The Weight Trap

Do you have an unhealthy relationship with the scale? Do you obsess over the numbers day-in and day-out? Do you give yourself a hard time when you’re busting your tail and the number isn’t budging?

Our obsession with manipulating the numbers on this little hunk of plastic comes with consequences. Not only does it misrepresent actual progress, but it also messes with our mindset. 

Fixating on how the scale went up 0.4 pounds today isn’t going to do you any good! Small fluctuations are truly irrelevant to your overall progress, and weight isn’t the only metric that measures your health. There are other ways to track your progress, and many are way more meaningful than your weight.

Here’s how to break up with your scale and rewire your brain to stop caring about that number. We live in a “diet” culture. Quick quiz: how many diets can you name off the top of your head right now? I’m guessing at least 5.

We have Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, Keto, Zone, Whole30, The Daniel Diet, Weight Watchers, and the list goes on. We’ve all been trained a bit by advertising to be hyper-focused on weight loss.

I hate to be a downer, but do you want to know the real truth about our beloved diet culture? About 95% of people who lose weight by dieting gain it back in 1-5 years (Psychology Today).

Many of us alter our fitness goals to comply with what we think we should weigh. If you have a number in mind—a weight you’ve set as your personal “weight loss goal”—have you stopped to think about why? Where did that number come from? Why is that number so important?

The truth is that the number on the scale can be artificial—it doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’ve found yourself obsessed with that hunk of plastic in the bathroom, you’re in what we call “the weight trap.” It’s time to break free!

How The Scale Wrecks Your Mindset

We often start with good intentions. The goal to slim down and get back to our high school body can be a noble one, so we focus on weight loss as our ultimate measure of success.

“If I can only get back down to 150 pounds!” we say. As time goes on, we start obsessing over only losing a pound in a week, or even worse—gasp!—gaining a pound.

Now, our minds are completely fixated on how we can manipulate the scale. Before we know it, we’re using wrestling weigh-in hacks to drop a pound and get some satisfaction.

Peter Weintraub, Permanent Weight Loss Specialist at Weight Loss by Pete, explains, “Weighing yourself daily literally makes you a SLAVE to the scale. I know this because that’s what I used to do during my two-year plateau. Imagine weighing in every day for 730 straight days, and not getting below a certain weight range.” It doesn’t take much to realize that the scale can completely wreck your mindset.

Why Chasing Scale
Goals Is A Losing Battle

Scale goals—or, ahem, #scalegoals—are a losing battle. While diet and exercise are the foundation of fitness, there’s so much more at play here that affects our weight.

First up is sleep. When you don’t get a great night’s sleep, your body is more likely to store fat and take in more calories. And when you’re tired? You’re more prone to reach for extra food or caffeine to keep you going.

Hormones also have a massive effect on the scale. Ladies, you might notice your weight going a bit bonkers during the time of the month, and all of us can suffer from insulin resistance when our hormones are out of whack.

Stress also contributes to the scale’s fluctuations. Cortisol, our stress hormone, increases when we’re stressed out, and that can decrease insulin sensitivity. The end result? You’re hungry more often, and your body can even start to store excess weight around the midsection.

Ever heard of water weight? It’s a real thing, and can also cause the scale to go up and down artificially. Your body likes to retain water for a ton of different reasons, including:

When you eat a lot of salty foods

When you’re menstruating 

During pregnancy

When you’re stressed

If you take birth control (lookin’ at you, hormones!)

When you travel

If you take certain medications

If you have poor circulation (typically comes with age)

Weight is affected by all sorts of things, including salt intake, stress, and even the time of the month. That’s why obsessing over the scale isn’t always the way to measure your fitness success.

How To Rewire Your Brain

Our challenge to you is to completely ignore the scale for a month. Yes, a month. How will I keep track of my progress, you say? Here are 5 meaningful ways to monitor your health and fitness goals that have nothing to do with your weight.

1. Track your physical accomplishments like seeing your energy or strength levels increasing.

2. Notice how your clothes are fitting. Are they looser? Did you have to go down a size?

3. Pay attention to how you feel emotionally and mentally. Exercise is the body’s natural anti-depressant.

4. Take progress photos every 2-4 weeks to see how you’re getting smaller.

5. Record body measurements with a tape measure (waist, hips, legs).

Never Let A Number Define You

While there is a time and place for a scale, we’ve established that there are some serious problems with hailing it as your ultimate measure of fitness success.

There’s always more to the story, especially when it comes to your scale. Did you eat a really salty meal last night? Is it a particularly stressful week at work? When was your last bowel movement? I mean, seriously, the scale isn’t everything.

Focus on non-scale victories to track your success, including progress photos, body measurements, how you feel, physical accomplishments, and how your clothes are fitting.

Finally, think about your long-term goals. Many report that weighing in once a week tells a better picture of their weight over time than worrying about the small day-to-day fluctuations. There’s no use in obsessing over that pound you gained today or the half-pound you lost yesterday.

At the end of the day, never let a number define you. Stay consistent and committed to your fitness journey, and don’t let that scale derail you!