This is a serious topic and I’m writing it as a person who was an absolute slave to the scales. So much so, that they’ve made me cry on numerous occasions. And I’ve now come to realise how silly that was.
I used to weigh myself when I got out of bed, again after weeing and maybe I would after breakfast as well. And sometimes, if i really wanted to make myself feel awful, I would step on before bed too. I wouldn’t do it that much every day but without a doubt, I would weigh myself at least twice a day. And the answer on the scales would dictate my mood for the morning. Thoughts would be running through my mind like, “how on earth have I gained 2 pounds overnight” or “I’ve been so good with my training and eating, how have I only lost ½ a pound”. I found it to be totally exhausting and it got to the point of ruining my life.
I used to get back from holidays and the first thing I would do when I got home, was go to the bathroom, check my new tan in the mirror and then step on the scales. To then ask myself, WHY THE FUCK have I just done this? Did I honestly expect to lose weight when I’ve eaten double what I would usually and the only exercise I’d done would be walking from my room to the sun lounger? I used to laugh at myself and then feel like an absolute idiot that a part of me thought I might have maintained my weight rather than gaining any. And then I’d feel shame that I could let this whole stupid thought process ruin the last evening of my time off work.
When not on holiday, everything I ate would be scrutinised. I didn’t really go out for dinner with friends, (unless it was a special occasion I couldn’t avoid) I rarely treated myself to the foods I enjoyed and told myself that I didn’t deserve them. Even though at this point, I could have been working out twice a day. (Far too much in my opinion but that’s a topic for another blog!)
I would track every single thing I ate so I knew how many calories I was having. Don’t get me wrong, calorie tracking is a great tool for gaining an understanding of what you put in your mouth and it can really help you achieve your goals. But if you’re not careful with it, it can quickly make you obsessive. When I was weighing out my broccoli and lettuce, something in my head would scream at me telling me that I’d taken it just a little too far. If you’re training for a bodybuilding competition, you have a reason to track that meticulously. You’re doing it to win a prize and you make a lot of sacrifices to get to that point. But I wasn’t training for that, I didn’t really have any reason to be this way about my food, other than my own fitness and aesthetic goals I had in mind.
It had crossed my mind to do bodybuilding comps when I first started training, but after speaking to a lot of others who have done them, it is not a healthy lifestyle to live. Starving yourself, taking hormone blockers to reduce your body fat and drinking red wine before shows to make you dehydrated to tighten the skin, are just a few of the things you have to do. Not to mention, you are being judged purely on your physical appearance which can lead to some real psychological issues in the future.
So, I stuck to my own training. Letting my weight be the absolute be all and end all of my progress. I didn’t track my strength, fitness, measurements or take pictures as I didn’t know how. (Prior to becoming a PT obviously).
However, Your weight is not an accurate reflection on your efforts in the gym or how you have eaten on a daily basis. In fact, weight loss and fat loss are two totally different things.
Weight loss is when you step on the scales and you have lost weight. If you weigh yourself before going to the toilet and then weigh yourself after – you could have lost weight. Does that mean you’ve lost body fat? Absolutely not.
Fat loss is when you have lost body fat from your body.
Have you ever had it when you’ve been working out and eating well consistently for a few months, to then step on the scale and have it display the exact same number as when you started? Even though, you can see when you look in the mirror and put your clothes on, you are definitely leaner and a smaller dress size?! You step on the scales expecting to praise yourself, but you’re put down. It makes you feel like utter shite and then maybe you have a little cry because you feel like a failure. And then maybe you think “why the fuck am I putting myself through this” and eat a tub of ice cream and down a bottle of wine.
(When I think about all the people who have embarked on their own fitness journey to have given up because their weight hasn’t changed, it breaks my heart.)
But actually, instead of weight, you have lost body fat. You have redistributed your weight by stripping back some fat but gaining a little lean muscle. Hence why your weight is the same. While one pound of fat and lean muscle weighs the same, their composition is totally different. Muscle is much denser than fat, which means muscle occupies less space (volume) in the body compared to fat. Muscle has a leaner appearance due to its high density whereas fat occupies more space in the body.
I started telling myself that if I’m happy (or not happy) when I look in the mirror, why on earth does it matter what the scales say? I started to realise that they mean absolutely nothing. And they are not the best way of gauging somebody’s progress overall.
Our body can fluctuate between 2-5 pounds per day and this can be from a multitude of reasons. Such as:
- Eating a salty meal the night before (this makes you retain water which = temporary weight gain)
- Eating more carbs than usual
- Eating dinner later than usual
- It’s coming up to your period
- You had a hard resistance training session the day before
- You started a new medication that your body is adjusting to
SO MANY REASONS that you have temporarily gained weight. NONE of them mean you have gained body fat.
So my question: Why is it that we let our weight define us as a person?
When you meet someone in a social situation, do you ever ask them how much they weigh? Or do they ever ask you? Nope.
When you look back at photographs, do you think “wow, look at me here, I was exactly 12.6 stone.” Nope. (You may think you look leaner/younger though)
When you look back in 20 years, do you really think you’re going to be reminiscing about how much you weighed on Friday 24th April 2020? Nope. You’re going to be remembering the moments, memories, laughs, (quarantine obviously) and everything else that had an impact on you at the time.
I haven’t weighed myself in about two years after realising that it has no benefit to my health; physically or emotionally. I got rid of the scales and I’ve never looked back. I track my progress with measurements, pictures and by how I feel in myself because that is just as important.
I don’t weigh my clients anymore either unless it’s totally necessary because the majority respond the same way. I’ve had clients whose measurements have dropped significantly and their before and after pictures show a dramatic difference. Yet, they’re reduced to tears when the scales do not show as much of a reduction as they thought. It’s devastating and quite honestly, heart breaking for people to put such emphasis and emotional input into their weight when they have achieved so much.
If you are lucky enough to not let the scales have such an impact on the way you feel about yourself and your progress, then by all means, weigh away. But I would recommend weighing yourself once a month as this will give you a more accurate reflection of fat loss rather than daily weight fluctuations.
If you’re not as lucky, (like me) maybe it’s time to throw them away and stop letting them define you and your progress.
Excellent post again and it really does help reading these so thank you for taking the time to write them