Having anxiety around weighing in is unfortunately a reality for many physique athletes and major weight loss clients. However, this should not be the norm as this can be telling of a damaged perspective of how you identify yourself and what the number on the scale means to you. An important and foundational step to creating a physique you feel confident in long term, is having a healthy relationship with your body. Being afraid or heavily impacted by a number on the scale is not representative of a healthy relationship with food or your body in most circumstances. If you struggle with this, you need to work through this issue before pursuing any type of weight loss diet.
What the scale represents
Part of the fear that often develops with weighing in is not understanding its true representation or having the wrong perspective. The number in which you weigh in at is simply data point representative of your total mass (not just fat mass) at a very specific point in time. This value is the result of:
- Body fat
- Lean Mass (bone, ligaments, tendons, internal organs, and muscles)
- Water retention
- Stress and inflammation
With multiple variants, this value changes throughout the day. As coaches trying to gather data from our clients, we ask that our clients weigh in around the same time of day each time they weigh in to get an average look at where someone may stand weight wise.
How Your Weight Fluctuates
Many people will fluctuate in their weight day to day. Some will fluctuate 1-2 lbs and some people may fluctuate as much as 5-8lbs. However, these fluctuations are not always representative in increases or decreases of body fat. It is important to understand the physiological reasoning behind why the scale my change, so that clients can remain objective to this number as a data point that changes with physiological changes. You may see your weight fluctuate if you:
- Drank more water the day before
- Are dehydrated more than usual
- Consumed more carbs the day before, which will cause you to hold more water.
- Consumed more sodium the day before, which will also cause you to hold more water.
- Are experiencing digestive motility issues due to stress, lack of movement, fiber, etc.
- Are experiencing more stress than usual
- Slept less than usual
- Are experiencing more inflammation than usual (soreness, injury, illness).
- Are a female and within a few days or on your period.
- We’re significantly more or less active than usual the day before
When The Scale is Used for Good
The best way to perceive the number on the scale is simply as a dependent variable data point. It is the result of how nutrition, training, cardio, water, sodium, stress and inflammation has affected your body before the point of weighing in. We can use that number to have an understanding on whether or not we are in a caloric deficit, caloric surplus, or at maintenance depending on its variations. When you can objectively use that data point to either adjust or not adjust your current nutrition or training regimen, then it can be a helpful and productive tool.
When Seeing the Number on The Scale is No Longer Productive
If stepping on the scale induces anxiety on your morning routine, and that number effects your mood and your actions for that entire day, then weighing in is no longer productive. Before weighing in becomes productive, we need to be able to shift the perspective we have of the scale from something you identify with to a data point that is simply representative of your physiology surrounding that time. The number on the scale should not be used to identify you or worth. Nor should it have the power to impact your mood for that day. When it does, then we’ve become too attached to this number as something that is much more valuable to our identity than it should be.
Why You Might Be Too Attached to the Number on the Scale
Developing anxiety around weigh-ins is common for most physique athletes or major weight loss clients. For a long period of time, those individuals we’re hyper-focused on achieving a new low weigh-in each week. Every moment of every day was for the goal of losing weight and seeing that new low weigh-in. When they did see a new low weigh-in, their brain created a pattern of having a positive feeling toward that downward trend. If contest preps or fat loss phases last as long as 6 months or more, it can be pretty hard to unwire that thought process. An individual then has associated the lower number with a sense of achievement and confidence. However, the cause of those positive feelings should not be mistaken. The cause of those feelings was not from seeing that lower number on the scale, but from knowing that your hard work has paid off and that you are achieving. So how can we keep achieving during a time when the goal is to no longer lose weight? By changing the focus of the goal.
When the goal is to no longer lose weight, fluctuations on the scale are immediately associated with the negative feeling of “undoing the achievement” when in reality this is not always the case. To get out of this thought process, make your next goal clear. Whether it is to create a healthier relationship with food, put on muscle, hit PRs in the gym, improve parameters on your next blood work panel, increase metabolic capacity etc. Keep your focus on the new goal ahead not the number you weighed in at in the past.
How Detach from the Number on The Scale
Much like a nutrition plan, this will look different for everyone. Some people find relief from anxiety around weighing in by increasing the frequency in which they step on the scale. Often times, weighing in everyday can help someone realize how trivial that number really is, how variable it can be, or how eating a small cupcake the night before actually won’t result in an 8 pound jump the next day.
Some people have a better time detaching from the scale by going long periods without weighing in at all. This can be especially helpful for those whose goal is to place more focus on performance rather than aesthetics. In reality, if your offseason is productive, you can look much better at a higher number than you did the year before. However, if seeing that higher number keeps you from eating more to perform and put on that muscle mass you need for true body recomposition, then staying off the scale may be the best way to go. During this time, focus more on how you feel in training, how you are recovering, and keeping an objective eye when you are looking in the mirror. Whatever your goal is, do not confuse your identity with a data point but rather, identify with the hard work you put in to achieve that goal.
We hope that a better understanding on what your weight represents and a shift in perspective allows you to use the number on the scale for good. As Team LoCoFit coaches, our goal is to not only help you achieve your ideal physique, but to keep a healthy mindset throughout the process. If you are interested in working with coaches who are concerned about more than just your weekly weigh-ins, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.