In my role as an eating disorders specialist I come across a lot of people who weigh themselves daily or even several times a day. So this post is written from an eating disorders perspective. Now whilst regular weighing can seem like a sensible idea to help keep you on track here are my thoughts on why you want to step away from the scale at times.
1. You are not just measuring one change in your body. When you weigh yourself it is not just your body fat that you are looking at but also your muscle, bones, organs, body fluids, glycogen, cells, tissues and any water products that are being measured. Plus we know that muscle weighs more than fat. If you have been working out more and building muscle then this can cause your weight to increase. So you can increasing your stores of glycogen from eating more carbohydrate. Or conversely using up your glycogen stores through exercise or not eating carbs will look like weight loss.
2. Your weight fluctuates over the day and week. Whilst you may think this is to do with body fat, it isn’t! This is usually down to fluid, you will weigh less at the start of the day, before breakfast, after doing to the toilet. During the day you eat and drink which means you take in food and fluid, which increases your weight. By the end of the day you will weigh more than at the start but this is not necessarily true weight. Responding to daily changes in your weight will make you become fixated on your eating and weight.
3. Your hormones and your monthly cycle (for women) will affect your weight. You know how you often feel bloated and heavier around your period. Well that’s because you retain fluid and you do weigh a bit more. It’s perfectly normal and not something to worry about. Your weight will have a natural fluctuating cycle that happens over a month.
4. Constipation can have an impact on your weight too. So if you haven’t been for a few days then remember the waste in your body will weigh something.
So you can see that weight is a complex issue. Within my clinical practise in eating disorders I don’t take a one off weight in isolation but always look for the trend. If you want to weigh yourself regularly then go for no more than weekly. Track your weights and look at the trend, you need at least 3 weights to do this. Do not freak out about a one off change in your weight but wait and see what the next reading does as it may not be a true reading. Look at the bigger picture – are you constipated, what have you been eating, are you dehydrated, where are you in your cycle? Weight needs interpretating with filters and googles.
My last and biggest tip: Don’t use weight alone as your judge and guide. How you feel, your body shape, how your clothes fit and how happy can be better ways to focus on you. Step away from the scales once in a while.