Two Tips for Weighing Yourself Without Losing Your Mind

ダイエット失敗Uh, how is your relationship with scales these days?

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
  • constipation
  • eating lots of carbs
  • strenuous exercise
  • gaining muscle mass
  • periods
  • medication
  • 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? 🙂


  1. Gwen says:

    Hi Satu! Found you from Marion’s site. 🙂

    I used to struggle mightily with my scale. But not long ago, I realize it really was my friend, not my enemy. Now, it helps I’m way past menopause, so hormonal shifts aren’t much of a factor anymore. But I use my scale to help me gauge when excess hidden sodium has snuck past me, or anything else that will cause me to reflect within.

    Plus, for me, weighing is a good thing. When I don’t weigh, it’s a personal red flag that I’m trying to ignore my health. Well, it always was in the past. I’m pretty confident that mindset is finally a thing of the past. 🙂

    • Satu says:

      Hi Gwen!

      I’ve actually visited your site before (I went to read the pixie post) even though I didn’t leave a comment. I will proably come again. 🙂

      I used to take the numbers on the scale way too personally for a long time. I’m glad I finally learned to see them simply as ONE source of information about what is going on in my body.

  2. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! So much wisdom up there! Yes, why’d it take us two so long to get mature about the scale???
    Every day is just one day! No matter how much a person screwed up their eating, it is still just one day. And if a person ate fabulously and kept in control of calories, it’s still only one day. When I quit getting excited about the scale, or any day in particular, boy, did that make *all* of the difference! Like you, I’m more into the long-term vision for myself–and, as you say so well, I’d also never go back to how I was.

    Twin brains is why it’s so fun being friends. 😀

    🙂 Marion

    • Satu says:

      I think people and especially women can be very dumb about weight-related stuff because it’s such a sensitive issue.

      Losing weight is pretty easy and even boring after you learn to pay more attention to the process, not just numbers on the scale or the goal.

  3. Deb says:

    Love this post Satu.

    It wasn’t until I went to ‘fat camp’ that I learnt about calorie deficits. We had to document what we were eating and wore heart rate monitors all day (some slept in them) so we could estimate how much weight we would lose each week. It was the first time I learnt how many calories you need to be in deficit to lose a kg etc… (ie. 7000 from memory!)


    • Satu says:

      Hi Deb!

      It’s almost funny it took me so long to put two and two together the way I described in the post. I had the knowledge for a long time (i.e. I also knew it takes about 7000 kcal to gain 1 kg) but I just didn’t use it. )

  4. Lori says:

    I like my scale that only tells me where I am in relation to the first time I stepped on it. Taking concrete number off the table certainly helps.

    • Satu says:

      That could be one solution! I don’t know if that kind of scales have landed Finland yet but I on the other hand I haven’t really looked. I’m just using my old digital scale (and comparison pictures).

  5. I don’t really focus on the scale all that much. I prefer to take measurements. There are so many variables with the darn scale.

    • Satu says:

      That is a wise decision, Angie! Only seeing the numbers on the scale can lead to all kinds of grief. I prefer taking comparison pictures to taking measures. I never seem to get any sane results when I measure myself, even though my clothes fit looser etc.

  6. Aimee says:

    I lived for many years without a scale. I only got weighed at the doctor’s. Of course I always knew when I was gaining by the way my clothing fit. Then I bought a scale and it was a love/hate relationship for a long time. Now I see it as a tool to help gauge my progress and to keep me on track. I understand that my weight fluctuates, but I also know that I personally cannot allow myself to become complacent when I see those numbers go up no matter what the reason. I don’t want to go backwards anymore. I don’t care how long it takes me to achieve a healthy weight and believe me this has been a slow process, but I don’t want to fall back into old habits.

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