Addicted to stepping on the scale? Ditch that bleeping thing

There are other — more accurate — ways to track your weight loss than repeatedly weighing yourself.

“The Biggest Loser” — any trainer worth a hill of beans will tell you this show is an atrocity. Every aspect of it is unrealistic, unsafe and utterly unkind.

Contestants starve themselves and abuse their bodies with endless hours of hardcore exercise. Why? Because when it comes time to step on the scale, they want to see a lower number. Their success is not determined by anything other than what the scale reads.

If the number goes up, they failed. If it stays the same, they failed. If it didn’t go down fast enough, they failed — and then with much fanfare and shame, they are booted off the show.

The bleeping scale. If there is one device in my clients’ homes that I fantasize about detonating, the scale is it. Countless times, I have watched sane, intelligent adults needlessly freak out because the scale did not prove their success.

They only lost half a pound last week, why not more? The scale shows they gained a pound overnight, what a disaster! The number hasn’t budged in a week, why bother working out? The fact that they are stronger and look and feel better is irrelevant. The scale isn’t reflecting it, therefore, they are blazing failures.

The scale is the least accurate way to gauge weight-loss success, especially if you are building muscle. So much more than body fat is reflected via the scale number: Salt intake, water retention, increased (or decreased) muscle mass.

To test my theory, I stepped on the scale twice a day for two weeks. My weight fluctuated erratically — up to 3 pounds a day — yet in reality, I did not gain or lose any fat. I remain the exact same size.

The unnecessary hysteria that results from stepping on the scale every week, every day (some clients, every few hours) is a travesty. But there is hope. If you are a scale addict, follow my instructions.

Ditch the scale — and do so with bravado. Don’t just stash it in the closet — you know within 24 hours you’ll be clamoring your way in and stepping on the darn thing. Fling the sucker through a closed window, take a sledgehammer to it, broil it in the oven for 45 minutes. You’ve had enough of its inaccurate readings and are no longer willing to be enslaved by it. If you don’t have the chutzpah to get rid of the gizmo yourself, enlist a loved one to toss it out on your behalf. I am certain they will be delighted to do so.

Gauge your success by how well your clothes fit. It’s a surefire way to determine whether or not you are losing body fat. If your snug jeans are now comfy, you’re on the right track.

Take before-and-after photos. Often, we don’t notice improvements, like our glutes being tighter and our rear shoulders looking sculpted. I take pictures of my clients’ backsides all the time to show them their progress. Change takes time, so limit photos to once per month.

If you’re still addicted to numbers, use a measuring tape. Measure around your chest, waist, hips, thighs and upper arms to track your progress (again, only once a month, please). Keep in mind, if you are building muscle, some of these numbers may go up. SO WHAT. Defined muscle is shapely and beautiful, who gives a hoot about the numeric reading?

Invest in a bioelectrical impedance body-fat calculator. There’s just one catch — most of them require you to step on the scale in order to obtain a reading. If you are a scale addict, this method is off limits. Plus, the reading can fluctuate depending on conditions other than body fat.

Weight loss is never a straight line downward. It’s a lumpy, bumpy slope with peaks, dips and plateaus throughout. I say forget the numbers completely and gauge your success by how you feel and how your clothes fit. And, for the love of God, ditch the scale. Trust me. When you reclaim your power from it, you will reclaim your sanity.

Catherine Bongiorno is a personal trainer, nutritional therapist and owner of Lift To Lose Fitness & Nutrition. Email her at info@lifttolose.com or visit www.lifttolose.com for more information.

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