Monday, September 20, 2010

Weigh-In Weekly


At the beginning of my weight loss journey I was overly obsessed with my weight. I was so concerned about my weight that I would weigh myself everyday, sometimes twice or three times a day just to make sure that I was losing weight. I was so frustrated and discouraged if I gain even the smallest amount of weight.

This lasted for about three months. At one of my weekly Weight Watchers meetings, in January 2009, a woman shared that she struggled with weighing herself too much. Her solution was to only weigh herself at our weekly meeting. Naturally, I went home and researched this woman's theory. What I found has changed how many times I weigh myself a week. I found this article that I have posted below.

I came to a point where I realized that I was not doing myself any good. The stress of hoping that every time I weighed myself I would be lighter was too much. As a result I decided that I would ONLY weigh myself ONE time per week at my Weight Watchers meeting.

Some of you might think I am crazy, but it has been one of the most liberating decisions I could have ever made for myself. This has helped me to shift my eyes from focusing on a number to thinking about the daily food choices I make. I need to eat well on Friday, because I want it to show in my weight loss on Tuesday.

If weighing everyday works for you and does not stress you out I congratulate you. But for those of you who are a little more like me, you might give this a try for a week or two and see how it works for you.

. . . . . . . . . .
Why the Scale Lies
By, Renee Cloe, ACE Certified Personal Trainer

We’ve been told over an over again that daily weighing is unnecessary, yet many of us can’t resist peeking at that number every morning. If you just can’t bring yourself to toss the scale in the trash, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the factors that influence it’s readings. From water retention to glycogen storage and changes in lean body mass, daily weight fluctuations are normal. They are not indicators of your success or failure. Once you understand how these mechanisms work, you can free yourself from the daily battle with the bathroom scale.

Water makes up about 60% of total body mass. Normal fluctuations in the body’s water content can send scale-watchers into a tailspin if they don’t understand what’s happening. Two factors influencing water retention are water consumption and salt intake. Strange as it sounds, the less water you drink, the more of it your body retains. If you are even slightly dehydrated your body will hang onto it’s water supplies with a vengeance, possibly causing the number on the scale to inch upward. The solution is to drink plenty of water.

Excess salt (sodium) can also play a big role in water retention. A single teaspoon of salt contains over 2,000 mg of sodium. Generally, we should only eat between 1,000 and 3,000 mg of sodium a day, so it’s easy to go overboard. Sodium is a sneaky substance. You would expect it to be most highly concentrated in salty chips, nuts, and crackers. However, a food doesn’t have to taste salty to be loaded with sodium. A half cup of instant pudding actually contains nearly four times as much sodium as an ounce of salted nuts, 460 mg in the pudding versus 123 mg in the nuts. The more highly processed a food is, the more likely it is to have a high sodium content. That’s why, when it comes to eating, it’s wise to stick mainly to the basics: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, beans, and whole grains. Be sure to read the labels on canned foods, boxed mixes, and frozen dinners.

Women may also retain several pounds of water prior to menstruation. This is very common and the weight will likely disappear as quickly as it arrives. Pre-menstrual water-weight gain can be minimized by drinking plenty of water, maintaining an exercise program, and keeping high-sodium processed foods to a minimum.

Another factor that can influence the scale is glycogen. Think of glycogen as a fuel tank full of stored carbohydrate. Some glycogen is stored in the liver and some is stored the muscles themselves. This energy reserve weighs more than a pound and it’s packaged with 3-4 pounds of water when it’s stored. Your glycogen supply will shrink during the day if you fail to take in enough carbohydrates. As the glycogen supply shrinks you will experience a small imperceptible increase in appetite and your body will restore this fuel reserve along with it’s associated water. It’s normal to experience glycogen and water weight shifts of up to 2 pounds per day even with no changes in your calorie intake or activity level. These fluctuations have nothing to do with fat loss, although they can make for some unnecessarily dramatic weigh-ins if you’re prone to obsessing over the number on the scale.

Otherwise rational people also tend to forget about the actual weight of the food they eat. For this reason, it’s wise to weigh yourself first thing in the morning before you’ve had anything to eat or drink. Swallowing a bunch of food before you step on the scale is no different than putting a bunch of rocks in your pocket. The 5 pounds that you gain right after a huge dinner is not fat. It’s the actual weight of everything you’ve had to eat and drink. The added weight of the meal will be gone several hours later when you’ve finished digesting it.

Exercise physiologists tell us that in order to store one pound of fat, you need to eat 3,500 calories more than your body is able to burn. In other words, to actually store the above dinner as 5 pounds of fat, it would have to contain a whopping 17,500 calories. This is not likely, in fact it’s not humanly possible. So when the scale goes up 3 or 4 pounds overnight, rest easy, it’s likely to be water, glycogen, and the weight of your dinner. Keep in mind that the 3,500 calorie rule works in reverse also. In order to lose one pound of fat you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in. Generally, it’s only possible to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week. When you follow a very low calorie diet that causes your weight to drop 10 pounds in 7 days, it’s physically impossible for all of that to be fat. What you’re really losing is water, glycogen, and muscle.

This brings us to the scale’s sneakiest attribute. It doesn’t just weigh fat. It weighs muscle, bone, water, internal organs and all. When you lose "weight," that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve lost fat. In fact, the scale has no way of telling you what you’ve lost (or gained). Losing muscle is nothing to celebrate. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns, even when you’re just sitting around. That’s one reason why a fit, active person is able to eat considerably more food than the dieter who is unwittingly destroying muscle tissue.

Robin Landis, author of "Body Fueling," compares fat and muscles to feathers and gold. One pound of fat is like a big fluffy, lumpy bunch of feathers, and one pound of muscle is small and valuable like a piece of gold. Obviously, you want to lose the dumpy, bulky feathers and keep the sleek beautiful gold. The problem with the scale is that it doesn’t differentiate between the two. It can’t tell you how much of your total body weight is lean tissue and how much is fat. There are several other measuring techniques that can accomplish this, although they vary in convenience, accuracy, and cost. Skin-fold calipers pinch and measure fat folds at various locations on the body, hydrostatic (or underwater) weighing involves exhaling all of the air from your lungs before being lowered into a tank of water, and bioelectrical impedance measures the degree to which your body fat impedes a mild electrical current.

If the thought of being pinched, dunked, or gently zapped just doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry. The best measurement tool of all turns out to be your very own eyes. How do you look? How do you feel? How do your clothes fit? Are your rings looser? Do your muscles feel firmer? These are the true measurements of success. If you are exercising and eating right, don’t be discouraged by a small gain on the scale. Fluctuations are perfectly normal. Expect them to happen and take them in stride. It’s a matter of mind over scale.

31 comments:

A woman in transition... said...

I'm an every day weigher. Every morning, before I eat breakfast, I'm on the scale. It took me years to understand that the number I'm seeing doesn't necessarily mean anything. Until I learned that, the scale was a serious drama issue for me. It could ruin a day faster than I could blink. I learned my lesson, but I still wish I had calipers so I could just measure my fat and avoid bringing out the drama llama with my bathroom scale!

Living a Changed Life said...

Hi! Thanks for sharing with me! If you find something that works for you don't mess it up.

Daughter of the King said...

I fluctuate in the weight department quite often...and admittedly over weigh myself at times too. Thanks for posting the article. I never realized about the glycogen thing...it's all making a little more sense to me now. I think I will try weighing in less frequently and try not to flip out when the scale says I've "gained" 3 pounds.

Thanks for posting this so so much!
Sarah
daughteroftheking89.blogspot.com

Nancy said...

Jennifer...I am just beginning my weightloss journey, although I'm not blogging about it right now. I started to blog about it once before...and then when I totally fell (or jumped) off the wagon...I was too embarrassed to talk about it.
I too am an everyday weigher...at least for these past 3 weeks that I've begun again. Perhaps your post will allow me to quit doing that!
Thank you for sharing this journey! You inspire me!

Stephanie said...

I used to weigh myself every day, but I got so fed up with it toying with my emotions that I ended up throwing my scale in a dumpster behind the office where I worked at the time. My co-workers called me Scale Killer for months. LOL! Now I'm content with weighing myself only once or twice a week.

Living a Changed Life said...

Sarah - That's what I had to do. I needed to weigh myself less often!

-J.Darling said...

WONDERFUL post! Thanks! I'm going to share it with some wonderful, struggling women I know!

Living a Changed Life said...

Nancy - You're welcome! It's nice to meet you. I hope that you are able to stay the course with your weight loss. Trying new things always helped to motivate me. Maybe this week or next you could try only weighing once a week and see how you like it!

Stephanie - Thanks for sharing that funny story. Welcome to the once a week weighing club!

J. Darling - Thank you!

Amanda said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

This is a great article. thanks for sharing!

Living a Changed Life said...

Amanda - Thanks! I really love your blog!

Losing Brownies said...

Its really hard for me to avoid the scale, but I try my best not to step on it at home. I have to use it at the gym on Thursday when I'm with my fitness coach and Tuesday at my weight loss appointment, now that I'm doing the MediFast program.

Living a Changed Life said...

Losing Brownies - That's good. It is hard not to weigh at home, when you really want to know where you stand.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

Found you on Mom Loop!

My husband is on a weight program. Checking everyday add pressure that he doesn't need.

Living a Changed Life said...

JDaniel4's Mom - Thanks for stopping by! I wish your husband the best on his weight program!

Kristen said...

I don't weigh everyday but I do step on the scale every other day or so. My official "weigh-in" is Thursday and I found that when I only weigh myself once a week that I do some pretty weird stuff to get that number down on Thursday morning.

By weighing several times a week, if the number is disappointing on Thursday but I happened to see a lower number on Tues or Wed, I will attribute Thursday's number to a high sodium meal etc. and move on with my day.

With a once a week weigh in if Thursday's number was too high or not low enough I would be devastated for the next week until I weighed again.

I think the length of this comment suggests that maybe throwing away the scale isn't such a bad idea after all. Can you tell I'm a little obsessed with numbers :) It's the accountant in me...

Living a Changed Life said...

Kristen - I am very obsessed with numbers too, which is why I had to let go of my scale throughout the week. But I know everyone is different.

totallytheturtle said...

I could very easily be a daily weigher. But I have to force myself in to weekly weigh ins at my meetings. I have a big enough pity party when things don't go my way weekly. I can't imagine if it happened daily...

Living a Changed Life said...

TotallytheTurtle - I am the same way!

LaDiMuthFu**inDa said...

ive sworm
n never to weigh myself more than once a week dating back to high school n track n field days

Living a Changed Life said...

LaDiMuthFu**inDa - Wow! That's awesome.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I too find myself weighing myself everyday and I am going to try to minimize it. I would be awesome to weigh just once a week and see results.

Living a Changed Life said...

Anonymous - You're welcome!

Kelly said...

AWESOME!!! I don't stress about weighing daily but I used to, badly. I have some friends who I think do still stress about it and I would love to share this with them. Thanks for your input and posting the article. :)

lmdye92385 said...

I am with you! I became a much happier when I tossed out the scale and just weighed weekly. I was becomming so focused on the scale.

hotkitten said...

Thanks for the info. I am going to try to weigh in once a week and see how it goes.

connies6 said...

Thanks for the post and the article. I cannot weigh everyday because when I weigh and I see I've gained I lose all my momentum for that day and for some reason want to eat everything in sight. I had to really think about it and stop. I now weigh twice a week, once on weigh in day and once right smack in the middle. I'm a lot happier doing that.

storyteacher said...

I know a lot of people who are also obsessed with the scale. One woman actually weighed herself before AND after every meal. There is one scale in my house and for a long time I couldn't weigh myself on it because I exceeded it's maximum. I got used to weighing only at meetings and the doctor's office and I am at peace with that.

btilley222 said...

great article. I'll try to only do it once a week.

iada1484 said...

I can completely relate to this post! Ever since I started 8 1/2 weeks ago, I weigh myself every day. Lately I just weigh myself if I think I ate something bad, or if my portions were a little bit larger than they should be. I will try and take your advice and this is something that has been bothering me. Thanks!!

Living a Changed Life said...

Kelly - You're welcome. That is great that it doesn't stress you out to weigh daily. I wish I wasn't so obsessive, but I was so glad to find this article and an alternative that works for me!

refuse2dressmyage said...

that has been me this whole 1st week, I keep checking as if it will change for the better hourly. funny thing is I never weighed myself prior to joining. I need to get rid of that scale once and for all.

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