Reach your weight loss goal without constantly stressing out over weighing yourself with these steps to help shift your thinking.
For many who have struggled with their weight, the scale is a lot like a playground bully. At least for me, the scale has always been lurking around the corner—laughing, pointing fingers, taunting (“how do you like that sixth taco NOW, big boy?”). Even when it turns out to be sweet and tell us something we like to hear (“down four pounds since last time!”), there’s always the anticipation and angst of that the scale is amped up to punch us right in the face.
And that’s why I’ve had enough.
Enough of the letting one number dictate my day. Enough of letting the two seconds it takes to step on the scale define who I am. Enough of letting a three-digit figure choke me with self-doubt and frustration.
As I wrote the book DOWN SIZE about the science and soul of weight loss and dieting, I discovered a few things along the way—some of which revolves around data-driven strategies from experts and some of which was culled from the success stories of others as well as my own personal journey (I reached a high of 279 and was asked by a childhood doc if I “got embarrassed on the beach because of my femininely shaped hips”).
One of the things I learned was that in order for diets to truly work, we have to be able to customize and control our eating and exercise plans to fit our own genetics, lifestyles, preferences, and taste buds. Another? We should stop wrapping so much of our identity into what the scale tells us. In fact, I now advocate that for people who are in the middle of a weight-loss and health-gain journey, they cut back on the scale with the same kind of commitment they have to cut back on late-night cheese snacks. Here’s my approach:
Step 1: Take a Baseline
I’m not against data. What I am against is thinking that weight is the sole definition of our health; that’s because so many others markers contribute to our complete health picture (blood pressure, cholesterol, how our clothes fit, the psychological victory of resisting the chili fries on Friday night). So our goal here is to strip ourselves of the emotion that’s tied to the mini-fluctuations that happen if we weigh ourselves every day. But for anyone embarking on a goal to lose some pounds, it is important to know your baseline number. Knowing where you start not only provides knowledge that you can use to empower yourself, but also might be the jumpstart you need to get going. (When I clocked in at 279, I thought I was maybe in the 240s, and my heart sank when I saw the new number, but it did provide fuel for me to make changes.) So take your initial weight, know it, own it, then make your move with all of the strategies that can help you lose weight.
Step 2: Ride the Initial Wave of Success
About two or three weeks after making those changes, go ahead and step on the scale. In all likelihood, your body will start showing some movement, as you morph from extra calories to healthy calories and as you move from plopping on the couch to getting up and going. Because it’s only two weeks, you won’t have any false expectations of having to lose a dozens of pounds, but any movement—from one pounds to even five or more—will provide that jolt of motivation to show you that you can do it.
Step 3: Shut It Down—and Wait
After that second weigh-in, I recommend ditching the scale. Why? Because for many of us who have yo-yo’d throughout our lives, the daily or weekly ups and downs are psychological torture. Too many things can influence our weight—hormonal levels, for instance—so there’s no reason to know that number every single stinking day. For me, if I felt like I lost five pounds since I last weighed in, but I only lost three (or worse, gained one!), that was all the data I needed to send me to the drive-thru oasis. Instead of weighing yourself regularly, just keep on with healthy behaviors. And when you feel as if you’ve made some really progress (as in you need new clothes or people are saying “wow” to you), go ahead and step on—and let that new number add to your motivation and keep you going.
Throughout your journey, it does help—in fact, it’s probably essential—to set a goal that’s not defined in pounds, like to run a 5K or a mud run, or to lower your blood pressure and get off medications, or to fit into your high school bathing suit (okay, maybe not that far back). It is important to have goals—to think about what you’re striving for—to keep you focused on the healthy processes that will get you there. For some people, the needle does work as a motivator. But I tend to think that if you focus on other numbers—numbers that you can control, like how many steps you take a day or how many ounces of water you drink—then the other number (the one that’s always lurking around the corner with that sassy smirk) will eventually get to where you want it to go.
Ted Spiker is the author of the DOWN SIZE: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success.