Traumatic Dieting

How to cope with the effects of long-term dieting and how to achieve healthy weight loss.

Are You Weighing Yourself the Wrong Way?

Knowing how to weigh yourself properly is crucial to success.

Do you know how to use your bathroom scale properly?  If you're a 21st century dieter, it might not be as straightforward as you think.  

Firstly, if you're trying to lose weight, it's important before you step onto the scale, to ask yourself how you're doing, because what you weigh and how you're doing aren't necessarily the same thing.  After all, what does the scale know?

Really all the scale can ever tell you is

Don't get mad at your scale!
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what you weigh at a particular moment in time, whereas how you're doing depends on how you're living, and the scale frankly knows nothing about that. If you're happy with how you've been living, and feel that you're making the healthiest choices you can enjoy, even if the scale goes up, it shouldn't be allowed to take away your pride in your accomplishments.

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So once you've decided how you're doing, next you step onto the scale.

Looking at the number, you've got to remember several things.  You've got to remember that scales measure a lot of extras - clothing (if you're wearing any), constipation (can weigh up to two pounds), water retention (time of the month, after a salty meal, or from sore muscles), even time of day (morning vs. night), and it doesn't know if there have been great reasons to have calories.  Remember, celebratory and comfort foods are part of the human condition and are almost by definition, indulgent.  

Ok, now you're looking at the number.

If you're happy with it step down and you're done.

If you're unhappy with it, there are only two questions you need to ask yourself:

1. Am I doing something about it?

2. Do I know what I'm doing?

If the answers to those questions are "Yes", then there's nothing to worry about, even if the number's not doing what you want today. Remember there is also the law of averages at play, meaning that some weeks you'll lose far more than you'd expect, and some weeks far less, but that at the end of the day, doing the best you can enjoy, not the best you can tolerate, is truly the best you can do sustainably.

Really the scale is the consequence, not the cause. Have you ever got a Visa bill that seemed too high?  Did you get mad at the bill, or did you question your spending?

So going back to question number 2. What does knowing what you're doing mean? Well to me it certainly includes knowing how many calories you're eating; otherwise it'd be like getting frustrated with your Visa bill when you know darn well that you'd been shopping without ever bothering to look at price tags.  Don't forget that calories truly are the currency of weight.

Bottom line?  You may not love the number you see staring back at you, it may be distressing to you, but at the end of the day, if you're doing something about it, and you know what you're doing, I'd say you're doing great. 

Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., is the founder and Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

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