So this is my first ever blog. So many topics, so much misinformation, where’s a girl to start? Even though I am a Registered Dietitian I struggle to maintain a healthy weight like many of us do. Have you ever felt like you have been doing great with your diet and exercise only to step on the scale and be disappointed? I have. How deflating. It makes you wonder what the heck you are doing this for. Of course it has worked the opposite for me as well. I feel like I’ve been bad and lo and behold I step on the scale and I have lost a pound. Have you watched the TV show The Biggest Loser? How in the world can someone work out 6 hours a day, 7 days a week and have their food intake 100% controlled only to see a 1 lb weight loss on the scale? I learned long ago that I cannot be hostage to a weigh scale. It lies and here is why.
The scale actually measures muscles, fat, bones, organs, blood, the undigested food in your gastrointestinal system, the fluid in your lymph system, the glycogen in your liver and muscles, and other body components that can fluctuate throughout the day and from day to day. Water actually makes up 60% of your total body mass. You would think that if you are dehydrated you would weigh less but actually dehydration causes the body to conserve or hold on to water often making the scale go up. If your diet is high in sodium it increases water retention increasing the number on the scale.
Another body component to consider is glycogen stores. The body stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, in the muscles and liver. This reserve weighs about a pound but has 3-4 pounds of water attached to it, hence the name carbohydrate. If you have not been consuming adequate carbohydrates then your stores will be low and you will weigh less. But as soon as you eat carbohydrates the body will work quickly to replenish these stores, adding up to 4 lbs. This happens to everyone, not just those who are restricting calories. This is one reason why our weight changes throughout the day. You may have heard people recommend weighing at the same time each day. Doing so provides for a more apples to apples comparison.
So if the scale is not a good indicator of weight loss what is? I pay attention to how my clothes fit. When I drag out my summer clothes do the shorts that fit comfortably 5 months ago feel snug? How do I feel when I look in the mirror naked? Does my body feel sluggish and bloated? You can also depend on body fat percentage as an indicator. You will need a nutrition or fitness professional to measure your body fat but it’s worth the investment.
If you must weigh, do so at the same time of the day and no more than once a week. Lastly, don’t give the scale too much control. Your mood for the day should not be dictated by a number on a scale!
Sherri Clarke, MS, RD, LDN, NASM CPT