What is a Healthy Body Weight?

3 Tips on How to Use a Scale to Your Advantage

Do you weigh yourself everyday upon awakening? Or do you barely step on the scale at all? The fact is we all have a different relationship with the scale – some are healthy while others can be considered downright destructive.

For some of us, weighing ourselves can be a healthy and useful tool that can help keep our weight loss on track. People in this camp tend to use the scale once or twice per week and don’t tend to let slight variations sway their mood or motivation.

But others, who may be considered obsessed with the scale, tend to weigh themselves several times a day. Their frequent weighing creates anxiety, depression and even low self-confidence leading to destructive diet and lifestyle behaviors.

Sometimes, for many of us, forgetting about the number on the scale and focusing on an alternative measure, such as a reduction in inches, clothing size or even heightened energy can lead to a healthier, less stressful life.

Trust me when I say, I see my fair share of clients that just need to get rid of their scale. But is it something everyone should do?

If one or more of these scenarios describe you, then there’s a good chance you’re better off ditching the scale.

1) I am very disappointed in myself if I am not losing weight quick enough.

2) I reflect on my weight for the rest of the day after weighing myself.

3) I become very anxious at the idea of stepping on the scale.

4) I place a lot of pressure on myself to be at a certain weight.

5) I obsess about the number if it’s higher than I want and make extreme changes to my diet to compensate.

6) I feel better when I don’t weigh myself.

Here are 3 tips for using the scale to your advantage

1. Weigh Frequently, But Not Too Frequently

For those who can handle the scale, I usually suggest weighing yourself once a week, first thing in the morning, before eating anything. This will show you your weight trend over time, and you can monitor the general increase or decrease as you go along.

Women may want to weigh themselves less as their weight fluctuates more, depending on where they are in their cycle. Some may get discouraged if they weigh themselves on a weekly basis and note large fluctuations. If you tend to get discouraged when your weight fluctuates, monthly weighing at the same point in your cycle each month might be a better option.

While some can do OK with daily weigh-ins, I generally discourage it for most people. Daily weight fluctuations can be quite erratic and do not provide an accurate indication of true weight loss. People who ask if they can do this are generally those who I think should toss their scale in the first place!

If you feel compelled to weigh on a daily basis, it’s worth exploring why you want to do this. More often than not, those who want to weigh daily want to do so because it somehow validates them or motivates them to make extremely drastic diet and lifestyle changes on a day-to-day basis. These are not healthy behaviors and can easily backfire on you as you try to compensate for unrealistic fluctuations.

As I mentioned before, the benefit of weighing regularly, but not too often, is that you can start to notice the general decrease in your weight over time. Knowing that you’re heading toward weight loss early can help you modify your behavior in a manageable, healthy manner so that you don’t find yourself facing a huge weight loss challenge down the road.

2. Understand What the Scale Can Tell You

The number on the scale does not tell you how much muscle or how much fat you have. If you’re someone who has started weight training recently, the number on the scale can sometimes go up as you start working out and increasing your muscle mass. Since muscle is more dense than fat, you may see the number creep up or stagnate when you’re trying to lose weight. This is simply an increase in muscle mass and (usually) a decrease in body fat.

I encourage you to keep track of your body measurements (waist, hips, thighs, chest and arms). While the number on the scale might go up, you’ll notice you’re also losing inches off your body. You’ll be stronger and more fit, but your weight will be higher or the same. That’s a fair trade-off because you know your total body composition is actually changing.

Also realize that a scale shows even small fluctuations in your weight that have nothing to do with the amount of fat you have. For example, if you ate a lot more salt or piled on the carbs yesterday than usually, your body will retain more water as a result. You’ll notice that your weight might be higher today because of the extra water you’re holding onto – a totally normal fluctuation, and nothing to worry about. It does not mean that you need to cut your calories, carbs, fat, etc. to burn off the extra two pounds you suddenly accumulated overnight.

Because we will see these normal fluctuations in weight, it’s important not to base your dietary and lifestyle habits on that sudden two pound increase. What you’ll want to look out for is steady increases or decreases over time.

3. There is More to Health Than a Number on the Scale

The scale does not measure your happiness, your stress level, your fitness, or any other facet of your health. It’s simply one number in the midst of many measurable (and unmeasurable) things in your life. Do not let it dictate how you feel about yourself. If you give it that power, it will absolutely hold you hostage.

That being said, if you are able to use the number you see as just that – a number – the scale can help you manage your weight better than you could without it.

I think it’s great that people are embracing a life without numbers – I’m all for tossing counting calories, points and pounds out the window if it’s a healthy choice for that person. But I also think it’s important to remember that the scale can be a useful and integral part of a weight loss journey if implemented correctly, and that it’s possible to use it in a healthy way to help you reach your desired goal.