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The Scale: a beneficial tool or an unnecessary burden to carry?

Should you use a scale during your fitness journey? Is it helping you reach your goals or is it just a millstone around your neck when trying to get where you want to be?

The Love/Hate Relationship With The Scale

Have you ever noticed how you have a love/hate relationship with your bathroom scale? Some mornings you just want to take that scale, curse at it and throw it right out your window, right? The bathroom scale can be a nuisance at times and really get in your head, which can lead to some very habits and mood swings.

If you have ever trained a client or even been one yourself, the scale battle is probably nothing unusual to you, and the fact that the scale is just one form of measurement can surely be very troublesome to both emphasize as a trainer and understand as a client. In essence, it's just a number and fitness trainers should always try and emphasize to their clients that they should never let a number dictate their mood for the day nor their self-worth what so ever. The same thing goes for practitioners; patients should never feel ashamed for what the scale says when they step on it - it's just one form of measurement and therefore only one of many things found in the toolbox.

Stop and think about it: there are so incredibly many different variable that could make the scale go either up or down. Looking at it from a physiological standpoint alone, it's pretty insane, and we'll get more into the exact variables later in this article.

It's when you understand the fact that the human body consists of approximately 60-65% of intracellular (inside the cells) fluid and 30-35% extracellular (outside the cell) fluid that you also start to understand the incredibly large role that water plays in our bodies. This also means that water plays a huge role in how your scale weight comes out when you weigh yourself in the morning, and once you understand that, saying that you shouldn't consider the scale as the be-all and end-all when it comes to measuring progress probably doesn't sound that crazy after all.

Today, you're going to get 3 reasons to avoid the scale during your fitness journey. You know, just in case you've come to the point where you're almost going to self-destruct and constantly let the scale determine your mood for the day, and most importantly; let the scale win the battle in your overall journey.

3 Go-To Reasons to Avoid the Scale When On Your Journey To Reach Your Fitness Goals

1) - Consistency

When we talk about consistency, it's important that we put this in the context of making sure you weigh in on a daily basis, first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom. You should be fasted, undressed and use the same scale every time for the most accurate consistency possible.

Always remember; to get the most accurate weigh-in possible, you have to be consistent in everything mentioned above. Otherwise you weigh-ins will be all over the place, potentially ruin your mood for the day and make you hate or fear weighing in, and at worst; make you quit your fitness journey all together.

 

Take-Home Message:

  • Use a digital scale make sure it works correctly
  • Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, fasted, undressed and after using the bathroom, and use the same digital scale every time
  • If it's impossible for you to meet the criteria listed above consistently, use a different form of measurement such as anthropometric measurements (hip and waist measurements), taking pictures, feeling how your clothes fit and looking for visual changes in the mirror.

 

2) - Always Go With A Full 5-7 Day Weigh-in Average

As mentioned above, there are so many different variables that can play into regulation of your body weight and thus make the scale numbers go up and down. The human body is full of water, and there is a whole host of different variables (physiological and environmental) that could indeed cause some concern with the bathroom scale.

 

Listed here are some of the main variables:

  • Elevated stress (a rise in the levels of cortisol - the main stress hormone - can cause increased water retention)
  • Lack of sleep and rest (the body depletes moisture when we sleep, making us wake up lighter - vice versa - if your quality of sleep is poor, you are more likely to retain more water and thus wake up with a higher body weight)
  • Increased sodium intake (sodium increases blood pressure and helps balance out bodily fluids; an over-intake of sodium can cause increased water retention, which can make the numbers on the scale go up)
  • Excessive dietary fiber consumption (fiber has a thermogenic function and can indeed be very rough for our gastro-intestinal tract to digest; too many fibrous carbohydrates can lead to increased water retention and therefore lead to the scale weight going up when weighing in the next morning)
  • Eating late or simply eating a big meal at night/close to bedtime can cause the meal to sit longer in the gut and thus cause a higher number on the scale when weighing in the next morning
  • Alcoholic beverages (alcohol works as a natural diuretic in the body, and alcohol consumption causes dehydration which can affect the scale weight by making it go either up or down
  • Constant anxiety
  • Eating out at restaurants too often (restaurants often use various oils on your food without telling you, making you consume more sodium that can lead to the scale weight going up)
  • Menstrual cycles (females)
  • Changes in climate
  • Excessive sweating from performing physical exercise in warm climate

Take-Home Message:

 

  • Try to control the variables you can and do not stress about the ones that you can't control
  • Focus on getting sufficient sleep and minimizing stress levels
  • Consume the same amounts of sodium and fluids every day
  • Limit your daily fiber intake to somewhere between 20 and 40 grams
  • Cook your own meals so you know exactly what the ingredients are what amounts of food you are taking in
  • Know the consequences and effects of drinking alcohol in regard to weighing in on the scale in the morning
  • Don't stress about the scale weight going up or down the next day if you're in fact in control of all these factors.
    Move forward and understand that you really did do everything in your control.

 

3) - Allowing A Number To Dictate Your Mood and Self-Worth

Once you reach the point of dreading the daily weigh-in, having your day ruined by the number that you see on the scale, questioning your self-worth and why you are even going through all of this, it's a clear indication that you need a break from the scale for some time.

Humans are obsessive and develop OCD-like habits over numbers that can lead to vicious cycles and bat habits that are hard to break. The same thing goes for counting macronutrients and calories in the food that you eat on a daily basis.

 

It's absolutely crucial that you're self-aware of this issue once it starts happening, and most importantly; you have to be self-aware of who you are as a person. What does this mean? Maybe you are naturally stressed-out person, maybe you struggle with anxiety, maybe you've had an eating disorder in the past, maybe you have low self-esteem, maybe you've had a horrible experience with a practitioner in the past, the list goes on.

 

Once you are truly self-aware of any of these things, the process of having to use a bathroom scale gets so much easier, and maybe you realize that you don't even want to use one at all just to be on the safe side.

 

Everyone who's been on a fitness journey to either gaining size or losing weight has probably let the scale get to them mentally and beat them down for some time. Even though most of these people more than likely can also recognize the feeling of being in a bad mood for the day because of a number on the scale, this is not the way it should be. Not at all.

 

You have to realise and come to peace with the fact that your fitness journey is going to be a series of highs and lows, learning new things both the easy and the hard way, enjoyment, commitment etc.

As a coach or fitness trainer, you have to have several tools in your tool box and know when to have clients pivot away from using the scale each day. Otherwise it’s going to be a very long and unpleasant journey for both you and your clients.

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Take-Home Message:

  • If you notice yourself dreading the weigh-in, mood changes, decreased feeling of self-worth etc., refrain from using the scale and try other forms of measurement
  • Be self-aware of who you are. If you know that the scale is going to cause anxiety for you, don't purposely put yourself into that vicious cycle
  • Make sure you have/are a great coach that will help you/your clients to succeed
  • Make your coach aware/tell your clients to make you aware of their/your concerns if the scale causes any concern at all
  • Be a student, continue to learn and enjoy the process every single day
  • Don't ever let the numbers on the scale dictate your self-worth

Now that you have 3 go-to reasons to avoid using the scale during your fitness journey, try and really look at the bigger picture within the scope of your overall fitness journey and do a re-evaluation of everything here. The important thing you need to understand is the fact that the scale is just one form of measurement and data-collecting; it's not the be-all and end-all.

 

Let's wrap things up with the absolute most important message said in this article:

 

Don't ever let a number on a digital scale dictate your self-worth and daily happiness.

 

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