Why the Scale May Be Your Nemesis

Derrick Harge | Certified Peer Fitness Trainer | American Council on Exercise

The scale has derailed more “good” fitness/nutrition plans than just about anything else I can think of. We’ve become obsessed with what the “number” says. The anxiety while waiting on that number to pop up on your digital scale will cause your blood pressure to go up into the stratosphere. The TV shows go straight to commercial just before the weight shows on the scale and we’re all tensed and agitated waiting for those two minutes to pass. We’ve become obsessed with just losing weight. Not caring if it’s body fat, muscle, water or a combination of the three. We just want to lose weight. But the fact is: we gain and lose weight all throughout the day. We lose weight just by breathing. We gain weight by just sitting. I’ve seen people go into a meltdown because they’ve gained half a pound or gloat mightily after they’ve lost two pounds (water from sweating) after an intense cardio session. Never mind the fact they used a different scale than before or they don’t have on the same clothes as before or it’s a different time of day as before or you’re taking medications that cause significant weight gain or for females, different times of the month that cause huge weight fluctuation. It’s much more important to get on and stay on a good nutrition and fitness plan than to obsess about the numbers. By adhering to a good fitness and nutrition plan, those “numbers” will take care of themselves. We’re trying to speed up our metabolism. Reducing body fat and gaining lean muscle should be your goal whether you’re trying to lose weight or trying to gain weight.

We know there are risk factors for being overweight (heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, breathing issues, high cholesterol), but did you know there are also risk factors for being under-weight (nutrient deficiencies, impaired immunity system, female reproductive issues, osteoporosis, anemia).

You want a great scale to measure body size and composition? How about using the best scale in the world. Your clothes! Your clothes will tell you everything you need to know about how your fitness and nutrition milestones are coming. Instead of the scale, how about measuring yourself monthly. Start with your neck and work your way down to your ankles, measuring everything else in between. Your neck, shoulders, chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves, ankles, upper arms and lower arms. Take a full length photo in bra and panties or a one piece bathing suit (men, undershorts or swimming trunks). Photograph yourself from the front, both sides and rear. Put it somewhere where it’s a constant reminder of what your ultimate milestones are (plus, it’ll give you a great before/after photo).

If you MUST weigh yourself on a regular basis, follow these basic tips:

  • Weigh yourself no more than once a week
  • Try to weigh yourself on the same scale (make sure it’s calibrated)
  • Try to weigh yourself at the same time of day (if possible, in the morning before breakfast)
  • Wear as little clothes as possible (swimming suit, underwear, etc.)
  • Remove all unnecessary items (shoes, jewelry, wallets, etc.)
  • Weigh yourself on a hard, flat surface
  • Weigh yourself before and after your workout (to see how much fluid you’ve lost – these have to be replenished)

I’m not saying NEVER get back on a scale again. Just understand the scale is like any other tool we use in measuring and assessing our fitness/nutrition milestones. Use it sparingly and see how it fits with the rest of your fitness/nutrition milestones. Remember this: if you’re happy with how you look and feel, STAY OFF THE SCALES!


Derrick Harge is a Certified Peer Fitness Trainer and a retired Professional Firefighter/Paramedic. He can be reached at dharge1234@gmail.com

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *