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A Dance of Judgement and Self-doubt: A Game of Scales

Oct 31, 2016 03:38PM
by Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS
There it is, staring at you, calling your name, asking you to step on it—asking you to judge yourself, to question what your goals are, and what you’ll allow yourself to indulge in today. The bathroom scale can either be an accountability partner or your worst enemy. Even worse, it can cause serious OCD behavior, self judgement and self-doubt. Time and time again, it is important not to weigh yourself daily, and here is why.

The scale measures our entire weight and this includes fat, muscle, organs, bones, water, etc. Since the scale measures everything we are made of, our weight can fluctuate significantly throughout the day. Body weight can change anywhere from 1 pound up to an amazingly 12 pounds in just 24 hours. For instance, after a sweat-producing workout, there will be weight loss. However, later in the same day, closer to the evening, a weight gain could be seen.

One of the main reasons for weight fluctuation is water. Drinking a lot of water at once can cause weight to change. Problems with water retention can also alter our weight. Retaining water can be due to high salt intake or other health concerns, such as problems with the kidneys, hormonal changes or cardiovascular disease. Suffering from constipation or not eliminating daily can also cause excess water weight. In addition, not eliminating is the main cause for that annoying belly fat.

Finally, weight fluctuations can be due to a change in our muscle mass. While exercising, there is a tendency to gain muscle while burning fat. Often people get discouraged because the scale does not change even though they are going to the gym regularly. This is because muscle weighs more than fat. Knowing what encompasses the weight on the scale will help provide some insights as to why there is fluctuations in our weight.

There are other ways to check our health status besides the scale. The most accurate method is calculating your body fat percent. This is done by taking measurements and calculating out the projected body fat percent. Similarly, a bioimpedance scale which will measure body fat percent by sending a small electrical pulse through the body to calculate body fat. A healthy body fat percent for women is 18 to 25 percent and for men the number is lower, around 12 to 20 percent. The percent ratios are rough guidelines that allow you to take note and consult with your health care practitioner to determine what is an ideal goal for you.

Another way to determine weight progress is with your wardrobe. A nice pair of jeans can offer a lot of information about how your weight changes. For example, are your jeans snug? Do you need a belt? Can you close the top button with ease? These are some questions that we can ask ourselves instead of relying heavily on the bathroom scale. Your favorite pair of jeans could be the only honest scales you need. Think of your favorite pair of pants as that friend that can objectively, and without personal bias, give your subtle hints that tell you your weight is changing.

While the scale is not the best measurement of health status, it is useful for the long term picture. Having a baseline weight can hold you accountable as to whether you are a healthy weight or overweight. However, if you are trying to lose weight, only weigh yourself once a week. It is good to weigh yourself in the morning after a bowel movement, preferably unclothed. Just always keep in mind that the scale is only a part of the big picture; do not let it define you.

Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS practices integrative nutrition therapy at Rose Wellness Center in Oakton, VA, specializing in digestive health, chronic inflammation, energy optimization, autoimmune conditions, diabetes and weight problems. For more information, visit


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