Owning a scale can be a fraught endeavor. Having it right there every time you use the bathroom can make it easy to overuse and become “addicted,” but not owning one at all can lead to being oblivious about changes in your body until they are much farther along than you realized.
I’ve been on both sides of the table. It was during a period that I didn’t have a scale handy that I managed to gain 15 pounds. I shrugged off my ill-fitting clothes and lack of energy as having something to do with the new climate I had just moved to. But once I did get a scale, I found myself weighing in often and being much too affected by the number for my own good.
Right now, I feel like I’m at a good place: I have a scale, but I don’t use it very often maybe a couple of times a month, just so things don’t get out of hand like they did that one time. And I do feel like there’s a right way to use the scale both physically (i.e. having good posture) and mentally (i.e. keeping the number in perspective).
Read on to find out how to make sure you’re using your scale as a helpful tool and not giving it power it doesn’t deserve.
Secrets of the Scale 1 of 13
The scale doesn't have to cause anxiety.
Keep It In Perspective 2 of 13
A scale is simply a tool for measuring how much you weigh. It is not an indicator of how healthy you are, how much work you are doing, how well you are eating, or what a fun person you are to be around. Please don't weigh your self-worth on the bathroom scale!
Weigh Yourself Infrequently 3 of 13
Weighing yourself every day, or even every other day, can be discouraging and counter-productive. Rather than working for better health, your goals become tied to a number, and if that number doesn't change as quickly as you'd hoped, you can lose motivation and fall into old habits. Rather than making the scale a daily ritual, if you feel the need to check in with it, make it a once-a-week affair or even less often if you can.
Consider Other Measures of Health 4 of 13
If you are concerned about how fat you are, consider getting a body composition test. If you have noticed your clothes are getting too tight, let their fit be your guide. Or, if you are beginning to exercise, use your progress to motivate you: maybe at first you weren't able to run to the end of the block, but now you can make it all the way around the block without walking. That's real improvement that the scale can't measure.
Always Use The Same Scale 5 of 13
If you have one at home, stick with that and don't be tempted to check your weight every time you see a scale at the gym or at a friend's house. (The doctor's office is an exception.)
Dress Appropriately 6 of 13
Which is to say, don't dress at all. Weigh yourself naked, or in your underwear. Clothes have weight too, and if you are wearing them, they could vary your true body weight by a pound or two.
Stand Straight 7 of 13
Good posture ensures that your weight is evenly distributed and accurately measured.
Weigh Yourself At The Same Time 8 of 13
The best time to weigh yourself for an accurate reading is in the morning, before you've had anything to drink and after you've emptied your bladder. Fluids can account for a pound or two of variation, and eliminating as much as you can keeps that variability to a minimum.
Don’t Weigh Yourself After Exercise 9 of 13
You've likely sweated a lot and the reading could be as much as 2 pounds off just from water weight.
An exception is if you actually are measuring your sweat rate how much sweat you lose during a workout so you can be sure to properly hydrate. Then go ahead and find out how much fluid you've lost during your workout by weighing yourself before and after.
Put The Scale On A Hard Surface 10 of 13
Carpeting or other soft surfaces can absorb some of the weight and make your reading inaccurate.
Avoid The Scale While On Your Period 11 of 13
And it's not because you might be hormonal and apt to break down in tears over nothing (though you might do that, too). It's really because menstruating can cause water retention and an elevated weight for a few days.
Stay Off If You’re Feeling Vulnerable 12 of 13
If you're worried that knowing how much you weigh will send you into a funk, then don't find out how much you weigh right then. It's really not that important. And even if the number is "good news" and makes you happy, that may be a sign you're putting too much stock into it. Remember, it's just one measure of your body.
Stay Off If You’re Feeling Good 13 of 13
If you're feeling happy and healthy and satisfied with life at the moment, there's no need to step on the scale "just to check." Your happiness is all the measure you need at the moment!
all photos via istockphoto.com