Despite being told time and time again to avoid the scale and look for other body goal victories, when you’re trying to get fit, it’s normal to seek validation for your hard work. While the scale may seemingly offer quick, easy measures of progress made on your path toward a healthier lifestyle, the number that pops up is not always an honest look.
The hard truth: Your scale lies to you. And not just little white lies or recently popular “alternative facts,” but blatant, repetitive falsehoods.
Making it worse is your reaction to these lies. The scale–an inanimate object that has no personal vendetta against you–somehow has the ability to completely derail your personal health goals.
Tipping the Scale
Imagine the scenario: You’ve been busting your hump for weeks at the gym, making good whole food choices for meals and snacks, keeping portions in check, and even taking a break from your beloved bottles of wine. You’re thinking more clearly, you’re sleeping better at night, you have more energy during the day, your clothes don’t feel as snug, and overall your body and mind finally feel in sync and happy.
This should be all the proof you need that you’re moving in the right direction. But instead of just being content with these very major milestones, you get a little greedy and look to add the scale number as one more positive piece of evidence.
You step on the scale in excited anticipation, and that’s when you’re world comes crashing down: the number hasn’t budged the way you thought it would.
All that happy, positivity you had every right to feel just seconds prior has now been turned on its head. Instead of staying the course that has shown benefits to your mind and body, the scale data backfires on your plan, which can quickly lead to lost motivation, binge eating, and possibly even quitting all together.
The Scale Myths That Exist
The problem is that the number on the scale rarely reflects what’s going on with your body. Once you come to term with the following myths your scale wants you to believe, the better you’ll be able to care for your body.
Myth 1: You can gain and lose a lot of weight quickly.
Reality: It’s likely water weight.
When you first start getting fit, you may see your scale number drop quickly. Yay, right? Wrong. When the number changes drastically–either down or up–it usually has more to do with water weight than anything related to your true body mass or composition.
Myth 2: If you’re following a healthy plan, your scale number should only decrease.
Reality: The body experiences fluctuations.
It’s typically impossible to lose or gain body mass in the three-to-five pounds range from one day to the next. Your scale number may vary, even day to day, thanks to if you’re hydrated enough, how well things are “moving” in your digestive tract, and depending on how your body reacts to the kind of foods you’ve taken. For example, if you’ve had a carb-heavy day, your body may hang onto more water to aid in metabolism.
Myth 3: I keep gaining weight.
Reality: Muscle mass could be the cause.
If you’ve been working on toning your body and have stuck to a relatively healthy eating plan, your body composition may be switching from less fluff to more muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, but that tends to trip people up. After all one pound of muscle and one pound of fat is still one pound. The difference is how that pound looks on you. A pound of muscle is leaner and tends to take up less space. If the scale isn’t budging, but your clothes seem to fit better, rest assured that you’re likely getting stronger and experiencing a body composition shift to a leaner, slimmer you.
Myth 4: I lose for a couple weeks then plateau for a couple weeks.
Reality: It’s likely a hormonal roller coaster.
Estrogen and progesterone, the hormones secreted by your ovaries during your menstrual cycles, can cause body fat to increase temporarily and lead you to retain water–all of which can lead to a higher scale number. And since you tend to be premenstrual and menstrual for about two weeks a month, this is when the scale may try to sabotage you.
Myth 5: The scale just won’t budge no matter what I do.
Reality: Your body may need a break.
The scale may be reflecting the results of stress or illness. If you’ve been pushing it hard in your workouts, or have just been feeling run down, your body may be going into survival mode. Sore muscle from exercise coupled with stress of daily life or even an oncoming cold can suppress your immune system. Try taking a break and getting some sleep. Still make healthy food choices, but try active rest days such as long walks, light yoga, or stretching.
There are plenty of reasons why the scale’s results don’t always measure up with what’s really happening in your body. And given how the scale can ultimately overthrow a positive mindset, it’s time to ditch it completely. Instead try tracking tape measurements of body parts, looking to progress photos, fitting into a goal piece of attire, or accomplishing an exercise milestone.
Tell us how you track your progress in the comments!