Weight loss always involves several different things. They may vary but the constants are usually a diet plan, an exercise plan, and the scale. The bathroom scale is one of the most used tools in the world of fitness. Before you hit the gym or a diet you usually check in with the scale. For the greater majority of people, the scale is the center of the weight loss universe. Global Industry Analysts, Inc published a report in 2011 that forecasted the global sales of bathroom scales to reach $2.2 billion by 2015.
It’s good to know what you weight. In fact, there are times it is necessary to know. However, the scale can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance. Weighing yourself too often can also be detrimental.
There are a couple of ways to perceive the scale.
- The scale is a great tool to calculate current weight. It can enable you to track your progress as you partake in any exercise routine. This is effective for weight loss and statistical data on your progress.
- The scale can work against you. Not seeing the number you want on the scale can lead to discouragement, over training and possibly eating disorders. This can hinder or totally derail your progress.
Let’s examine each one of those to see if you’re weighing too often
First the scale can give you an indication of your current weight. This is a great starting point if you plan to undertake a fitness and nutrition plan for weight loss goals. Or, maybe you’re trying to track your progress as you partake in an exercise plan. Last month you may have weighed 200 pounds, after a regular exercise and healthy eating plan you’re down to 188 pounds. So by that you can see you’ve lost 12 pounds and you see that all your hard work is paying off. Had you not had that scale you would not have a clear numerical indication of your weight loss progress. Statistics (in this case weight number) is said to “help a person react intelligently to statistical claims.” Or to quote Jay Z, “Men lie, women lie, NUMBERS don’t.” And that’s from a man with a net worth of $520 million. How about that for an understanding of numbers.
Now the other way of perceiving it, and this is where most people run into trouble. Using the 200 pound example again, you weigh yourself after your exercise and nutrition and you see that you now weigh 197. Even worse, you still weigh 200. Now that you’re discouraged it’s possible that you’ll abandon your healthy habits and go backwards. Maybe you’ll go to extremes and drastically reduce your caloric intake. Even worse, you’ll become depressed and cope by eating poorly. Psychology Today published an article discussing dieting anxiety in relation to scale use.
- There is also a third way to look at it. You gain weight or your progress slows. This can be attributed of course to the fact that your exercise and nutrition plans are faulted. A less considered option is you are gaining muscle mass which changes your weight. Maybe after lifting weights for a while you’ve put on 2 pounds of muscle yet lost 2 pounds of fat. The scale can’t differentiate so it tells you that you weigh the same.
The scale can also bring about an obsessive disorder. There are those who will take to weighing themselves multiple times a day. They may experience frustration and anxiety with each weigh in. This is an unhealthy habit that can eventually lead to high levels of stress and possibly eating disorders.
It is important to remember that if resistance training is part of your fitness program, you can gain weight while your intent is to lose. Actually “weight loss” is a deceiving term. You want to lose fat, not weight. Of course losing fat is weight loss but gaining lean muscle can equal weight gain. A professional bodybuilder may weigh 260 pounds, yet he isn’t obese. In fact, his body fat may only be at 6%. So he was able to lose fat and gain a considerable amount of muscle, this renders his weight an irrelevant number.
So you can see that weighing too often can have pros and cons and so can the number on the scale.
I am not attempting to either endorse or discredit the scale. Some trainers and fitness experts will say weigh yourself to see if you’re progressing. Others will say never use a scale because there are too many variables. I’m in the middle, yet I lean toward pro scale. I think it is ok to weigh yourself, it can be great indicator. At the same time, I don’t think you should take it too serious. I have a scale in my bathroom; I tend to use it a few times a week though less frequently these days. I don’t take the number too seriously, it’s more of an indicator.
WEIGH THESE CONSIDERATIONS
Now there are some things to consider with a scale.
First, what kind of scale is best? You can buy a regular analog dial scale that has been around for decades, it may cost anywhere from $10.00 to $20.00.
You can also buy digital scales. These have been around for years but when it comes to electronics and computers the unit can get temperamental. Digital scales have been known to offer weight variations. You may weigh 160 then you can try again and weigh 161. Digital scales give a more detailed number but not always more accurate. You can pay anywhere from $15.00 to upwards of $100.00 for one of these digital scales.
What is better? It is totally up to you. I prefer the old fashioned dial scale. It is cost effective and works every time with few variables.
Keep in mind that professional boxers are weighed in on what’s called a beam or balance scale. This is similar to what you may find in your doctor’s office with the two parallel beams with a sliding weight on each beam. The beam scale gives the fight officials a more accurate reading than a digital or even traditional analog would.
How to weigh yourself
The first step is to zero the scale out. Your analog scale may have a mechanism to move the dial to the zero position. A digital scale usually has a reset or a zero button.
The rest is simple, stand on the scale and read the number. Just be sure to stand straight and position yourself evenly on the platform. Use a mirror to assure your body is standing straight and you’re not leaning too far to one side or another.
Fit Tip: Make sure you place your scale on a very level surface. If you own an oder house this will be even more important since wood floors and foundations can slowly shift over time. You can use a basic level device to test different areas on the floor for the best accuracy.
When should you weigh yourself?
The best time to weigh yourself is upon waking before you eat. Food and drink can fluctuate weight throughout the day. It is also best to weigh yourself without clothing because clothing can also alter the result.
FAT SCAN OR FAT SCAM?
In the past ten years or so, body fat scales have become prevalent in the retail market. They used to be fairly expensive but have come down in price.
These work by sending a harmless electrical current through the body. The scale measures the flow of the current through the fluid in the body. Muscle and fat are both largely comprised of water but the density of water in each differs. The current differentiates the density by how fast or slow it can move then the unit calculates the difference. The problem is there are too many variables to really judge their accuracy. Preferable methods to measure body fat include seven-point skin fold tests, Hydrostatic/water tests, or DEXA scan.
MIRROR THE BEST RESULTS
Finally, one of the best components to the scale is the mirror. After you’re done on the scale look in the mirror, do you look leaner? The number on the scale may not be what you want to see, but the mirror may give you a different perspective.