How to know if your weight scale is a big fat liar
Your weight scale is a great tool to measure how much weight you’ve lost? I mean: your weight isn’t showing anything else than the force of gravity on you which may be defined as the mass times the acceleration of gravity. Or something. I was never any good at this in school, so correct me if I’m wrong, I’m not even going to Google this.
But this gravity thing isn’t all that reliable when you weigh yourself very often. Every time you get these different numbers. One thing is real though: down is right, up is bad.
The question is though: does that devil of a thing show you the right number all the time? I dare to say that it doesn’t. Your weight scale can be a big fat liar so now and then.
In whatever way you use your weight scale, please don’t let it define if you’re good enough, because whatever a scale does, it doesn’t say if you worked hard enough at reaching your goal or if you’ve lost enough this week.
Enough is such a subjective word. It is also loaded with sub-conscious stories about who you are and if you’re good enough as a person.
How often should you use your weight scale?
In my opinion, you shouldn’t weigh in more often than once a week when you’re on a weight loss program. I will explain why later on in this blog. But when you are just starting maintenance after you’ve lost a lot of weight and wanted to keep it off, your weight scale might be a good friend.
Depending on how you label the results the weight scale gives you, I might also advise you to not even weigh in at all while on a weight loss program. There are so many other ways to define if you’re losing weight that it is ridiculous to trust that one tool so much. Too often I see emotional eating or disordered eating in connection with daily weighing. When you’re obsessed with the number on the scale will not help you to come back to who you are and what you want to create in your life.
To help you, here are eight moments when you’d better decide that your weight scale is a big fat liar.
Right after you’ve had dinner
So, you only had dinner, and you’re 4 pounds heavier? Huh? How’s that possible? This weight gain is not about added body fat which takes so much longer to create. What is possible, is that your blood volume has grown because you ate and drank during the day. Without noticing this can cause quite a lot of weight. Calculate the weight of all those cups of water you drank plus the weight of all the meals you ate. It is probably more than the weight gain you now see reflected between your toes.
It often takes 24 hours or more for your body to decide what to do with the food you ate. So eating outside of your rule book doesn’t mean you’ll gain weight. Eating outside of your rule book several times a week does.
Know that it takes at least 3600 kcal above your metabolical maintenance level to gain a pound of body fat. That is a lot, and it will often be reached by eating more than you should on a daily level than in one meal. So it is the daily habit that you check, not the one ‘over the top meal with friends.’
During the first few weeks of a new diet or training program
Don’t you love it, those first two weeks of a diet? Weight falls off you fast, and you think it will always be like that. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re most probably losing water weight and muscle tissue. Losing body fat doesn’t go that fast. Yeah… bummer.
After a week or two, your body will settle in the new regime and will build back the muscles if your diet is healthy enough and if you eat enough.
Most people also become more active when starting a new diet, by going to the gym (again) or starting a work out regime outside. So what your body lost in the first few weeks because your body had to get used to getting less food, is now being rebuilt again. This may cause your body to gain weight a bit. Building muscle is hard work.
Your body needs food, water and rest to do its job. So at first, your weight scale might show a rise because your body holds on to things first before it starts to build muscles. Does that tell you that you didn’t do your best? Hell no, you did you best and more than that. Give that body of yours a bit of slack… it is working hard for you.
To know if you’re losing fat mass you’ll need a special weight scale that sends a small current through your body to see what kind of tissue it finds in its way. The current will move through water quickly, but it takes longer to move through fat tissue. Use a high-quality weight scale that has this feature and use the impedance feature only once a month or even once every three months to see a difference. All other weekly weigh-ins you only register your weight. Nothing more.
Doing an impedance measurement more often shows the up and down of water in and out of your muscles only and its effect of that on the fat mass. Trust me; my personal experience is talking here. It will drive you crazy trying to understand how you can suddenly gain 2 pounds of fat mass in a week while you didn’t do anything wrong.
Immediately after a workout or a sauna visit
I’ve seen them, people who step on the scale in the gym or the sauna. A weight scale in a gym is only real information if you want to know how much sweat you lost and how much water you need to drink again to stay healthy.
The same with a weight scale in a sauna. You’ve spent all day in the spa, spent time in the sauna and when you go back to the dressing room, there might be a scale. Don’t use it to see if you’ve lost weight. Only use it to see if you need to drink up.
Immediately after you drank a lot of water
There are days that even before I hit my office chair, I’ve already drunk a liter of water (4 cups). I have a darling of a husband who brings tea in the morning. I drink another cup of tea at breakfast, maybe even a cup of coffee if I’m in the mood, plus I drink two big glasses to take my vitamins. So my moment to weigh myself is right after I wake up and after I’ve gone to the bathroom. Any later than that it is no use anymore.
Choose your moment of weighing on the same day of the week, same time, after bathroom visit and preferably without drinking or eating anything before. That will give you the most trusted result.
Just before bed
This one is connected with the first reason why your weight scale is a big fat liar. There is another aspect added to it. Weighing before bed is nothing more than punishment because you probably ate too much during the day. Why would you weigh yourself if you already know that you’ll be heavier because of what you ate?
If you do this, notice the inner conversation you start with yourself because of the number you see. Also, monitor your quality of sleep because I can’t imagine you’ll have a rested night after being upset with yourself. A better strategy would also be to skip the weigh in the next morning because you know for sure you’ll see a weight gain. If you’re prone to negative self-talk than weighing in after eating too much is not your strategy.
After you’ve had a baby
After you’ve had a baby, you often think you’ve lost quite a lot of weight, right? Baby + placenta + amniotic fluid = YESSSS!!! Well, it’s a yes when you’ve weighed just before you went into labor but a big fat no if you compare it to the weight you had before you got pregnant.
Your body will have to change its hormonal balance (again), and it takes time to change it. Going on a diet is a very bad idea because changing hormone balances is very very hard work for your body and it will need lots of high-quality carbs, proteins, and fats to do that. Enjoy the new baby, follow the food instructions you get from your post-natal coach, and you’ll get there in the end. Don’t go crazy over all the “I had a baby 2 months ago and look at my abs already” images on Pinterest. That’s social media, not real life…
Take care of yourself to also adjust emotionally and mentally to be a new mom. It is okay to do that. And much healthier for you and your baby.
Around your period
Let me start with the good news: in the two weeks before your period your metabolism is a tiny bit higher because of the hormonal changes that lead up to your period. Don’t start your happy dance just yet because this is only 4%, so put-back-the-chocolate-bar-now.
Still, this rise in metabolism could be an explanation why women struggle with eating just before their period. They feel hungrier than the weeks before and it is hard to say no to something good when it comes along.
Right before your period, your weight starts to rise because your body needs water to make this whole process possible. You’ll lose it quite easily as soon as it has started.
Your best strategy is to skip your weigh in when your period is just about to start because of the added water weight.
My advice about using a weight scale when losing weight:
- Do not weigh yourself more often than once a week
- Understand that your scale is pretty stupid and only shows a gravity number and nothing more
- Always use the scale in the same spot because even that can give a difference in measurement
- Stop weighing in and ask your partner or a good friend to hide your scale when you show signs of emotional attachment to your scale
- Understand that weight loss is about losing fat mass, not weight.
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As a weight loss mindset mentor, I work with women from all over the world to help them lose stubborn weight by working on four levels of influence. I believe that you have to follow your personal path of freedom and happiness to prevent your weight from finding its way back to your body. That is why I not only work on weight loss savvy-ness but also on creating your best life ever because weight loss is only a symptom of things being misaligned. Spirituality is an important aspect of creating these changes.