Throw Away Your Weight Scale.
Today I told a patient this very statement. “Throw away your weight scale.” The patient looked at me curious, then confused, mad for a moment, and then almost teary-eyed.
“What is that scale doing for you?” I asked.
She replied “Nothing except making me depressed.”
So many people live and breathe by that number the scale says: “I dieted the entire past week and I gained two pounds!” “I took this medication from my doctor religiously for the past month and I haven’t even lost a pound!”
What exactly is a weight scale telling us? What effect gravity has pulling down on our bodies towards the earth. That’s it. Is that all that makes up our body, gravity holding us down? Heck no! We are amazing physical beings of bone, muscle, connective tissue, fat, organs, nerve tissue, intestines, water, etc. So why do we rely on 1 single number that tells us next to nothing about these other parameters? We should not. What happens if you stand on the scale, step off, then you drink 16 ounces of water and step back on the scale? You just gained 1 pound instantly! Our bodies are in constant weight flux.
Change how you think about weight, throw out the scale. Form follows function. You should be able to function and move your body efficiently through your environment for the duration of your life. This function of mobility will create an ideal form of your body. Obviously training yourself physically will improve form. If remaining immobile on the couch or being glued / sleeping in the lazy-boy watching TV is your function, your form will reflect that, and all other body functions will suffer.
What we need to be concerned with again is ideal body function. Train to be able to navigate your world every day. We all aren’t going to be Olympic athletes. However as humans we need to be able to adapt to our environment. Maybe that’s the gym. Maybe it’s picking up the grandkids or the groceries. Maybe it’s running long miles or biking over a distance. You should feel pretty good more often than not. Once you create your focus and adapt your training around improving function, form will follow suit. Therefore we can throw out the scale, because it shouldn’t be used on a daily basis.
The metrics we should be concerned about go beyond the scale. In our office we utilize an InBody Test. This analyzes: hydration, muscle, fat, visceral fat (the fat tissue surrounding your organs), percent body fat, trunk and extremity comparison, and basal metabolic rate (the average amount of energy your body needs on a daily basis). Does that sound like it paints a better picture of health than the scale? It certainly does. I can hear you thinking the rhetorical question, “but doesn’t this device measure weight?” Yes it does – but all the metrics combined give us such a clearer picture of overall health than just one number on the scale.
Then how often should we use the scale, or a more representative statistical device like the InBody? In my opinion about once every 3 months. This way we observe longer term averages. Change takes time. 21 day fixes and 1 month fad diets were the sexy thing, I get it. But lifestyle changes are what work, and they take time. When you live with yourself every day, look in the same mirror every day, stand on the same scale every day, your eyes are unable to detect the minute changes that occur. Stepping back from the microscopic view, trusting in the process of proper lifestyle habits once you have them in place, and then reassessing at appropriate intervals to see actual change is when the metaphorical lightbulb turns on in your brain.
So, throw away the scale. Focus on feeling and functioning well. Fix the toxins, traumas, thoughts that weigh you down. Create a healthy relationship with food as fuel. Train your body to adapt to your environment. Then your body will reflect true health, and the scale won’t matter!