Her coaching practice focuses on helping guide women through life transitions, using food and lifestyle upgrades to improve their moods and outlook.
She has written for local newspapers and just published a book, Still Together: A Single Mom’s Guide To Healing After Divorce.
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