This second time around, I rarely pay attention to the scale.
I check it every couple of weeks so that I can update my calorie counter, making sure that I recalculate the max number of calories I eat regularly enough to avoid any plateaus, but besides that? I’m not checking for the scale.
Why, you ask?
Because there are far too many reasons why the scale won’t move even though you’re actively progressing. Worse, there are far too many unhealthy reasons why the scale will move an obscene amount, which has the unfortunate side effect of making you feel like those awe-inspiring scale drops should be the norm and not the exception… resulting in frequent disappointment.
Someone asked me on Instagram, if it was normal for the scale to swing wildly back and forth by about five pounds, and the answer is yes. One day, I’d eaten a meal with a lot of olives and feta cheese—both far saltier than I was detecting—and wound up releasing a lot of water weight I was hanging on to, resulting in a 7lb drop on the scale.
The average person might look at that and think that’s great, except weeeeeee know better, don’t we? We know you need water weight. Your body also knows you need water weight, so regardless of how good it makes you feel to see it go on the scale, it’s going to eventually come right back, because it serves a purpose.
If you’ve just eaten a heavy meal? If you’re on sodium-heavy medication? If you’ve not gone Number Two in a few days? The scale’s going to reflect it.
All of this back and forthing on the scale makes it a sometimes-demoralizing experience. I had a client who, prior to working with me, once burned herself out by getting on the scale almost every couple of hours, thinking this was a form of being ‘pro-active’ about her food and fitness goals.
(Seeing as how this had the exact opposite result, ultimately demoralizing her so much that she gave up, assume it’s a bad idea, y’all. Don’t do it.)
I’m a huge proponent of what’s now called “non-scale victories.” (Way back when, I referred to these as all kinds of things—most notably, the progress dress.) You need some kind of way to measure the value of the work you’re putting in, outside of what it yields on a scale. More importantly, you need to know that these other methods of measuring your work are going to get you to your ultimate goal faaaaaaaaaarrrr faster than clutching the scale so tightly your knuckles turn white and vein-y.
I always encourage people to start their journeys by engaging in a sport or activity they enjoy. For me, in the beginning, that was walking while listening to books that helped me on my journey. This time around, it’s my intermediate yoga practice. Something that I enjoy, something that gives me visual markers of my success that energize and excite me, encouraging me to commit to doing it regularly? That commitment becomes motivation. Because of my back injury, I could barely lift my feet while sitting without hurting my back—now, I can not only touch my toes, but I can reach past them while sitting. I can do back bends again, post-Baby Sprout. The joy of being able to do things I could never do before is what makes me continue to commit to my yoga practice.
The person who couldn’t run a mile non-stop might feel the same kind of exhilaration when they finally look at their wrist and see that they’ve not only hit the mile mark, they’re actually at 1.3 miles thus far! The person who takes a spin at pole fitness might feel that same kind of joy when they finally land that scorpion (if you spin, you know what I mean.)
Or, imagine the joy you feel when you put on your favorite rugby pullover—because oh my goodness fall is finally here and it’s cold as hell outside for no good reason all of a sudden—and discover, well, this:
For a clothes hound like me, what a joy it was to put on a beloved pullover and discover that, even though it had served me well for so long, it had outlived its purpose and would need to be replaced.
What’s more exciting than the prospect of buying new clothes?
When you allow yourself to find joy in the non-scale related aspects of your fitness journey, you inadvertently find yourself developing the desire to commit—or, as we call it, the motivation—in a way that brings about the success you desire. Because my yoga practice relieved my back pain, I kept at it. Because I went from not being able to lean forward to being able to reach past my toes, I kept at it. And, because I was able to finally do a back bend again, I kept going.
But, because I kept going, I was also able to get in regular activity that allowed me to start dropping that weight again, depression be damned. Without an appreciation for non-scale victories, I might not be able to say that.
Don’t crack jokes on my yoga hair. I like it wild and free.
Look—all I’m saying is, commitment and motivation are easier to drum up when you’re doing something you enjoy. Not just because you’re spending more time doing something you love, but also because it’s easier to mark your progress when you have more metrics for doing so beyond “ugh, what did the scale say today,” and keeping your ego on that emotional roller coaster. As I always say, your body—and, frankly, your mental health—will thank you for it!