Weight obsession is not healthy, having a mindful approach to the health of your body is. The scale is often considered a tool in this quest, in this post I hope to come with some alternatives to this and how you can obsess less about the scale and the number it produces.
Too many people, including myself, have been and still are at times (I must admit) obsessed with the scale and the number it shows, aka weight. I think this is part of the process, in the quest for wanting to improve and get better we hold on to what we can measure. But as it is with everything, measuring the right things is an art and incredibly important. There is a reason the saying is that “you get what you measure”. So, finding out what to measure in order to get the result you need is essential.
For example, if you want to get more muscles, measuring total bodyweight is maybe not the best measurement. If you want to fit into that dress or those jeans, maybe measuring by trying on clothes is better than using a number on a scale? For what is that number anyways? Who came up with such a mental self-torturing device?
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You get what you measure
What does this really mean? It means that if you measure your weight purely focused on the number you’d likely get focused on reducing (or increasing) that number. This might not be the healthiest approach. Since you’re measuring the total weight you don’t consider the body composition and what is healthy. However, if you measure fat and muscle, instead of just the total number, you focus on reducing the fat.
I’d like to use myself as an example. At the beginning of my dieting journey, I wanted to lose weight, luckily I also measured my waist and chest too. I’ll get back to that later. So, when I stepped on the weight in the morning I looked at the number, was it higher or lower? This determined my mood that day, and it set precedence for what I ate that day. Luckily, I had a great personal trainer that helped me, and she denied me to go on the scale without her. There are two reasons for this.
- She didn’t want me to be alone and obsess over the weight
- She wanted me to use the scale they had a the gym so I could see my body composition and see that I actually made progress even though the scale stagnated or showed a higher number
This is what I mean when you get what you measure if you measure your total weight you obsess over a number that doesn’t reflect the total picture. So, I recommend that you instead track the fat to muscle ratio.
Alternatives to the scale
So what if you don’t want to use a scale? That is great! There are many other ways to keep track of progress.
I am a huge fan of using a measuring tape to measure my waist, chest, and hips. This really demonstrates progress and gives a much more realistic picture than the scale does. This is because your weight fluctuates more easily. Here you can also set goals for yourself, for example, I want to reduce my waist size with 5 cm. This is also easy to measure and since you’re now measuring fat loss you will not get the same large fluctuations in numbers as with a scale. Keep in mind that it can of course also fluctuate here if you’re bloated or similar. You should also remember to measure yourself at the same time of the day.
Pictures! This is such a great tool, you might feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but this is so motivating. Take pictures of yourself in underwear or swimwear the day you decide to lose weight, or just do it now! You will not regret it. It is extremely motivating to see how far you’ve gotten and how much your body changes.
A good mirror is also important, this can, however, create the same side effect as a scale. You can get obsessed and too focused on the small things and not on the whole picture. I believe it’s more important to take a good look that day you feel awesome or wear those clothes that make you feel good rather than having a good long look in the mirror every day. Use this tool on the good days – to make sure you feel even better.
Lastly, I want to address a classic. Classics are often classics for a reason. Find that shirt, dress or pants, that don’t fit you anymore. Decide that your goal is to fit into that and feel good about it. This is super easy to measure and doesn’t require a scale, measuring tape or any other device.
Impacts on Weight loss
If you are on the quest to lose weight there are several factors that impact your weight that is important to understand in order to not get obsessed and mentally impacted by the number on the scale.
- A factor that impacts one’s weight, is actually weight training. If you have done weight training the day before or the same day your muscles get really pumped and they will retain water. So, the scale might show a higher number here than what it did the day before the workout. If this happens try to keep this in mind, be mindful and conscious about the impact that working out can have on your weight
- Another factor that will make a difference is climate. If you’re in a warmer climate you might drink more, but also retain less water aka sweat. Now, you might actually weigh less than you normally do, due to loss in fluids. The same goes the other way around as well if you’re in a climate or situation where you drink quite a lot but don’t lose that much fluid it can increase your weight.
- The last factor is directed mainly at women, but everyone should know. Women should know because it’s their body. Men should know because they have women in their life that should be made aware and need support. A woman’s weight fluctuates during her cycle, for some women, this can mean a lot, for others it can be less. What this means is that during different phases in the cycle the weight will differ because your body is impacted by hormones and will lead to your body retaining water. The important thing now is not to drink less or eat less, it is to remain consistent! Be mindful and kind to yourself, beating yourself up at weighing more at this time will do no good. I have a policy of weighing myself every day, more on that below, but if I have my period or right before and I don’t feel like I’m in a good place and I shouldn’t step on the scale I simply skip it.
What works for me?
Now you have been given several tools for how you can keep track of your weight without becoming so obsessed. I figured I should share my story and how I make it work.
Early in my quest for a healthier mind and body, I wanted to lose weight, 10kg to be exact. I got a little obsessed about the weight, as I’ve already shared above. I worked really hard to break free from this, but I must admit I get very focused on it during some periods, I can think about it a lot during the day. This is why I work so hard to get better and not let it impact me. I’ve been able to get to a place now where I can be impacted by the number, but it doesn’t haunt me during the day. Rather, it inspires me to be consistent and make the right decisions.
So, what works for me is using a scale that measures body composition and combined this with measuring my waist every day. The scale we use is this one, I am really happy about it, it measures fat, muscle, bone mass and water. It is not exactly in the percentage, but that is not what is important, what is important is the trend. If your fat % decrease or increases, if your muscle mass decreases or increases and so on. It also has an app so you can track overall progress.
I have made a point out of stepping on the scale every single day, this is both for mental practice, to control that a bad number should not control me. But its also to get the data, to track the progress I am making.
In addition to measuring my waist I regularly also measure my chest, thighs, arms, and hips. I write it all down in a book so I can keep track of the progress. I’ve done this for 5 years! Let’s just say that not only have my gaols evolved over time, but the nature of the goals is also different. Mostly, I want to reduce the centimeters, but I’ve worked hard on getting stronger and more defined arms, so when my bicep has grown that makes me really happy! I think it’s great that not everything has to be measured in getting lower numbers, but that higher numbers can be celebrated too!
In addition to this, I’ve also figured that taking pictures of myself regularly in underwear or bikini also works great in order to see progress. I make sure to take pictures of the days I feel great, and using them for motivation during the days I feel not so great. What I also do is take a lot of pictures when I work out, preferably after lifting some weights and look particularly strong. This is great to look back at and it makes me feel so great and proud of my progress.
I really hope this post will help you, can inspire you and give you the motivation to think differently about not only how you measure progress, but also that a number really is just that, just a number.