Monday 11 December 2017

Don't be a slave to the scales when trying to get fit

Measuring your fitness progress by the weighing scales alone is a flawed exercise

Woman on scales
Woman on scales

When we embark on a new nutrition plan or diet, we usually rely on the weighing scales to tell us if we are making progress or not. When the figure is up, our mood is up, when it is down we are down.

If the number on the scales decreases, we congratulate ourselves and our ensuing thoughts might go something like this:

• "I'm so happy because I lost 3lb!"

• "I feel so good about myself now because I lost 3lb!"

• "This is going to be a great day because I lost 3lb!"

• "Wow, this diet really works because I lost 3lbs!"

On the contrary, if the number of the scales goes up or stays the same, we berate ourselves and our ensuing thoughts might go something more along the lines of:

• "I'm so sad because I gained 3lb!"

• "I feel so bad about myself now because I gained 3lb!"

• "This is going to be a terrible day because I gained 3lb!"

• "Ugh, this diet doesn't work at all because I gained 3lb!"

But here's the thing: the reading on the weighing scales can fluctuate wildly over a 24 to 48-hour period. By as much as 5lb. In which case, it is not a reliable indication of our progress or a true reflection of our fat-loss efforts.


The scales are useless if used every day as a way to determine if you are making progress or not. For example, two large glasses of wine on a Friday night could potentially show up as a 3lb drop in weight on the scales on Saturday morning.

The drop in weight is all water weight and none of it is fat. How do I know this? Because to theoretically burn off 3lbs of fat overnight, you would need to use roughly an extra 10,000 calories in one day, and that's not even counting the calories you eat from food.

Let's say you use 2,000 calories going about your regular day: getting up in the morning, travelling to work, sitting at your office desk, brisk lunchtime walk, doing the shopping, pottering around the house doing the hoovering and making dinner, and sleeping.

Outside of this daily activity, this still leaves a further 8,000 calories before you could possibly burn off 3lb of fat. Let's say we decide to run to burn off these calories. On average, it takes about 100 calories to jog one mile. So if you do the maths, that's 80 miles in one day to burn off 8,000 calories.

That's the equivalent of three back-to-back marathons. Sound extreme? Well, that's because it is. When put into context like this, we can see that there is no possible way that our body fat levels can possibly fluctuate this much in the space of 24 hours, or even 48 or 72 hours for that matter.

It is simply dehydration from the wine. After all, that is partially what causes a hangover.

The moral of the story is that the scale has no business dictating your mood, your self-worth, your fat-loss efforts, or the effectiveness of your diet.

This goes for either direction on the scales. Don't buy into a false economy when the scale weight drops, in the same way you shouldn't berate yourself if it goes up.

If your thoughts are anything other than 'Meh' when you step off the weighing scales, then you might want to consider taking its battery out until you are able to see it just as a tool, and no more.


Progress with our nutrition does not always have to be reflected on the weighing scales. Progress is progress is progress.

The following are ALL signs that you are making progress with your nutrition:

• You feel better in your clothes

• You look better in the mirror

• Having more energy during the day

• Less bloating in the tummy and face

• Clearer and less dry skin

• Better quality sleep

• Enjoying food guilt-free

• Letting go of fear of certain food (carbs, for example)

• Experiencing less sugar cravings

• You have quit the starve/binge/starve cycle

• You no longer eat your emotions

• You feel stronger in the gym

• Higher self-esteem and improved body image

• You are more confident.

The weighing scales is a tool, and no more. Until you can see it as just that, then ditch it. Literally throw away your scales.

Free yourself from the daily grind of the scales. You'll feel liberated and happier as a result.

Karen is a nutrition coach and personal trainer and runs monthly online group nutrition coaching programmes and hosts nutrition seminars around the country. See www.thenutcoach.com

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