The One Way to Stop Ruining Your Diet
When you’re trying to lose weight, do you spend time unhappily pushing the scale around the bathroom floor until you get a satisfactory reading? Do you weigh yourself once a day? Twice a day? Every day? Do you feel good about yourself -- or bad -- for the rest of the day based on the number you saw?
If so, you’re on your way to becoming what I call “scale dependent”. According to the journal Obesity Research, a whopping 46 percent of American women and 33 percent of American men are dieting at any time. And many of them jump on the scale at every opportunity.
But if you’re trying to lose weight, this is actually one of the worst things you can do. Obsessive scale hopping can sabotage your diet when you’re confronted with natural weight fluctuations. You can get so involved with the “how many pounds have I lost” game that you forget that the scale is only a tool to help you gauge your progress. It’s not the judge and jury that decides whether you’re a good, intelligent or even attractive. The worst part: Feeling bad about the number can make you give up your efforts completely.
The good news: You can break your bad scale habits and do better on your diet as a result. Here’s how:
Step 1: Recognize the reasons for ups and downs.
Everybody’s weight fluctuates, not only day by day, but even hour by hour. Here are just a few of the causes:
· Too much sodium: The amazing Tom Yum Gung you had at your favorite Thai restaurant last night can show up the next morning as a 2-pound gain because all the sodium it contained made you temporarily retain water -- not because you’ve actually gained two pounds.
· Too much stress: An argument with your boyfriend, spouse or mother-in-law (or any other pesky people in your life) can also lead to weight gain because of the stress it creates.
· Too little sleep: Studies show that too little sleep, especially over several nights, might give you a temporary reading on the scale that could send you right off to the supermarket for a consolation box of chocolate covered doughnuts.
· And don’t forget: Hormonal changes, constipation and medications you’re taking can also contribute to short-term gains that disappear when the causes do.
Step 2: Use your scale correctly.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping track of your progress. But try weighing yourself just once a week -- same time, same place, no shoes. (If you can do it in the buff, even better.) If you’re not getting the results you want (and you’re being totally honest with yourself about any extras you’ve consumed during the week), it’s time to reassess your program.
Step 3: Remember the real rewards.
Losing weight is hard work, and we all want to hop on the scale and get our reward. So sometimes we lose sight of the real prize -- and it’s not a particular number. It’s being healthier, no longer envying thin people, finally loving our thighs and saying good-bye to a closet full of black loose-fitting everything.
Along the way, on my own weight loss journey, I decided to try to live a
“scale-free life”. I shoved the scale into the back of a very messy closet, hoping it would be too hard to go through mops, brooms and a toilet plunger to get my daily fix. It didn’t work.
OK, it was time for plan B: I gave the scale to Good Will.
It was a hard thing to do, but I was proud that I broke the habit. Now when I want to check how much I weigh, I do it once a week at the gym. I’ve come to think of the scale not as a friend or foe, but as a tool that’s simply giving me one small piece of information. And as it turns out, it’s very good for my weight and for me.