In recent counseling sessions, my clients have talked
about reactions to weighing themselves. I thought this would be a good
time to share the following article that addresses the issue of using
the scale to measure your success. At the end of the eNewlsletter, you
will find some alternate ways to measure your success. ...
To Weigh or Not to Weigh, That Is the Question
Think about a time when you were trying to lose weight.
You may think
about today, yesterday, or a decade ago. Remember getting on the scale
(at a group meeting, a doctors office, or in your own home). Logically,
there are three possible outcomes on the scale:
- You lose weight
- You gain weight
- Your weight stays the same
Of course, how you react to the scale depends very much
on the way
you feel about your eating before the weigh-in. Logically, there are
three possibilities to describe your eating while trying to lose weight:
- You stuck to your eating plans
- You blew your eating plans
- Sometimes you stuck to your eating plans and sometime
you did not.
Let's look at the likely reactions to weighing yourself, depending
on how hard you worked on your eating plans...
Possibility #1: You stuck to your eating plans.
First, we will look at the most frequent experience in
of weight loss plans. After doing just as you planned for
you hopped up on the scale, and you lost weight. For the
it probably was not that hard to do. You were psyched.
paid a lot of money for this plan. Even if you did not
spend a penny,
at the very least you had invested emotionally in this
plan to lose
weight. Now, after the first week, the scale told you that
was down. Good. All your efforts were worth it. You would
stick to your
eating plan. (But ? sometimes ? when the scale gave you
good news ?
didn't you just have to celebrate and eat something 'illegal'?
that will be talked about in possibility #2 and #3. Let's
get back to
possibility #1, sticking to your eating plans)
Later on, however, the story changed. It became more and more difficult
to have the will power to stick to your eating plan. You did stick to
it though. And, after all that effort, you needed a reward. You worked
too hard and you needed to see results on that scale. How would you
feel if you saw that you had lost two pounds? Good. You probably would
feel satisfied that your efforts were worth it. However, you and I both
know that the human body does not react to caloric deprivation with
sustained weight loss every week. The body adapts to the lower caloric
input and eventually weight loss plateaus. It always does. Every time.
How would you feel when the scale told you that, after being so 'good'
and watching what you ate all week, you had lost only a half-pound,
or stayed the same? What if, after all that effort, you had actually
gained weight? It happens. It actually happens quite often. If you did
not get the results you wanted, what do you think weighing yourself
would do to your motivation? Would you redouble your efforts, eating
less and exercising more until the scale gave you the results you wanted?
Many people do exactly that. This is not the most common reaction. But
for the few who do take this path, this is often the beginning of an
eating disorder. Or, would you react like most people do after working
hard and getting no results? Most people lose their motivation and quickly
or gradually stop working on losing weight. Unfortunately, since most
people inexorably link healthy eating and exercise to weight loss plans,
most people also give up on their healthy lifestyle when they give up
on weight loss.
You blew your eating plans.
Next, we will look at another frequent scene as an approach
to the scales. How many times have you been waiting in
a line to be
weighed and wondering if you 'got away with it'? What if
the scale 'catches'
you and reports that you did not lose any weight or even
that you gained
weight. How would that make you feel? Would this focus
on the external
measurement on the scale help you to tune into your inner
self and figure
out WHY you blew your eating plans? Would it help you understand
your needs, or your life any better? Or, would this reprimand
encourage you to 'work harder'? However, if you worked
harder, you would
really need a reward when you got to the scale next time.
What if, after
working really hard all week, you gain weight when next
you were weighed?
(Oh, yeah, that is possibility #1. Let's get back to possibility
So, in the next scenario, imagine that you ate in unhealthy
still lost weight, what would your reaction be to that?
Would this positive
report make you feel like it was fine to eat unhealthy?
There were no
negative consequences. After all, you did not gain weight.
be that this focus on your weight might take your focus
OFF your nutrition?
Sometimes you stuck to your eating plans and sometime you did not.
If you lost weight under these conditions, how would
you feel? Would
you feel like you 'got away with it'? Perhaps you do not
need to pay
attention to your eating that much. Maybe next week you
a little more and see if you get away with it. (Oh, yeah,
that is possibility
#2.) What if you stay the same or gain weight under these
Would you need to get back on track and follow your food
plan even more
intently? Then, after all that effort, you would probably
a reward from the scale when you get on it next time. (Oh,
is possibility #1.) This is starting to sound so circular.
most dieters report feeling trapped in exactly these destructive
patterns or cycles. At times, when a dieter is temporarily
in the 'high'
end of the cycle, things feel great. Temporarily. As the
there is much pain, self-esteem bashing, feelings of failure,
awareness of the self, and the person becomes more and
from constructive motivations for healthy living. For the
is working on an eating plan, there are negative psychological
lurking at every weigh-in. I have been working with people
to lose weight since I was 19 years old, when I was the
Workshop" instructor in the nation. In twenty-five years of hearing
people's reactions to getting on the scale, I have NEVER known of anyone
who had a positive reaction to the experience. Perhaps, there are better
ways to measure the success of our efforts toward healthy living.
Let's face it, when people talk about improving their lifestyle they
often measure success by measuring weight loss. What is the reason for
weighing yourself? Most of my clients say it is so they can tell if
they have made any progress or so they will know if they have "succeeded".
Measure your success in a different way. In the beginning of
each month notice the following things and write down your observations:
- Are you out of breath when you climb one flight of
stairs or walk
a block? How about two?
- What is the intensity and duration of exercise that
you are comfortable
- How is your nutrition? Are you eating more fruits and
- Are you choosing heart healthy fats when you eat fats?
- Are you drinking the water your body needs?
- What is your resting heart rate? (In the morning upon
you even get up, just lay there and take your pulse.
That is your resting heart rate.)
- How are your cholesterol and blood pressure?
- If you have a medical condition like diabetes, glaucoma,
fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, or one of the many other
improve with fitness, notice the current status of your
there any improvement since last month?
Measure your success by noticing the changes
and improvements in how you feel, what you can do, and your health
Measure your success by the improvements in your wellness, happiness,
and lifestyle. These improvements will keep you motivated more effectively
than a scale ever could!