To weigh-in or not to weigh-in?
That’s the constant question many of us face when the bathroom scale taunts us morning, noon and night – whenever we pass it by.
Maybe you find yourself drawn in by it on your way to answer the “call of nature.” There it is – the ever-present scale, prompting you to think about your body in ways you hadn’t planned to:
Your weight can be a powerful data point in your health and weight loss journey, but it can also sometimes be misleading, distracting, and at its worst, detrimental to the journey altogether.
Read on for tips on how best to utilize this data point, when to weigh yourself, and perhaps more importantly, when NOT to.
When NOT To Step on a Scale
For many people, when not to step on a scale is as confusing as when to step on it. Here are our top tips for when to stay away from a weigh-in.
RIGHT AFTER A WORKOUT
Working out is great for the body and mind, but may temporarily affect your weigh-in in at least two ways. First, the stress and micro-tears to your muscle fibers may cause post-workout inflammation. This is a desired response after a workout, so no need for alarm! Second, this response may cause a temporary increase in water retention in the muscles. The body retains fluid around these micro-tears in an attempt to heal them. This is also a desired, and temporary, response.
In short – your post-workout period should be a time for rest and recovery, not a time to weigh-in.
ON A MONDAY
If you weigh in weekly, we don’t recommend choosing Monday as the day to do it. Choose something more mid-week, like Wednesday or Thursday.
While we aim for perfect consistency in our exercise and diet regimens throughout the week – weekdays and weekends alike – we’re only human. Weekends tend to throw a wrench in our routines and add spontaneity to otherwise perfectly-planned weeks. Even if your diet and exercise habits don’t change on weekends, changes to your sleep habits, water intake, stress levels, etc. can impact a weigh-in. Choosing a mid-week weigh-in day can smooth out those bumps in the weekend road.
Perhaps a more controversial tip, but we’re going to say it anyway – DON’T. WEIGH. YOURSELF. DAILY.
Your weight fluctuates frequently due to many factors OUTSIDE of how well you eat and how much you exercise. Some of those factors include hydration levels; hormone fluctuations; the amount of sleep you get; food sensitivities; stress levels; medications, etc.
Because of these daily fluctuations, we recommend getting off the daily weigh-in grind. At best, it ends up confusing patients; at worst, it can trigger anxiety, compulsivity, abandoning goals, or even disordered eating. A better option: weigh yourself weekly or monthly at the same time, under the same conditions, to control for some of the factors above.
WHEN THE SCALE’S BATTERIES ARE LOW
Scales can be inaccurate even in the best of circumstances. When it’s been sitting around gathering dust for years in a closet, it’s even more likely to give you intermittently bad data. Make sure your scale has fresh batteries and is calibrated at least twice per year. Refer to your scale’s manual for calibration instructions.
When TO Step on a Scale
Be consistent with your weigh-ins. Choose the same day each week or month. Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. Even try to weigh yourself at the same time of the day, if possible.
Ensure you’re wearing the same items of clothing (or choose to be completely naked for the process). Remember to weigh yourself each time in the same circumstances – pre-or post-bowel movement, pre- or post-morning meditation.
AT YOUR DOCTOR’S OFFICE
Our best tip? Forego at-home weigh-ins and do it in a doctor’s office instead, especially at Sound Medical Weight Loss (or a similar facility), where our machines are constantly calibrated AND give supplementary data that sheds light on the composition of your weight.
At Sound Medical Weight Loss, we do a full body composition analysis at every weight check-in. This analysis includes data on fat mass, fat-free mass, skeletal muscle mass, and more. Our providers will also support you in analyzing your results, helping you make sense of your progress and creating or adjusting your plan to amplify your success.
Other Considerations and Tips
Keep your scale in the same spot for every weigh in. Remember to keep it on a hard surface (no carpet!) Also, ensure it’s level – calibration can be off if the scale is balanced on shaky bathroom tiles or uneven flooring.
Though many of us are avoiding travel due to the global pandemic, even short weekend trips can affect our weight. Travel naturally changes our routines, sleep schedules, eating habits, workouts and stress levels. Cabin pressure on planes causes gas in your stomach – and your stomach itself – to expand. Additionally, sitting in cars, trains, or planes for extended periods of time can cause fluid retention due to lack of movement. This is exacerbated by dehydration – caused by dry environments and/or salty “on the road” foods.
Weighing yourself can be a triggering activity – in both directions (“good” vs. “bad” – “celebration” vs. “punishment”). At Sound Medical Weight Loss, we focus on our patients holistically, on their bodies and minds, because the two are intrinsically connected.
It’s critical to understand how weighing yourself affects your mental state, and whether your weigh-ins are triggering you to unhealthy behaviors. Notice if, before or after getting on the scale, you experience any of these:
If any of these resonate with you now, or begin to resonate with you sometime during your weight loss journey, we recommend following one (or more) of the tips below.
SWITCH TO A DIFFERENT “SCALE”
One recommendation: switch from the Imperial system to the metric system! (If you already use the metric system, switch to Imperial).
It’s amazing how this simple tip can reduce much of the anxiety of getting on the scale. You’ll still be measuring your progress, but because you’ve eliminated your lifetime’s worth of connection with the numbers you’re recording, you may not experience as many triggering emotions each time you step on the scale.
SWITCH TO A DIFFERENT “SCALE” PART II
Instead of measuring your progress based on your weight, ditch the scale and choose another metric altogether. Some ideas: