Are you afraid of weighing yourself because seeing the number might lead to drastic deterioration in you mood and self esteem? Do you ever start a binge just because the numbers aren’t what you expect to see?
Unfortunately, I only learned to think straight about weighing 5 months ago. And I’m already 44! If I had stopped to think things through, I might’ve learned to think about weigh ins in a more constructive and less emotional way. But I didn’t.
Learning to analyze the numbers on the scale is an essential skill if you use weight to monitor your weight loss progress. It’s even more important if you lose weight slowly like I do.
#1 Tip: Weight gain doesn’t equal fat gain
If you aren’t completely new to dieting, you probably already know that your weight fluctuates from day to day for reasons that have nothing to do with gaining more fat. Your weight might easily fluctuate as much as 2-4 pounds within 24 hours.
I still remember how surprised and disappointed I was at the ripe old age of 15 when the scales hadn’t budged at all after a whole weekend spent biking (!!).
Similarly, if you expect the number on your scale to immediately react to every morsel of food you put or don’t put into your mouth, or to every single workout, you’ll be very disappointed when nothing happens or when your weight goes up instead of down.
Below is a short and inconclusive list of things that cause your weight to fluctuate.
- water retention
- eating lots of carbs
- strenuous exercise
- gaining muscle mass
- thyroid problems
- gaining fat tissue
If you’re dieting, there’s no reason to get upset if the number on the scale doesn’t go down every single week. The key is to learn to analyze the numbers correctly.
#2: Learning to think of weight loss in terms of calorie deficit
Thinking in terms of daily and weekly calorie deficit is what really helped me to start thinking rationally about my weight fluctuations.
However, for this method to work, you need to count or at least estimate your calorie consumption every day.
Here’s a concrete example to illustrate what I mean.
My estimated daily calorie consumption is ~1950 calories (it’s actually more because that number doesn’t take into account how much I exercise). It means that if I ate approximately 1950 calories day in day out, I could expect my weight to stay the same. I would have zero calorie deficit which corresponds to zero weight loss, zero weight gain.
In order to lose weight, I need to consistently take in fewer calories than I consume. For example, if I decided to aim for a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories (3500 cal/week), I should eat 1450 calories per day. Then I could expect to lose approximately 1 lb (0.5 kg) per week. (My calorie deficit is usually smaller and I never eat less than 1500 calories a day.)
Why is it so helpful to think in terms of calorie deficit?
Well, let’s assume that I weigh myself once a week and on three consecutive weeks I get the following numbers: 69.6kg – 70.0 kg – 69.7 kg – (sorry I was too lazy to convert kgs into pounds).
If simply I took these numbers at face value I’d draw the erroneous conclusion that I’m not losing weight at all. On the contrary, on the second week I’d be depressed because I would be thinking I just gained 400 grams of body fat (almost 1 lb).
These are my actual numbers, but I didn’t get depressed when I saw the weight go up on the “second” week because I knew it must be caused by normal fluctuations in my weight, not by gaining more fat tissue. I didn’t get depressed because I knew I had a calorie deficit that week, so I just shrugged and moved on. Next!
Another good thing about thinking in terms calorie deficit is that when you eat more than you planned – for example during the weekend – there is often no reason to be overly upset about the numbers if you hop on the scale on Monday morning and it shows a 1kg (~2lb) weight gain.
Ok, you may have eaten 1000 extra calories on Saturday (1450 + 1000 = 2450 kcal), but you would still have a 2500 calorie deficit that week. There is no way you could’ve actually gotten fatter. Even if you sometimes have a zero deficit week, it doesn’t destroy your weight loss. It just makes you lose weight a little bit slower.
That is one very good reason to record everything you put into your mouth (In my former life I never recorded my “slips” – I just tried not to think of them) because then you’ll be able to see how much harm that overeating really does. And it’s usually not as bad as I think.
For whatever reason, especially in slow weight loss the numbers in the scale don’t go down in a consistent fashion. I usually fluctuate weeks around some number and then the weight suddenly goes down a lot. It’s quite different from when I lost weight with Weight Watchers ten years ago: then my weight did go down faster and I had a loss almost every week.
But I wouldn’t go back to that style of eating even if someone paid me. :-)
Now I know that if I do the right things consistently, the fat will melt away. It’s just a question of time.
Do you have any helpful tips for weighing yourself without losing your mind? Or with losing your mind? :-)