“The scales are nowhere near an exact science, and definitely not a reliable reflection of what’s going on in your subtle body chemistry. The minor fluctuations on the scales are what we all have in daily life, and they can really get to you if you don’t take notice of all the other messages that your body is trying to tell you.”
I wrote this nearly 5 years ago in another article about NSV’s (non-scale victories), and why they’re far more important as a measurement of how you’re doing. Those NSV’s are things like the feedback from your body…her energy levels, bloating disappearing, clothes and rings getting looser, and generally feeling lighter. Just because these are more reliable. They show the real results of the deep changes that are happening in your body when you start to lose fat. You can see and feel those changes. The truth is the same for every single one of us… the real reason we lose weight is for how it feels, not for the number feedback on the scales. That feedback actually means nothing to us internally…we don’t have an emotional connection to that little gadget one bit! And it certainly doesn’t have an emotional connection to us, now does it?!
How did the scales become so important to us in the first place…?
The weight loss industry, in the form of the weekly weight loss groups that started in the 70’s, used the scales as a brand new modern technique for measuring how women (mainly), were doing when trying to lose weight. No one had scales at home in those days, so they were treated as a brand new ‘scientific’ approach to losing weight, and made the weight loss clubs seem even more attractive as they had those clever scales, and they were promoted as vital for successful weight loss. Interestingly, they still used to take waist measurements at the clubs in the early days, but quickly gave them up in favour of the scales for registering success (or failure!). And so the weekly weigh-in was born and the clubs at that time didn’t really have any idea of the hold that they would come to have over women’s entire week. If you’ve ever used the clubs, I’m sure you’re so well aware of that ‘weekly weigh-in’ cycle, that you don’t even think twice about what a stranglehold it has. It goes like this…the day before you weigh-in, you eat virtually nothing, you’re ‘being good’. You strictly limit the calories so the scales will reflect this little fluctuation and major sacrifice tomorrow.
Then after the weigh-in comes the splurge to blow all your ‘good’ intentions (and you know that you’ve just put on more weight than you lost yesterday!). Then you’re spending the rest of your week desperately trying to limit the calories, failing every time there’s a Trigger Moment (including the anniversary for the day the budgie died), then you’re back to ‘being good Monday’ before the weigh in on Tuesday. If you’ve miraculously managed to maintain your weight, then after some time there’s just a simple relief that you haven’t put any weight on! And that’s how the weight loss clubs manage to keep you eventually as a lifetime member- you’re sticking around just to ensure don’t don’t gain any more, let alone manage to lose the fat you intended to do in the first place.
This is the Cravings Cycle. It actually starts the day before the weigh in, when you’re desperately trying to set the numbers straight and strongly restrict your calories…the rest of the cycle flows out of that moment. You’ve triggered cravings because you haven’t eaten enough calories, and you spend the rest of your time unsuccessfully trying to manage your cravings. And being an unhappy bunny too…coz that’s misery, I know!
So this is why today, we give so much importance to what the scales tell us. It’s part of our culture to use them as a guide, and forget the rest of the really reliable signals we’re getting all the time. And the Cravings Cycle is one of the reasons that we are doomed if we use the scales as the only feedback. They keep us in that loop forever if we’re not careful! The biggest problem is that we miss so much when we just use the scales. I said previously-the feedback from our body and how she feels is deeper and more significant because we sense that reality.
Some other reasons why you can’t trust the scales:
-The scales don’t change very much in the first few weight loss weeks, even though you’re actively burning fat cells. Its all about water balance at first. Water weighs three times as much as fat, and fat cells retain it at first. Eventually they let go of the fluid and then you’ll see a big drop. It takes patience and faith in the process. I can’t count the amount of times a client has said to me “I don’t understand it, my clothes are getting looser, but I weight the same as ever!” As the scales can’t reliably tell you what’s really going on, you’re more likely to give up when you don’t see immediate changes in the early days. It’s far better to not weigh for a couple of weeks at least. Get an outfit from the wardrobe that’s a bit snug instead…it will be a real self confidence boost when it starts to fit!
-How many times have the scales left you feeling confused? It’s like the numbers don’t make sense. And yet, what do you trust? Is it your instincts? (Your body is a wise intelligent being, she’s never wrong!), or do you trust those scales and squash all that juicy intelligence down?
-If you weigh yourself too often, as in- daily for many of us, (and I’ve been guilty of that particular little addiction too, by the way!), -you’ll get caught up in them completely. It gets to feel addictive so you literally won’t be able to help it. Each minor fluctuation will either have you on a high for the day or feeling devastated, depending on the number that morning. Weight loss, especially sustainable weight loss, doesn’t happen on a daily basis. It takes a while, like any successful project, it takes a bit of time to unfold. The little fluctuations don’t reflect the reality that is the bigger picture. Just like the Weekly Weigh-In cycle at the slimming clubs, you’ll find yourself being ruled by that number, reacting to whatever it tells you, and you never get to see what’s truly going on in your body.
-Those minor fluctuations are also what keep us in that old calories in/ calories out mindset that sees the body as a machine. In this model (which is just plain old fashioned these days in my humble opinion!)- the machine takes in fuel, uses it it in a consistent way every single time, using precisely the same amount of fuel for each function without deviation. Just the same as a car engine. But it’s not the case, there’s a rich aliveness being expressed every minute of the day, along with the complexity that really is YOU. There’s so much more to your wonderful body than the machine-like system the weight loss and some areas of the fitness industry would have you believe!
-How much will that erode your self-confidence? You’ll lose all trust in your own sweet self if you’re not careful, and quickly start to believe that you can’t do this. This is the biggest shame of all. The scales steal your joy. They take away natural confidence and lower your precious self esteem. We start to attach how we feel to that sole number! Then comes that doomed thinking that goes “I’ll be happy when I’m…fill in the blanks”. I honestly hear women who are working to shed unwanted pounds telling me about someone they know who must be happy because they’re slim. Which is a massive pile of shit, as we know, and yet…and yet. The belief is there if you don’t feel your own power over your weight loss.
So what are the scales good for then?…
-The general trend! If you weigh yourself after a fortnight at first, then once a month or so later on, if you’re not losing pounds you can get forensic. Take a look back and see how you’ve been this last month..you can look at what tweaks you need to make that way, and then crack on with the next month You’ll be armed and dangerous with a clearer plan than you had before. You get a clearer picture with hindsight, when you’re not in that emotional storm of constant weighing, and you’ll know exactly where you need to make changes.
-When you only have a few pounds to lose. This is because we have to really drill down on the details for those last few pounds. They are often stubborn to shift and take a bit of effort and tweaking to finally let go of. The scales are useful for showing those minor changes then and help you to see how those last few pounds are doing.
The rest can be down to YOU. Your body, your feedback, your clothes (and other peoples comments too…they can often see minor changes in your face better than you can). By beginning to trust what your body is saying, you build up trust in your own sweet self and shift your values to what feels right, rather than relying on something outside of yourself. Now that is a deep shift in self confidence, and we all deserve that one, don’t we??!
Let me know if this lands for you…have you been there? Can you identify with that horrible pull of the scales, and how they make you feel? Leave a comment if you like, I’m always happy to hear from you,