Do you ever feel this conflict…?
On one hand, you’re tempted to step onto the scale and see whether your current habits are causing you to lose weight.
On the other hand, you fear stepping onto the scale will just cause you to experience distress, engage in overly self-critical thoughts, and perhaps even feel tempted to scrap ALL your habits and go full-force into restrictive diet mode.
It’s normal to want feedback… some kind of measurement that says “Hey, champ! What you’re doing is working. Keep it up!”
You’re also not alone if getting on the scale messes with your head a bit.
The fact is that it can be helpful to weigh yourself (and/or measure body changes in other ways), it takes A LOT of weigh-ins to get any helpful information.
Getting on the scale here and there is more likely to just feed into self-judgment than give you any insights that help you reach your goals.
It’s important to have a systematic approach to weighing yourself if you’re going to do, but that’s a topic for another day.
The fact is without a strong enough foundation of effective non-restrictive weight control habits, weighing yourself at all may be premature.
Weigh-ins are just a form of data, but data is only helpful if it tells you how to act.
Let’s say you have 10 main areas you need to create new skills and habits, and you’ve only worked on 2 of those areas so far.
If you didn’t lose weight after beginning those 2 habits, does that really change anything?
You’d still have 8 other things you need to work on.
Nevermind the facts that time has likely not passed enough and that those 2 habits likely have a synergistic effect (1+1+1 = 5) with the other ones you’ve yet to develop.
For women, it typically takes weeks of consistent weigh-ins to establish any real trends with your weight.
But if you’re not weighing yourself, how can you tell whether you need to change course?
Because of the reasons we already talked about, even when you are weighing yourself, knowing your weight alone can’t inform you of whether you need to change your habits… nor how to do it.
Observing weight trends is often the beginning of the troubleshooting process.
If you’re not losing (or are gaining), it’s not as simple as “I’m not losing weight, therefore I must do this one thing”.
It’s much more important to pay attention to what I call “behavioral benchmarks” and how you feel.
Unlike weight, these insights CAN guide you towards making better choices.
Let’s say you have 50 lbs you need to lose and you binge 5 times per week.
It’s safe to say getting binging down to 0-1 times per week would make a big impact towards losing that weight, right?
It’s hard to imagine a continuing to binging on the same amount of ice cream 5 times per week and somehow losing 50 lbs.
In this example, how often and how intense you binge are behavioral benchmarks.
Behavioral benchmarks are clues in your daily/weekly habits that inform you whether the food/lifestyle skills you’re practicing are moving you in the right direction.
Some other examples of behavioral benchmarks: average vegetable servings per day, # of hours of sleep per night, # of steps per day, etc.
What benchmarks you pay attention to depend on what habits are standing in the way of your goals.
How You Feel:
To achieve weight loss you can maintain without a lifetime of restrictive behaviors, there are two ways you need to pay attention to how you feel.
The first is your overall sense of well-being.
Did you make a habit change and now you feel run down and tired all the time?
If so, that’s a bad sign.
Or did you make a change and now experience less fatigue, better digestion, clearer thinking, etc?
In order to maintain habits that keep the weight off, those habits must provide you with benefits BEYOND just weight loss.
If you feel like crap after a long day during a stressful period of your life, “but I want to maintain my weight!” simply won’t be a strong enough motivating factor to make yourself engage in habits that don’t make you feel good.
The other way to pay attention to how you feel is by monitoring your hunger and fullness.
In my coaching programs, I help people use hunger and fullness cues to refine their habits and troubleshoot weight loss plateaus.
If you’re going into each meal without ANY hunger, weight loss is unlikely. Your body wouldn’t need to use stored body fat for energy.
But weight loss is unlikely if you’re experiencing hours of hunger and try to “deal with it” (aka deny it).
Excessive hunger means you’re more likely to binge eat, munch mindlessly, or have other reactions to your diet-y behavior.
If you do manage to summon enough willpower to lose weight while forcing yourself to endure hours of hunger per day, it’s virtually guaranteed the weight will come flying back in the not-too-distant future.
And with that rebound weight gain, probably about 5-15 extra lbs too.
If you step on the scale, be clear on what benefit you’re looking for…
It can’t show you your future.
It definitely can’t confirm or deny your worth as a person.
It can only show you trends (if you weigh yourself in a systematic way).
But it can’t even show you with do with any trends you observe.
You might need to step on the scale at some point, but it’s far more important to pay attention to a) your behavioral benchmarks and b) how you feel.
If your habits aren’t giving you wins in those areas, then they can’t give you wins with your weight, either. At least if you care about actually keeping it off.
If you want help creating the most important eating and lifestyle habits to lose weight and keep it off, check out the Habit Project™.
P.S. In the Habit Project, you not only get support with creating the most important habits for lasting weight loss, you also get private message access to me personally.
That means if you step on the scale and don’t know how to make sense of the number you’re seeing or what changes you need to make, I can point you in the right direction.