The majority of us have come to rely on the scale as our primary indicator of health. Why wouldn’t we? We all know that according to each persons height, there is also a matching, "Ideal Weight Range Index," that you should fall into. For instance, if you’re a 6 foot tall man, the "Ideal Weight Chart," says you should weight between 160 and 190 pounds. From infant stage to geriatric stage, doctors use the weight verses height to indicate health. If you fall out of that range, you’re either to skinny or you’re overweight, or even obese. We are a society that is so focused on the number, that it has often lead to unhealthy obsessions and expectations. The fact of the matter is, that range isn’t always accurate, nor should the scale be your main object to identify your state of health.
Let me use an example. I have a good friend that I’ve known all my life. As a horse trainer, she has always been a tough gal that wasn’t afraid to buck hay bales with the guys, or take on back breaking jobs, like tacking shoes on a horse. For a 5’ woman, you would never believe that she weighed 165 pounds! There were no rolls on this girl! She was a rock solid, ranch raised, power house of muscle. The thing is, even though everyone else thought she looked great, she was still hard on herself because according to the, “Ideal Weight Charts,” the average 5’ woman should weigh between 90 and 110 pounds. For some, that’s a realistic goal. For others, it’s not.
Unwrapping the the number grasp on the brain, is hands down the most difficult challenge that we face with clients on a day to day basis. It’s so engrained in us! Waiting to see that number drop every morning, when you step on the scale, can become an obsession, and when we don’t see it move, or God forbid go up, we oftentimes feel defeated and deflated.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of My 600 pound Life, you’ve probably heard Dr. Nowzaradan, aka Dr. Now, tell his struggling, overweight patients that if they don’t meet extreme weight loss goals in a certain amount of time, that they’ll need to cut more carbs and exercise more. NO! NO! NO! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! That couldn’t be farther from the truth! But how many of us do this? We get down on ourselves and think we need to cut more food and workout more, or for longer periods, just because the scale isn’t moving as fast as we think it should? It’s no wonder that some clients come to us not wanting to step on the scale because they’ve been traumatized by the number obsession.
Let me reintroduce the scale to you as a friend. In order to do this, we first need to understand how the scale should be used. The scale DOES have a purpose. It’s purpose is to let you know your current weight. Duh, right? But wait! The scale doesn’t tell you how much of that weight is actual body fat. It also doesn’t tell you how much of that is muscle. It can’t tell you when you’re sick and inflamed, or your body is retaining fluids from a reaction to food, antibiotics, or infection. It can’t tell you a lot of things that should also be taken into consideration. So, before you get down on yourself for not fitting into that “Ideal Body Weight,” category, try thinking of the scale as basically just a number with missing information.
What other information do you need besides a scale to help you determine fitness? Well for starters, a good old fashioned mirror, a tape measure and a camera! We’ll dive into these things in a minute, but first, while we’re still on the weight topic, here’s a question for you. When you hop on the scale, what do you think a healthy and realistic goal would be for fat loss in a week? Since most people try to loose as much weight, as quickly as possible, you might be surprised by the answer. What’s your guess? Two pounds? Maybe 5 pounds a week? Well actually it’s only 1% of your total body weight per week! So if you weigh 150 pounds, you shouldn’t lose more than 1.5 pounds a week. Otherwise it’s most likely not fat loss that you’re losing but weight loss, taken from areas that you actually need, like muscle for example.
On a side note, normally when you start a diet, you drop a lot more weight in the beginning. Did you know that this is is mostly inflammation? By eating an exceptionally clean diet that’s balanced and void of preservatives, MSG, and other inflammatory ingredients, the body will undergo a period of detox. You will find yourself visiting the bathroom more as the body starts to eliminate that inflammation. This will continue to be reflected on the scale until you’re body reaches a healthier state and stabilizes. You will feel better without the added bloat and swelling, and a lot of times people have less brain fog and way less aches and pains.
However, we all like to see that fast drop on the scale right? When it slows down, people often think they’re body isn’t responding as well to their food plan and they need to change things up. That’s often the time when the scale starts playing mind games with us and people start wondering if their nutrition plans should be modified. We’re programed to want quick results and that how diets are marketed. Lose (scale) weight quickly! However, losing weight slowly isn’t a problem if you’re sticking to a great nutrition plan. Here’s where the mirror, tape measure and camera come in. If you focus on the inch loss and weekly photos, you’ll realize that you’re probably losing more body fat than the scale is showing and even better, you’re doing it by not stressing your body.
The Importance of weekly photos and measurements cannot be stressed enough! Not as a lifestyle, of course, but for when you’re trying to reach healthy body goals.
This is a photo of a clients progress after one year. The difference in weight is only 4 pounds, but the inch loss is significant! The majority of this clients weight has transferred into the muscle, bone and vital organs and she’s eliminated undesired body fat. All of this was done with healthy food choices and moderate exercise.
This example goes to show that you can have two people that are the same height and weight, yet they have totally different body compositions. For example, they can be the same height, but the heavier person will appear way smaller than the person that weights less, or the other way around. Remember, muscle weighs more than fat, so muscular people should obviously weigh more. This is why my ranch friend that I mentioned before, was way heavier than her suggested, “ideal weight range.” Again, the scale can’t see you. It just spits out a number without the ability to accurately access how much of your weight is fat or muscle, even with fancy Body Mass Index, "BMI," features..
It’s common for a client to come to us wanting to be a certain weight. They remember how it felt when they were 25 and want to be that weight again. Once they start eating clean and watching their body transform, they sometimes find the number in their head to be unrealistic. Just because you looked a certain way when you weighed 140 pounds before, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll look the same this time, at 140 pounds. You can be a soft and heavier 140 pounds, a lean and muscular 140 pounds, or a skinny and possibly unhealthy 140 pounds. It’s not about the number, it’s about the state of health you're in, the way you carry your weight, muscle mass and so many other things, including the way you look and feel in the mirror, the number is only one small aspect.
So why should you even use the scale, or why ask our clients to weigh daily? It actually has nothing to do with weight/fat gain. Our plans are based on a seven day cycle. Within that cycle the body will respond differently throughout each day of the week. It’s hard to see when you’re first starting but it’s very obvious to an expert, "body response," eye. This is why it’s important to write down everything that you consume. Your fluctuation in weight, combined with the documented food will reveal how your body is responding to food. A good nutrition coach should be able to identify bodily stress, hormonal fluctuations, sources causing inflammation and more. The scale is used as a monitoring device. It’s like a friend relaying to us fluctuations, and clues for when it’s necessary to ask some questions. It might possibly be an indication that we should dig for a root cause to a certain body response, or a key to knowing when to modify a nutrition plan. It’s as simple as that. On a good nutrition plan, it’s normal to fluctuate in weight throughout the week. We tell clients to write your daily weight down, but at the end of the week, when everything is being assessed, use the lowest weight of that week for your check-in. That way you can see a consistent pattern of loss. The main focus however, should be on inch loss and photo comparisons. This is much more beneficial overall.
If you can look at the scale as just one chapter out of a book it might help you. You can’t possibly know what the whole story is about by only reading one chapter, so don’t rely on just one number on a scale to identify your entire state of health and fitness. When you look at it like that, it makes obsessing over a number sound silly, right?