It may seem hard to believe that the bathroom scale can be your enemy in low-fat living but if you’re accustomed to a morning weigh-in that leaves you feeling guilty, angry, discouraged or demoralized, then it’s worse than your enemy – it’s a skilled saboteur that stands ready to undercut your fat-fighting work.
Think about what happens when you step on that accusatory scale. Most of the time, it just delivers the bad news – that you haven’t lost weight or, worse, you’ve gained weight. Sure, the numbers are accurate, but the tale they tell is not the whole story. Those numbers on your scale typically tell half-truths. Your scale may tell you that you’ve gained ten pounds, when in truth you may have lost 5 pounds of muscle and gained 15 pounds of fat. If that’s happened, the scales give you the illusion that you’re only 10 pounds overweight, when in fact you need to shake off 15 pounds of fat.
On the other hand, the news might be better than the scale says. If you’ve been on a low fat program, for instance, your scale may say you’ve lost only 7 pounds after three months. But in fact you may have gained 5 pounds of muscle and lost 12 pounds of fat, giving you a net improvement in body composition that’s much more impressive than the scale is telling you. Or the scale may show you gaining weight when that weight is all muscle, which actually weighs more than fat. Not only are the scales indifferent to the balance between muscle and fat, they cannot distinguish between water weight and fat weight, either. An added pound or two may be just water and may vanish in, a day or so.
Among the reported 70 percent of all dieters who regularly weigh themselves, most forget that their body weight reflects an intricate combination of water, muscle, fat, bone and related tissues. The balance among those factors can vary from hour to hour, day to day, even when there’s no fat loss occurring. What this means, then, is that there’s no reason to weigh yourself every day, or even every week. When you’re on the track with low fat living, in fact, you may actually gain weight (as measured by the scale) while losing fat, changing body pro- portions, getting healthier and increasing your energy.
If you’re a stickler for mathematical progress checks, there’s still some measuring you can do if you want to, and it’s far more useful than referring to the scale. Measure your waist, hips, thighs and arms; they’ll all start to change as you lose excess fat. Then check these measurements every month or two for a simple indication of your progress. The fit of your clothing is another valid sign of improvement. You may want to try on a tight pair of jeans now, then put them away for future comparison.
In a nutshell, just keep the bathroom scale out of sight and out of reach. You have enough stress in your daily life without a morning dose of guilt, doubt and Monday-morning quarterbacking.
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