I step on. The blue light flashes while suspense hangs in the air. Three black numbers finally appear on the display: 127. Relief washes over my body and puts me in a state of euphoria. Today will be a good day. Today I am in a great mood. Today the number is lower.
But the story doesn’t always turn out like this. Many times I step on that scale and the black numbers are much higher than I want. When the number reads 129 I feel frustration, anger and disappointment instead of pride. My whole day is ruined; a dark cloud looms over everything.
I used to battle with the scale, with myself, every single day. I would wake up and weigh myself. Eat lunch and weigh myself. Brush my teeth before bed and weigh myself. I spiraled into an unhealthy obsession with a number, and that number determined the course of my entire day. I became moody, self-conscious and a little bit (okay a lot bit) crazy over my diet. Today, I only weigh myself once every two weeks, and this new routine has made me a happier, healthier Hayley.
Progress should not be measured in a number alone because so many factors can influence weight on a daily basis.
Sodium and caffeine can trigger water retention and lead to a “heavier” weight. Changes in fiber intake help push food through the body or cause a back-up. Exercise and sweating dehydrates the body to weigh less. The glycogen stores (all that extra energy for your muscles) can equal a couple of pounds when expended. The average person fluctuates between one to three pounds over the course of the day, depending on food and liquid intake, so weight on a scale should only be used to measure progress over time. The daily differences aren’t long lasting results.
After I dropped below 130 pounds, I stopped depending on the scale so much. My goal is still to hit 125, but I have found a new sense of peace and accomplishment with my weight now. I love the way I look and feel every day, and that feeling is so much more important than the differences on the scale. I make sure to check in every couple weeks to monitor that I have not gone over 130 and am still in the right direction, but on a daily basis, I focus on what my body feels like instead of what the scale says I should feel like. When my jeans are loose, I know that I have been doing a great job maintaining my goals. When my pants start to feel tight, I refocus and buckle down to get back on track. Sometimes I feel bloated, so I know that I need to reduce the amount of salt I have been eating and up my water intake. Most importantly, however, I look in the mirror and let what I see dictate how I feel.
Muscle is denser than fat, and as I gain more muscle, my weight doesn’t reflect that progress. On the scale, I have only made four pounds of “progress,” yet in the mirror I see the beginnings of abs, my arms are more toned than ever, and my legs are smaller and shapelier than they have ever been. Success is about more than a number.
I spiraled into an unhealthy obsession with a number that made me moody, self-conscious and crazy over my diet. Today, I only weigh myself once every two weeks, and this new routine has made me a happier, healthier Hayley.
I challenge you to look in the mirror, really look, and then create a list of what you love, what you want to improve and how you feel. Two weeks from now look in the mirror again and create a new list. Then compare the two and see what has changed instead of focusing on the scale alone. Tweet me something you love about your body by the end of the week!
Collegian writer Hayley Blackburn can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @hayley_blckbrn. If you have a specific question or topic, let her know. Leave a comment!