One my most long-term friends sent me an e-mail recently that gave me a lot to think about in terms of the scale. I gave myself a week to consider it, and I've decided. I am only going to weigh every other week. I'm timing the weigh ins based on my hormonal cycle. . . this week I showed another gain, so I'm one week losing, one week gaining, one week losing, one week gaining. . .I find this hard to, um,stomach given my efforts. I think this plan will take some of the stress away and allow me to give some improved attention to those NSV--non scale victories--like working out with a trainer, jogging, swimming, lying in bed in the morning and feeling like my stomach is flatter, and having people tell me I'm looking good!
Here are my friend's--Ms TLC's--words. I think you'll find her pretty damn smart. . .
WHY ARE YOU WEIGHING YOURSELF?
Here are some POSSIBLE reasons.
You’ve set a particular weight goal for the year, and you’re trying to do the math to meet that goal. SILLY RABBIT! I frickin’ LOVE math, but even I don’t count on BODY WEIGHT/CALORIE/EXERCISE math! As your weight goes down, your caloric needs go down, so you’re always going to be chasing a prize that gives diminishing returns. 100 pounds in a year does indeed mean 8.33 pounds a month, on average, but some months will have to be over that average to counterbalance those months with fewer pounds lost. So, if weighing yourself motivates you to step it up, it’s worth doing. That’s not what I’m reading, though.
You don’t trust your body to let you know that your new habits are good for you. Don’t you think your clothes will get looser? Don’t you think the mirror will show less roundness? Don’t you think you’ll sleep better, move better, digest better, think better? I mean, you’re the one who told me about research that shows people who even THINK about losing weight show improvements in health measures. One weekly measurement to sum up the success of many, many daily choices you make for health seems self-defeating.
You think life is fair. So, everyone who studies 2 hours a night will make the same score on a test. Everyone who works 50 hours a week at the same job will earn the same salary. No. Just no. Some people have to work harder, and still won’t get the same results. Sure, it stinks, but there are lots and lots of things that come easily to you while other people struggle. Life’s not fair, but it’s worthwhile.
You’re ignoring measurement error. It could well be that cutting 3500 calories equates to losing a pound, but what happens if you weigh yourself, drink a gallon of NO CALORIE water, and then get on the scales again? I’m pretty sure you’d weigh more.
You think you can control OUTCOMES. I think of it more as a probability problem. If I move more and eat less, there’s a good likelihood that my body will be smaller. And this becomes even more likely the more often I repeat the behavior. It seems we have more control over the behaviors than the results, but the results will come. Do you give up saving money for a vacation because your furnace goes out? No, you take the hit, pay to fix the furnace, and maybe delay your vacation a bit.
You buy into other people’s fixation on weight as a measurement of success or health or worthiness or dedication. Your IQ, your salary, your age, your blood pressure—none of these numbers define you. Do they? Does your weight? Are there not other measures of the success of your plan?
WHAT IF YOU STAYED OFF THE SCALE FOR A MONTH? OR SIX MONTHS?
What would that change? If you didn’t check your bank balance for six months, would you go on some sort of spending spree? Some people might—they need the feedback to keep their shopping (or eating, for the weighers) in check. I bet you don’t need that financial feedback, and I doubt if you need the weight feedback.
If you’re not able to use the scale’s feedback to motivate yourself, maybe you need another tool. You could make a big wall calendar and put stars on it for your successes: red star = 2 minutes on elliptical; blue star = 5 minutes swimming; green star = packed lunch, etc. You could get a Flip video (I have one I carry daily) to take quick videos of your meals to record them later, or to tape a motivational talk to yourself to play back just before eating, etc etc. (I haven’t done these things yet, but I might.)
Lately, I keep coming back this image to when I’m discouraged about my progress, whether with eating, exercise, social interaction, intellectual pursuits, or whatever:
Dawn is coming earlier, and dusk is coming later. It’s barely perceptible, because we only get two or three minutes more of light each day, but by June we’ll have after a week, you can notice that it’s not dark when you leave work. Little changes add up to real differences. Noticing the little changes, commenting on them, and building them into your life can make things dramatically different.
I’ve stopped waking up in the morning and groaning because it’s still dark, or being pissed because I leave work in the dark. It won’t always be dark. The light will come. It’s coming now, but you have to look for it.