Which Way to Weigh

I used to hate the scales.  I could feel my blood pressure rise just at the thought of standing on that thing.  I didn’t want to face the truth that the scales told me, and the number it showed me was just ugly.  So yeah, I hated the scales.

025But then, I unexpectedly found my pants fitting looser at the end of the Daniel fast and decided to brave that evil machine.  My feeling about the scales changed when it told me I had lost 10 pounds!  I still didn’t like the number it showed me, but at least I was headed in the right direction.  I was so eager to see that number decrease that I began to weigh myself every day.

And that’s a question I get asked some times.  How often do you weigh?

I’ve read lots of opinions on how often we should weigh ourselves when we’re trying to lose weight.  Some people recommend weighing once a week, on the same day and time every week.  Other people recommend weighing every day.  Me?  I weigh every day.

BUT…there were some things I had to understand about weight loss before I either shot the scales when the number went up or put a bow on the thing when the number went down.  Weight loss is more than a number on the scales.  When I talk about weight loss, I’m talking about a change in body composition–fat loss.  Yes, eventually the number on the scales will reflect the loss of fat in a lower weight, but fat loss doesn’t happen over night.

Scales reflect a lot of other factors that affect our overall weight.  Take clothes, for instance.  Obviously, if you weigh yourself fully clothed with your shoes on, you weigh more than you do in your birthday suit.

026And water weight plays a big role in the number reflected on the scale every day.  On thing I learned in nursing school is that weight is the most accurate reflector of fluid balance.  Many patients in the hospital are weighed daily, and it has nothing to do with calories and losing fat but everything to do with evaluating the amount of fluid they have either lost or are retaining.  The same thing holds true even when you’re not in the hospital.  Weigh yourself in the morning.  Drink your coffee.  Have a couple bottles of water.  Eat breakfast and lunch, and by afternoon or evening, your weight may be 2 or more pounds above where you started the day.  During my recent marathon, I sweated buckets.  After the race I drank several bottles of water, and still after my 1.5 hour drive home, my weight was 3 pounds below where I started the race!  I had lost probably close to 4-5 pounds in just fluid.

A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose or gain a pound of fat (here’s a pound of butter for reference)027 you’d have to either eat 3,500 calories or burn 3,500 calories.  As a frame of reference, I burned about 2,500 calories running a marathon.  (Keep in mind, though, that your weight affects how many calories you burn.  At about 117 pounds now, I only burn about 75 calories/mile running, while others may burn over 100 calories/mile.)

So all that to say it’s almost physically impossible to see actual weight loss on the scales from one day to the next.  Make sense?  This is the rationale for only weighing yourself once a week.  Safe weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, so by only weighing yourself once a week, it’s much easier to see actual weight loss.

So why do I weigh myself every day?  For me, it’s accountability.  If I see the number go up for a few days in a row, it’s motivation for me to evaluate my diet and to renew my determination to make healthy choices.

But I also have to remember that daily weights don’t reflect actual weight loss and to not beat myself up when I weigh more today than I did yesterday.  That’s super important!  It’s easy to get discouraged when you so badly want to lose weight, but that half pound you went down yesterday is now up by 0.3 pounds.  It’s NOT ACTUAL WEIGHT GAIN!  How can it be when I only ate 1200 calories and exercised for an hour????  It doesn’t add up.

The key to weighing yourself daily is to look at the trend.  At the end of the week, do you weigh more or less than you did at this same time last week?

I think you have to decide for yourself what will work for you.  If you know that you can be easily discouraged by those fluctuating numbers, daily weights may not be good for you.  But if you can keep in mind that those daily fluctuations don’t really indicate fat loss, then maybe you’re like me, and weighing daily is good motivation to keep making those healthy choices.

What are your thoughts?  Weigh daily or weekly?

Author: Juanita

Thanks for dropping in! I'm Juanita. People tell me I don't look like a Juanita since I'm red headed and freckled with super pale skin, but what's in a name, right? I'm a 40-something, single (as in no kids, never been married) gal from Oklahoma. I'm a nurse and most importantly, a follower of Jesus. I love chocolate, am scared of heights, and petrified of snakes. After my fortieth birthday and coming to grips with the fact that I was obese, I discovered I'm a runner and a CrossFitter, and that there's a whole lot of life left to live. I just had to get past the fat, stare down the fear, and realize that 40 is not too old for new beginnings. So this is the story of my struggles and adventures in the quest to live a healthy life in mind, body, and soul.

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