Is it Time to Dump your Scale?

How often do you check your weight? For my patient Hannah it was all the time. Like several times a day, every day. First thing in the morning after she went to the bathroom she would stand on her digital scale waiting to see what numbers would appear to tell her if it was going to be a good day or a bad one.

After she exercised, Hannah would get on the scale again to make sure nothing changed. Before reading her mail after work, she headed straight to the scale in her bathroom. One more time on the scale before bed too, just in case. Hannah was being ruled by her scale. She couldn’t trust anything she put in her mouth out of fear that it may make her gain weight. The scale limited her ability to make lifestyle changes that would improve her PCOS.

In our nutrition counseling sessions together, Hannah made commitments that gradually limited the amount of time she spent on the scale, from once a day to once a week. Finally, she had enough of the scale controlling her life and took action: by throwing her scale away in her dumpster (see the picture below that she proudly texted to me).

scale2photoshop

The truth is, the scale only shows you a number. It doesn’t tell you how healthy you are or how beautiful or smart it is. If you find yourself obsessed or ruled by a numeric value on the scale, maybe it’s time to dump your scale once and for all.

Weight Fluctuates

The truth is weight fluctuates anywhere from 1 to 5 pounds a day. Factors such as temperature and climate influence weight (ever feel your clothes fitting tighter on a hot and humid summer day?), time of day (we typically weigh less in the morning), exercise (sweat results in weight loss), fluids and food intake can also influence weight, especially in regards to sodium. Ever eat a salty meal at a restaurant only to have your rings not fit the next morning? Eating less carbohydrate-containing foods can result in weight loss as each gram of glycogen (the energy storage form of starch) is stored with 3 grams of water. The scale then, is not that reliable of measurements.

A Better Measure

When Katie, another patient of mine came in for her follow up session, she was happy to report that she was exercising regularly. In 3 months, she went down 2 dress sizes but was surprised to see that the number on the scale barely changed.

While the scale is one measure, it’s not the best indicator of health. Measuring waist circumference is a more reliable indicator. Increased abdominal weight is associated with increased risk for diseases. To help reduce the risk of medical complications, a woman’s waist circumference is recommended by the government to be less than 35 inches. Women with PCOS tend to build muscle quicker thanks to higher testosterone levels (which happened with Katie). Muscle is more metabolically active than fat and can influence weight; replacing fat with muscle results in lost inches and lower health risks.

To measure your waist circumference, simply take a tape measure and measure your waist- level with your navel. Make sure it’s not too tight and don’t hold your breath while measuring it! Repeat these measurements once a month or so at the same spot. You can also gauge your weight by how your clothes fit around your waist.

If you find yourself relating to Hannah and feel you are being controlled by your scale, consider setting goals that gradually limit the amount of time you use it. Or, toss your scale in the garbage.

Tell us: What is your relationship with the scale like? Do you check your weight? Are you obsessed with the scale?

 

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Comments (3)
  • Dani

    August 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I agree ditch the scale. abdominal inches and BMI are a much better gauge of a healthy person. a 120lb woman can have a high BMI – she can still have a higher fat mass then a 190 woman, that is pure muscle. Lets not fool ourselves any longer with that statement.

  • Becky

    September 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    This article was very helpful! I have been considering buying a scale for myself because my weight has seemed to fluctuate like crazy lately…but now I will save my money and pull out my measuring tape instead. Thank you love your website!

  • Cheryl

    August 4, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Great article! Often those trying to lose weight get discouraged because they don’t see the results showing up on the scale as quickly as they would like. And the scale doesn’t take into account body composition either- muscle vs. fat. I agree- ditch the scale!

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