Let’s talk about “the scale.” The scale is what most people use to measure their weight, and that makes sense. In the basic sense, a scale measures a person’s mass, which is to say, a person’s weight due to the gravitational forces on earth. But instead of measuring our health in Newton’s, we measure our health in terms of pounds or kilograms. When I work with clients, their primary goal is to lose weight. These clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but in our practice, they are all united in this fight against weight.
Weight gain is common. Losing weight is common. What is uncommon is maintaining a healthy weight for the course of a person’s life, or losing weight (if overweight) and keeping it off indefinitely. Unfortunately, weight regain is the norm and most clients I work with would tell you that they know HOW to lose weight, but that they can’t seem to keep it off. This is not a personal moral failure on their part. People who struggle with weight must battle on many fronts and they are some of the most courageous people I know. Why? Because society tells them that they are failures, but somehow, they find the strength to come up for one more fight.
I don’t have problems with using the scale as part of the assessment process. Usually, there’s a “sweet” spot for people—a small range in weight (pounds or kilos) in which they will function at their best. It is common for weight to fluctuate within a few pounds, but when weight creeps, or jumps up too quickly, then that person will know that something is off balance. Weighing oneself on a regularly basis is a useful tool for most, but again, it’s not the only tool. Certainly, it’s not the best measurement of a person’s health.
A better tool to measure weight is a body composition analyzer. In our practice, we always test body composition. This is a better assessment tool than a common scale because not only does it tell the weight, but more importantly, it tells what that weight consists of. How much muscle mass or “lean” mass does this person have vs fat? How hydrated are they? If they’ve lost weight, did they lose precious muscle? If they’ve maintained weight, did they gain muscle mass? This helps us to go a little deeper to get at the root of what people want. People say that they want to lose weight, but technically what they mean is that they want to lose body fat.
But even beyond numbers, the goals behind the numbers are much more personal. I’ve had clients tell me that they want to be able to get on the floor and play with their kid, or be able to tie their shoes. Some people just want to “look” better and feel better in their clothes, but behind every weight loss goal number is the REAL reason they are here. They want to have life and have it abundantly. This is why weight loss is a journey, and not just some finish line.
So what are your non-scale victories?
If you’re looking to the scale every week and every year for confirmation that you’re on track, you will, at times, be very disappointed. I was talking with a lady who said that she gave up sugar, refined white flour and started exercising regularly (and eating right). She did this for nearly a year and felt amazing, but she only lost 5# and so she quit. I then asked her, “but how did you feel?” She responded, emphatically, “Amazing.” Well, there you go. And that’s where relying on the scale can go wrong.
Off the top of my head, I can list several benefits of weight loss that would be noticeable without ever stepping on a scale and here they are:
- Improved energy
- Better sleep
- Less inflammation
- Less Pain
- Improved mood
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Better mobility and flexibility
- Feeling empowered
- Radiating skin
If I had more time, the list could go on. I would like to reinforce that weight loss is not just about the numbers. Motivation to sustain health habits comes from feeling it from within. Weight loss is deeply personal and it’s imperative to be able to congratulate yourself for non-scale victories along the way. The non-scale victories will be the fuel that ignites your passion to keep. Moving. Forward. One step at a time.
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