Weighing In for Healthy Weight Loss?

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According to an article in last Sunday’s Parade magazine, the first step in losing weight is to buy a scale. The article cites a Brown University study that showed daily weigh-ins are key to weight loss. I looked up the study and see that it really says daily weigh-ins helped their study participants keep lost weight off. Either way, though, I beg to disagree with the advice.

Daily Weighing May Trigger Obsessive Thinking About Weight

throw-out-the-scaleOne of my colleagues said it best when she noted that daily weighing is essentially a way to trigger obsessive thinking about weight. And that it’s a surefire way to give yourself the eating disorder experience. People with eating disorders generally maintain weight loss pretty easily.

The discussion then went to the fact that people don’t really understand that disordered eating is more than starving or throwing up. It encompasses a whole realm of chaotic behaviors around food and body that do not support well-being, indeed detract mightily from it.

Negative Emotions Tied To The Scale

Another colleague suggested that if you’re thinking about weighing, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly or whenever, ask yourself how it affects you. Does it change your mood? Does it consistently make you feel positive? For most of us, likely not.

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I compare weighing to the store window that we walk by, and when we’re not feeling good about our bodies, see our reflection and fall into despair. I’d wager that many of us feel that way when we get on the scale.

The last thing that we feel like doing when we don’t like the number on the scale is to feed ourselves well or go have some fun physical activity. Instead, it often triggers a downward spiral of emotional eating that ends with depression.

How To Measure Progress Without Weighing On The Scale

We don’t really need a number to tell us whether we’re at a healthy weight that feels right for us. Instead of weighing, why not keep track of our healthy behaviors such as healthy eating and physical activity, and if we need to, even keep a journal that tracks our eating and physical activity so we can objectively see how well we are doing (important point: this isn’t in order to judge ourselves if we don’t eat well or be active one day; it’s just to see our overall patterns better). When we establish healthy behaviors that become our pattern over time, our weight will reach a happy, healthy place for each of us. And it will feel great getting there.


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5 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Diet Hater says:

    Scales suck. It is not the weight we have to watch. It is all about fat. Rather watch yourself in the mirror, take photos and so on. This is more valuable than some “number”, like you said.

  • marsha says:

    What we look like can be a good indicator of whether we’ve got too much fat on our bodies. And it can’t, too. That’s because some of us are genetically programmed to be fatter than others. We can’t all have washboard abs. So I go back to my original statement; monitor our behaviors if we want to be healthy…and let our bodies be.

  • JavaChick says:

    I have read arguments for both points of view – weigh daily or weigh weekly (or even less often), or go by how your clothes fit. As with many other things, I do not think that the answer is one-size-fits-all. I find daily weigh-ins work for me. But some people go nuts over the daily fluctuations, and for those people I would agree that daily weigh-ins are a bad idea. We each have to figure out what works best for ourselves.

  • marsha says:

    Thanks for your comments, JavaChick. Actually, I think I forgot one of the main points I like to make about this. At Green Mountain, we encourage not to focus on weight at all. We believe (and are joined in this belief by many) that if we focus on health and healthy behaviors, our bodies will reach the weight that’s right for them without our having to worry over it. And we repeatedly see that if we do focus on the weight, we get distracted from the healthy behaviors and often engage in behaviors that are focused solely on getting the weight off — and that often leads to us putting more on (by depriving ourselves, eating too little, etc.). So while I completely agree that we each have to figure out what works best for ourselves, I also believe that many of us have never tried not focusing on the weight. It is such the norm in our society that it doesn’t even occur to us not to. I must underscore that I am not talking about ‘giving up.’ I’m talking about being healthy and letting our bodies reach a natural, healthy place for them through that health.

    Hope this makes sense. Again, thanks for your comment.

  • Cindy says:

    It is very difficult to get past the scale numbers. Even doing body composition test, can become obsessive points if people aren’t aware of the chemistry that is occurring in the body. Patience is a virture in the world of health. There is so much that we do not know. Every person has a different genetic make up, metabolism and reaction to various foods and exercise. I get frustrated with magazine articles and news clips that try to encompass all of this in a one-size-fit’s-all article.

    As JavaChick noted, some people do very well with daily weigh in’s. I do better with weekly and monthly numbers. They are an indicator of what we do. The numbers themselves are not the issue, it is our approach to how we handle our daily behaviors. If we place all the emphasis on that one moment standing on the scale, then we really need to be reflecting about what is going on in our lives that makes us feel so attached to the scale.

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