You step on the scale. Nothing new, you do this every day. If you are wise, you weigh-in at the same time every day under the same conditions, for example, after using the bathroom and before taking a shower.
There are three possible results:
- You weigh the same as you did yesterday.
- You weigh less than you did yesterday.
- You weigh more than you did yesterday.
But more important than knowing the number on the scale is what you do with that knowledge. Do you take this for what it is: one data point among many? Or do you react emotionally every single time?
I think most of us have emotions tied up in our weight, especially if we have been overweight or perceive ourselves as needing to lose weight. For a long time, this was the case for me. I felt a lot of nervous energy before stepping on the scale. What would it say today? Would it be good- a lower number? Or would it be bad- a higher number? Would it show no change at all despite my efforts? Was this going to make my day or ruin it? If I weighed less, would I “treat myself” to a piece of cake? If I weighed more, would I “step it up” and eat less and exercise more? If I weighed the same, how frustrated would I feel?
On a day when I weighed less, I would often feel elated. I could conquer the world. My hard work was paying off! Anything was possible.
On a day when I weighed more, I would feel dejected. I would feel like the world was against me and no matter how I tried I would never make it to where I wanted to be. Sometimes, I would want to give up. I even cried a couple of times, or got into pointless arguments with my boyfriend about nothing.
A day when I weighed the same was neutral. Somewhere in between. Or if it had been some time stuck at the same number, sometimes it would feel just as bad as a gain.
Thankfully, somewhere along the way, I came to my senses. How stupid is this, to allow your entire sense of success or failure be tied to this one silly little number? One fickle little number. What does this number mean anyway?
Well, your weight is just that- the number of pounds you weigh (technically, even if you have the same mass, you could weigh a different amount in a different location because weight is dependent upon gravity, but let’s not get into that.) What makes up your weight? I think a lot of people distill it down to a very base, and completely incorrect, meaning. They think their weight indicates how fat they are. But let’s think about this.
The body is made up of a lot more than fat. In fact, unless you are extremely obese, your body is much more “other” than fat. First, you have your weights that do not change or change extremely slowly: bones and organs. Organs include your skin- which is the heaviest of all your organs.
Next, you have your muscle and fat- the two areas most of us are working on changing. I think we’re all pretty clear on what these are. Keep in mind, even if you are not athletic or muscular- you still have muscle. In fact, obese people tend to have quite a lot of muscle mass because the effort required to carry around a lot of extra weight builds it up. Also keep in mind that fat is not always a bad thing. Fat is very necessary to survival. I healthy range of fat for women is 21-33% and for men it is 8-19%.
Water is the most confounding factor in weight. The human body can be up to 75% water. The amount of water a body retains at any given time depends on many factors, some controllable like sodium intake, and some not controllable, like hormonal cycles. If you exercise, muscles tend to retain more water as they heal.
And then there are the things we forget to take into account:
Food. The food in your digestive system weighs something. So if you are constipated or haven’t had a bowel movement you will weigh more than if you are “regular” and have recently pooped. I apologize for being gross, I just want this to be clear. Having poop in your digestive system does not mean you are any fatter than you would be without it- but it does mean you weigh more.
Humidity. When there is a lot of moisture in the air, you will weigh more because it seeps into your hair and skin. Again, this can make you weigh more, but it doesn’t mean you are fatter.
Do you see what I’m getting at? The scale does not tell you how fat you are. And if you weigh yourself daily, you are bound to see fluctuations. Here is my weight for the past several months. I have been attempting to weigh in daily for the purpose of illustrating the phenomenon of weight fluctuations for you. But in general, I don’t think the peaks and valleys are worth paying much mind. It is only the overall trend that tells you anything valuable. But I do want to show it to you so you know: this is totally normal. Do not panic. Don’t tie your emotional well-being to what the scale says on any particular day. Get off the rollercoaster. It’s not fun anyway.