Monday, February 14

To Weigh or Not to Weigh, That is the Question

Hamlet never contemplated this dilemma, what with obesity being a modern epidemic. Plus, his weight was the least of his worries. He was too busy plotting Claudius's murder to bother with counting calories or making sure he got in his daily hour of jousting.

My life is much simpler than a Shakespearean tragedy, so whether or not to weigh myself is exactly the type of question that occupies my mind.

In a very unscientific poll, I asked several girlfriends what they thought about the scale. Did they weigh themselves or not? What I discovered is that people are passionate about this issue and they fall decidedly into one of two camps—either they love the scale or they hate it. There is no gray area. It's like dog people versus cat people, Republicans versus Democrats, creationists versus evolutionists. 

I’m a scale-lover. I find comfort in knowing exactly what my weight is. The daily reminder not only keeps me motivated to stay on track, but it also allows me to make immediate adjustments if I notice the number starting to creep up.

There are downsides of course. For one, my weight is never steady. It fluctuates daily which can be frustrating. Since the human body is two-thirds water this is a natural occurrence. Too much salt in my diet, “that time of the month” and certain medications can make me retain water, which will increase my weight for a day or so. To take this into account and make sure I don’t obsess about each ounce, I allow myself a 4-pound fluctuation range. As long as my weight bounces around within a four-pound range, I don’t worry about it. But if I gain five pounds and it doesn’t drop within a day or so, I know it’s a sign that I need to take a look at my lifestyle. Chances are I’ve allowed a bad snack habit to infiltrate my life or I’ve slacked off on my exercise routine and it’s time to take action before things get out of control.

These daily fluctuations contribute to the second biggest downside to a daily weigh-in. Weight loss does not happen in a straight line. There are ups as well as downs and that can be very de-motivating.
Which is why most of my friends are scale-haters.

When I asked if they weighed themselves they gave me the universal scale-hater response—lurching backward and wincing they shrieked, "Oh my God no! I NEVER weigh myself." 

You'd think I just asked them if they'd ever killed someone.

“Well then, how do you manage your weight?” I asked.

“I can tell by how my clothes fit and how I feel,” was the average scale-hater response.

And that’s perfectly valid. Weight is not the perfect measure of health.

While I respect my friends' opinion and feel their position is reasonable, I will say that research has shown that people who weigh themselves frequently lose more weight and keep it off versus people who don't weight themselves regularly. 

The point of all this is that measurement is an important part of any weight loss program, (it's the "M" in the SMART goal methodology) but you have to find something that's comfortable for you. If you're a scale-hater, use your clothing as a guide or a tape measure to keep track of inches lost.

If you do choose to weigh yourself follow these tips:

      Weigh yourself in the morning before you eat breakfast
      Remember that daily fluctuations are normal
      If you’re female recognize that your weight will fluctuate monthly with your menstrual cycle
      Plateaus are common. Keep up your exercise and healthy eating plans and if you can’t break through the plateau seek advice from your physician to help diagnosis the problem.

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