We’ve all been there before….you’re eating right, working out, decreasing alcohol, and increasing water intake. You roll out of bed, go to the bathroom, strip naked, and hop on the scale — only to be told that you haven’t lost a single ounce, or even worse, gained weight.
The scale is rude. But that doesn’t mean that you should ignore it altogether. It just means that you need to reframe the relationship you have with it and remove the power it holds over you.
So, how does one do that exactly?
Think outside the scale
Most people join Stronger U and other nutrition programs to lose weight. We get that. But focusing on improving your relationship with food has many benefits that have absolutely nothing to do with the scale. If you have a frustrating weigh-in, it’s probably a good time to take inventory of the broader benefits that you’re experiencing outside of a single data point (your weight).
Is your sleep improving? Do you have more energy to play with your kids? Are your clothes fitting better? Do you have more control and less guilt around food? Are your pictures different? Are you a healthier human?
We have a saying at Stronger U that we’re not selling smaller waists; we’re selling better lives. And living a better life rarely has anything to do with a specific number on the scale.
Find happiness in your habits.
Focusing on the scale and the scale alone as a marker of success will leave you disappointed even if you see the scale go down. At some point, your weight will fluctuate.
You can’t control what the scale does on a daily basis, but you can control your habits.
To manage this, we recommend implementing a habit tracking framework. Define what success looks like for you and identify the habits needed to get there. Then, use a habit tracker like this one (blank version available for download here) to visualize your short-term progress towards a long-term goal.
It’s okay to have goals centered around a specific weight. It’s not okay to have unrealistic expectations for getting there. We live in a society that has been trained to receive instant gratification at every turn. Weight loss can’t show up via 2-day delivery, there aren’t shortcuts, and no one else can do the work for you.
It’s important to remember that those extra pounds didn’t show up overnight. So don’t expect to lose them overnight either.
Of course, fad diets are waiting in the wings, ready to sell you a quick and easy fix. But the science of weight loss is simple — if you stay in a sustained calorie deficit, you will lose weight. How much weight you lose will be dependent on how sustainable your deficit is. It’s important to know a deficit isn’t forever, though.
Experts recommend aiming for a gradual reduction of about 1-2 pounds per week for sustainable loss. So let’s say you’re losing 1-2 pounds per week, which averages approximately 2-4 ounces per day. At that rate, daily weigh-ins can be quite uneventful (and discouraging), even if the scale is moving in the right direction.
But if you stay the course and commit to a slow and steady approach, you could lose 4-8 pounds per month, 12-24 pounds over three months, or 24-48 pounds over six months. If you have less weight to lose, those numbers might be lower. And if you have quite a bit of weight to lose, those numbers can be even higher.
Those numbers sound great and all, and they really are, but weight loss is rarely that simple and linear. But it all adds up in the end (think compound interest!)— and that’s why long-term, sustainable consistency is so important.
Here’s a typical weight loss graph we see from Stronger U members.
Understand that the scale is a liar
Okay, so the scale isn’t technically lying. But it does not always paint a complete picture of what’s going on with your body. There are multiple reasons why the scale can jump all over the place, or not move at all, even when you’re doing all the right things. Common culprits here can be water retention and/or body composition change.
We retain water for a variety of reasons. Could it be from last night’s soy sauce doused sushi date? Sure. What about Aunt Flo’s impending arrival? Oh, definitely. Maybe it was that intense 45 minute tabata Peloton ride you did with Robin on Monday? Totally possible.
And while there are a number of causes of water retention, few of them (ahem, salt) are avoidable. So don’t get too wrapped up in what’s causing the water retention/bloating and focus more on things you can control like your nutrition, activity, and consistency.
Ever wonder why someone you know weighs more or less than you but looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than your body? Or, how if someone weighs the same weight but looks very different. It’s not just genetics that makes us look different. It’s our body composition. It’s how much lean tissue (muscle!) is on some of us and isn’t on others that can make a huge difference.
So if you’re putting in the work and the scale isn’t moving, it’s possible that you’re still losing body fat without a number on the scale to prove it.
Here are two Stronger U members who completely changed their body composition without losing more than a few pounds, if any.
Think about your body first
The thoughts and opinions you have about your body can be very impressionable based on the number you see on the scale. Removing the power from the scale and understanding what purpose it serves will benefit you in your weight loss journey and in life in general. Tying too much value to what you see on the scale can, in the short term, ruin your day. In the long term, it can ruin the relationship you have with yourself.
Because, at the end of the day, the scale is not a reflection of your self-worth.