Step Off the Scale


I workout. I eat right. I wake and step on the scale. I see the number go down – woohoo! I see the number go up – I’m a failure. Sound familiar? Too many women (and men too), myself included, have let themselves become a slave to the scale. Why, oh why does that number mean so much to us? We all know the old adage, muscle weighs more than fat. We all know it’s more about how we look and feel than the number on the scale. Then why can’t we just STOP stepping on that scale and letting the number we see dictate how we feel about ourselves? It’s taken me a while, I’m talking years here, but I’ve finally stopped caring…most of the time anyway. Here’s why!

I’m a scientist by trade and I’ve learned a lot about the human body over the years. It’s in my nature to dissect a topic in order to understand it better. So let’s talk about why the number on the scale isn’t necessarily a true reflection of whether or not your reaching your health and fitness goals.
There are so many factors that can affect your weight, not only from day to day, but hour to hour. Things like sodium intake, dehydration (or over-hydration), meal timing, and the types of food you eat, to name just a few.
  • Sodium is an important electrolyte that keeps our body functioning properly. Our bodies work best when our electrolyte levels are kept constant. We have built in responses that tell us when we’re approaching low or high levels and our bodies adapt accordingly. Having adequate water levels in the body allows our kidneys to keep the electrolyte concentration in the blood constant by increasing or decreasing the amount of water we retain. High sodium levels cause us to retain more water. Simply stated, the more sodium you ingest, the more water your body will crave and retain, the higher the number on the scale. The American Heart Association recommends we consume 1,500 mg or less of salt per day.
  • Water makes up over 60% of our total body mass. Being properly hydrated is a very important part of living a healthy life. If you are dehydrated the number on the scale may be lower, but in the long run your body will actually retain more water (making the number creep up), saving it for emergency use. If you are properly hydrated, your body is less likely to retain water because it is readily available.
  • If you step on the scale right after dinner you might notice a spike in your weight. This isn’t because you gained five pounds of fat, it’s because your food carries weight. A few hours after your meal, when your body is finished digesting what you ate the number on the scale will be back to normal.
  • Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are higher in insoluble fiber, which means they weigh more and take longer to digest than other foods. Give yourself at least six hours after eating a fiber-heavy meal before getting on the scale.
Keep in mind when you are weighing yourself, the scale isn’t just weighing fat gained or lost. It also weighs your muscle, internal organs, water, etc. This, above all else, is why the number on the scale should not matter. I know, much easier said than done, but if you’re fitness journey is a healthy, long-lasting one, you may actually see an increase in your weight because you’re losing fat and gaining muscle. At the same time, your waist will be shrinking and your body composition will be changing. Don’t believe me?! Here’s proof! After six months of endurance training, I actually weigh THREE POUNDS MORE in the picture on the right!
Here are some tips for weaning yourself from the scale: 
  • Use the same scale every time you weigh yourself. They can vary.
  • Always weigh yourself at the same time of day. Mornings are best.
  • Weigh yourself once a week.
  • Include other data in your fitness journey such as measurements, BMI, how your clothes fit, your energy levels, and of course how you FEEL!!
Stepping off the scale and staying off won’t be easy, but I promise you it will be life changing when you do!! Good luck and here’s to your health!
Written by Darcy VanGundy  |

North Idaho Wellness Magazine is the region's most read publication on fitness, wellness, clean eating and emotional health. Our readership of 10,000+ enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle, outdoor activities, local clean eating, and community. Pick up a copy of our magazine at these locations or Find Us On Facebook.

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