How often do you find that you are weighing yourself? Thinking about a certain weight? Feeling different things about what the scale says? Maybe even avoiding the scale altogether?
The scale itself does not have to be something that is looked at in this manner. Let’s talk it through a little because the more that you dive into knowing what is going on with the scale, the more you may be able to break free from more uncertainty and fear surrounding the scale.
What Does the Scale Measure?
A body weight scale only measures the total gravitational force acting on your body and does not provide information about other factors such as body composition (ratio of fat to muscle), bone density, or overall health. Some advanced scales might incorporate additional features, like measuring body fat percentage, muscle mass, water content, and more, but these measurements are often estimates and can vary in accuracy.
A person’s body weight includes:
- Bone Mass
- Organs. Tissues and Connective Tissues (like ligaments, tendons, and cartilage)
- Body Fat: Essential and storage fat
- Water Content
- Blood: Blood cells and plasma
- Glycogen: Stored carbohydrates in muscle and the liver
- Digestive Contents: Food and waste in the digestive system
Why do we have so many fluctuations?
Let’s take the above and break it down a little more. For the sake of keeping it simple. these are approximate ranges for each in a typical healthy adult body.
Our lean body mass includes our muscles, bone mass, organs & tissues, and blood. It also includes the glycogen stored in the liver and muscles. This can vary based on diet and physical activity. It contributes to energy availability, particularly during times of increased physical activity. Also, this typically contributes a relatively small percentage to total body weight.
As for fat mass, we have a certain amount of body fat that helps us maintain normal physiological functions called essential body fat (2-5% for men & 10-13% for women). Storage fat varies but can be around 10-30% or more, depending on gender, age, and other factors. This is generally what we seek to change when we go into a calorie deficit for weight loss or change our body’s composition.
And let’s not forget about water… about 55-60% of total body weight is water. Water is present in cells, blood, and the spaces between cells, contributing to hydration and overall body function. This is where we are going to see the most changes in our weight on a daily basis.
Curious about how much? Go weigh yourself then drink a large glass of water and weigh yourself again. That was some fast “weight gain”, wasn’t it?
There are some other factors that will cause scale fluctuations that can be both helpful and frustrating at the same time. But this is all about how you decide to look at it and look at the scale itself.
Factors that can influence fluctuations:
- Weight management/Fat loss
- Weighing yourself at different times
- Meals high in volume, carbs, and sodium
- Ate later than normal
- Menstrual cycle
- Bowel movements
- Hydration/Dehydration/Retaining water
- Stress and poor sleep
- Drank alcohol
- Gaining muscle
- Exercise impacts fluid balance and glycogen levels.
- Temperature and altitude affect fluid levels.
Setting a Goal Weight
If you’re making positive lifestyle changes for your health, you might wonder about your goal weight. A goal weight refers to the specific numerical value on the scale that YOU aspire to reach for various reasons like maybe it’s a number told to you, a weight from the past, or a weight that you believe will bring happiness.
Many use a specific weight to measure success with diet or lifestyle changes. And there’s nothing essentially wrong with this. Problems arise when this is the only thing that we are relying on in the process of weight management.
Problem with relying solely on a goal weight:
- Incomplete Measure of Health: It only focuses on appearance, ignoring mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
- Never Fully Satisfied: Achieving “the weight” might not satisfy, perpetuating a mindset that associates “less” with improvement. It perpetuates the idea that smaller, lighter, and lower are always better.
- Ignores Life’s Phases: Bodies and lifestyles change; a single goal weight might not account for this and lack adaptability in the habits for each life stage.
- Negative Body Image: It can create a negative body image with difficulty to reach or maintain the goal weight.
- Promotes Disordered Eating: By concentrating solely on reaching a particular number, you might adopt restrictive measures, micromanaging every morsel you consume, limiting yourself to only “clean” foods, or resorting to various dieting approaches.
Finding Where Your Ideal Size & Your Ideal Lifestyle Meet
Rather than fixating on a numerical goal weight, it can be more valuable to figure out where you are happier in both your body AND your lifestyle. We are looking for where your eating habits, your relationship with food, and your connection to your body are positive. It’s a state where you feel confident, comfortable, and at ease with your choices and body. It acknowledges that health is dynamic, leading to sustainable results.
I do realize that this can still leave some questions because we like numbers as a means to give our end goal something set. But there are a lot of other things that we can think about here when we start and as we go along the way.
- How do your clothes feel?
- Are you able to do things easier throughout your week?
- How is your physical energy (not dictated by mental stress, hormones, or sleep)?
- Have you reached any activity-related milestones lately?
- Is your mind feeling sharper?
- Have you been able to enjoy food both in the house and outside of the house?
- How does your skin look and feel?
- Do you cope with things better than you would before?
- Have you been experiencing less pain?
- Are you finding that your mood has improved overall?
- Have you felt the connection you wanted from your loved ones lately?
- Do you have any medical markers that have gotten better?
- Is your budget healthier from the changes in habits?
- What about your environment or the company kept? Is it more supportive?
There are many other questions that you can add to this list as ways of measuring your progress as you venture toward your ideal size which essentially embraces that you are enjoying your eating habits, you have a good relationship with food, you feel a great connection to your body and to those around you. When you reach your ideal size and lifestyle, the following will come naturally.
- Prioritizing Nourishment: Prioritizing mindful eating and enjoying nourishing foods.
- Feeling Good in Your Skin: Self-love for your body and its capabilities.
- Understanding Your Body’s Needs: Tuning into your body’s cues, gauging hunger and satiety to determine appropriate portion sizes.
- A Positive Food Relationship: Cultivating a healthy attitude towards food.
- Mindful Mindset: Developing self-confidence and positive habits.
- Flexibility with Life Stages: Adapting nutrition and lifestyle to current needs.
By shifting your focus from a specific goal weight to seeking a place where your ideal size & ideal lifestyle meet, you are fostering a positive and sustainable relationship with food, body, and health. Whether you are just starting, in the middle of your journey, or nearing the end, this may be difficult and uncomfortable but you are building the life that you want to live along the way. You are making choices from a place of intention, love, and compassion.