Back in college, my husband Randy and I were cheerleaders, and being lighter meant being easier to toss for stunts. We performed on the Jerry Lewis Telethon and other events, plus we travelled teaching cheer camps.
When we were in the thick of performance practice is when my unhealthy relationship with the scale began. I let it dictate how much food I could eat, and I became fixated on
Do the numbers on the scale dictate your day? Your mood? Your motivation? Are they an accurate picture of the physiological changes happening when you are on your journey to being as fit and healthy as you can be?
Today I’m taking a deep dive into this important topic to help bring you perspective and freedom!
The Backstory and Unhealthy Influence
First, let me share a bit about my own journey. Back in college, my husband Randy and I were cheerleaders, and being lighter meant being easier to toss for stunts.
That’s when my unhealthy relationship with the scale began.
I let it dictate how much food I could eat, and I became fixated on being as light as possible.
Looking back, I realize that I was unknowingly struggling with body image and had an unhealthy version of what I thought was “health.”
Although nobody forced these expectations upon me, it was a self-inflicted pressure that initiated my troubled connection with the scale.
Understanding Body Composition
As I developed an interest in health and fitness, I pursued studies in human anatomy and performance. Through my education, I learned about the physiological changes that occur during exercise and how our bodies adapt. I discovered that the numbers on the scale weren’t always an accurate reflection of progress. Three important factors came to light: water weight, muscle gain, and hormonal changes.
Three important factors came to light: water weight, muscle gain, and hormonal changes.
- a) Water Weight: When starting a new workout routine, our bodies retain more water temporarily to aid in muscle repair and rebuilding. This can lead to an increase in weight on the scale. However, it’s crucial to remember that this is only a temporary change and not a reflection of fat gain.
- b) Muscle Gain: Resistance training and strength exercises contribute to building muscle mass. Since muscle weighs more than fat, it’s possible to gain muscle while simultaneously losing fat. The scale might not show a significant decrease or could even go up slightly, but this is due to the denser nature of muscle. Building muscle increases metabolism, burns more calories at rest, and positively impacts overall body composition.
- c) Hormone Fluctuations
Hormone fluctuations, especially during the menstrual cycle or perimenopause, can influence water retention and bloating. Estrogen levels can fluctuate, leading to temporary weight increases on the scale. It’s essential to be aware of these hormonal variations and not let them discourage or define our progress.
It’s clear that the scale isn’t the most reliable or accurate measurement of our health and fitness journeys. By understanding the factors that affect scale weight, such as water retention, muscle gain, and hormonal changes, we can develop a healthier perspective.
Remember, our focus should be on body composition, how our clothes fit, and overall well-being rather than letting numbers on a scale define how we see ourselves.
The Ultimate Test of our Relationship to the Scale
I like to give the following example to touch base on where our mindset is in regards to if the scale should be a tool we use at all.
If you came to me and told me you wanted to lose x amount of pounds over the next 3 months, and we went to work on your mindset, your nutrition, got your cells functioning at their best, dialed in your nutrition and worked to get your body moving in a way that helped build muscle for definition and independent aging…
And I took away your scale for those 3 months…
And on the final day, you wake up and see the body you worked hard for the past 3 months. You think about how amazing you feel. You check out in the mirror how good your clothes fit on you. You have tons of energy and are smiling from ear to ear….
And today is the day you get your scale back! I walk in with the scale. We exchange a hug, a high five, and maybe dance a little jig over your victory…
I put the scale down, you step on, and…
The number was the exact same it was 3 months ago.
How did you just feel reading that?
Was your first thought, “so, if I’m looking and feeling exactly like I wanted to, those numbers mean nothing to me!”
Did you think, “Wait, what? No way. That doesn’t make sense. This is terrible. No no no! I was supposed to lose _________!”
This, my friend, is how you know if it’s time to break up with that piece of metal and glass….or at least put some steep boundaries around it.
My favorite tools are:
Measuring – Same place each time about 1x a week.
Pictures – In good lighting and the same distance from the camera wearing the same clothes.
Clothing fit – Too tight or getting loose? That’s a great tracker.
Having said all of this, I’m not anti-scale. It can be a tool but should only be one tool, not THE tool to reflect your progress.
I hope this was helpful and gives you a sense of freedom to understand what may actually be going on when you’re embarking on your health and fitness journey.
Never let a piece of equipment tell you who you are. YOU are more than a number and you have the power to not let metal and glass define your value.