Fitness is an extremely powerful tool that can be used to bring out the very best in a person when approached in positive and constructive ways. On the flip side, though, fitness also has the ability to bring out the worst in people if approached negatively or obsessively…
Currently there is a pretty strong trend in the media leaning towards being “fit” and “strong.” (Aka: ‘strong is the new skinny’ campaigns.) The words are in quotations, because their meanings vary from person to person. What different media sources deem as fit and strong may not be what I think of when I hear the words. But regardless of those discrepancies, society as a whole tends to aim for a physical appearance that agrees with the appearances supported the media. Everyone wants that six pack. Everyone wants to be their skinniest, their strongest, their fittest, their best. Some people want it obsessively. It’s the infamous story of the strict dieter, over-cardio-er, forever-trying-to-be-skinnier person who never actually makes any real progress.
Focusing on our weight, on losing weight, and on what a scale tells us breeds obsessive thoughts and behavior that work to hinder our upward motion in regards to fitness. I have personally taken steps to minimize its influence on my fitness (like throwing away my scale completely) in order to create a more positive experience for myself. Here are the reasons why I think everyone should follow suit:
Scales have the (very large) potential to be inaccurate. If you’re able to, weigh yourself on two different scales one after the other. I bet they don’t give you the same result. (Isn’t it a bit silly when you think about it that we spend time obsessing over a number that might not even be CORRECT?) There are two different scale in the gym I use, and they both give me different numbers with a range of 5-7 pounds. The most accurate scale, and the one that I choose to trust, is the one at the doctor’s office… which gives me, yet again, a different number from the two scales in my gym. It’s possible I’ll never know how much I actually weigh!
You weigh less in the morning after just waking up than you do before you go to bed at night. Try it if you don’t believe me… weigh yourself right when you wake up, and then again right before you go to bed. The numbers will not be the same. There are a few things that influence daily weight fluctuations; (1) as mentioned earlier, the time of day that you weigh yourself, (2) whether you’re hungry (empty stomach) or not (full stomach), and (3) if you’ve consumed more or less than normal that day.
Water weight makes up a good amount of our total weight, and it’s the first to go when we start losing weight. However, because it’s nothing more than water, it’s not substantial weight loss. We aren’t actually losing any fat when we get rid of our water weight, but a number on a scale might trick us into believing so. (It may also trick us into thinking we’ve gained fat if our water weight is a bit higher when we weigh ourselves.)
Fat vs. Muscle
Muscle weighs more than fat. This isn’t some super secret fact. It’s actually pretty well known. Yet people still choose to ignore it when reading a scale. Obtaining more muscle drives the number on the scale up, and generally a higher number is perceived as being negative. However, this is a skewed interpretation, because it’s HEALTHY to have more muscle and therefore the number going up on the scale is a GOOD thing for those looking to build muscle.
“End All Be All"
The number on the scale tends to trump all other accomplishments. It becomes sort of the end all be all of your level of fitness for some people. But you have to keep in mind that everyone is somewhere different in their fitness journey, and scales measure us as if we’re all in the same place. When you step on a scale it has no way of knowing and commending you for your most recent accomplishments. It has no way to factor in all of the other measures of strength and fitness, so we should never give it the power to become an end all be all measurement.
Okay, so throwing out your scale won’t automatically equal mental freedom, but it’s a damn good step in the right direction. There will always be something to worry and obsess over (that little spot of fat here, the jiggles there, and all the other self-conscious areas), but throwing out a scale and focusing less on the useless number it provides gives us one LESS thing to worry about. Doesn’t that sound good?