To Weigh or Not To Weigh

May 7, 2013 

You’ve got to love brothers and their honesty. On a recent trip to the Midwest to visit family, my brother gave me a dubious compliment:

“You look good! You were thin before, and then for a while, you…weren’t. But now you look great. What happened there?”

I’ll tell you what happened – I stopped getting on the scale every week.

Most of us fall into one of two categories: those who step on the scale regularly, and those who don’t. I have been a card-carrying member of both groups at different times in my life, but any bouts of weight gain have fallen squarely during the times when I decided that I didn’t need to weigh myself every week – I would just go by how my clothes fit.

But oh, the games we play with ourselves when we play “how my clothes fit.” First there’s the “I’m just a little bloated this week” phase. Then there’s the “I really have to speak to the husband and ask him to stop washing things in hot water” phase. Then there’s the “the manufacturers keep changing the sizing, and I have to buy bigger-sized jeans” phase. And then the final dreaded “this flowing dress with no waistline is just so chic and comfortable” phase.

Then one day, you’ve gone through a set of seasons, and a random synapse in your brain fires, telling you to get on that dusty scale you shoved behind the laundry basket a year ago. And the scream is heard across town when you realize the only thing you’ve lost in the last year is the how my clothes fit game, and you’ve gained enough pounds to equal the weight of that giant lazy cat in whose house you live.

Does weighing yourself each week guarantee that you are going to maintain or lose weight? Absolutely not. But it’s certainly a lot easier to buckle down and skip some cheeseburgers in favor of fruits and veggies when you realize that four pounds have snuck up on you, rather than 40. It’s similar to monitoring your kids’ grades at school – better to get that interim report and see where problems might exist, while there’s still time left to correct them, rather than get a big surprise on the final report card.

So what type of scale you should get on each week? The choices can be overwhelming: Extra large readout! Cool Blue Backlight! High Precision! Body Composition Measurement! Ultra-slim! (Really?? I want ME to be ultra-slim, not my scale.)There are even scales out there that use Bluetooth technology to wirelessly send your weight and BMI to your handheld device for easy tracking and graphing. The description for that one actually says “All recorded data can be tracked and shared with your friends on Facebook.”

Ummm, sure. I’ll get right on that. I prefer to keep it simple and use the kind of scale that shows me what I weigh when I step on it.

End of story.

Granted, the scale is only one of the tools we should use to measure our health, and sometimes it does need to be ignored. I often counsel my customers who are new to exercise to keep an eye on the scale, but not to stress out if the number actually goes UP the first few weeks. Muscle weighs more than fat, and often times we put on muscle quickly at the beginning of a new workout regimen. That muscle then helps your body burn more calories, even when you are at rest, and that’s when the body fat starts coming off, your overall health improves, and the number on the scale goes down. This is one time where it’s fine to gauge your progress with how your clothes are fitting, rather than weight or BMI.

Speaking of BMI (Body Mass Index), there’s a lot of emphasis being placed on that number these days, but please remember that it is just a number calculated from your height and weight, and has no consideration for body composition. I could stand next to a woman who weighs the same that I do and is the same height, and who therefore has the same BMI. But I’m going to be smaller, and more importantly healthier, if I exercise six times a week, including strength training, and she is sedentary. Again, BMI is only one part of the picture, just like weight.

Remember, pay attention to the overall trend the scale is following, not each and every pound fluctuation. Try not to obsess and weigh yourself every day. If you are up a couple of pounds this week, drink some extra water, go for a couple of walks or a bike ride with a friend, and substitute some healthy choices in your meal plan that week. Chances are when you check in next week, you’ll be back on track. Look in the mirror, smile, and tell yourself, “Weigh to go!”

Sarah Heins is the franchise owner of Jazzercise of Fort Mill. She can be reached at sarahheins@comporium.net or 431-1364.

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