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Why it’s OK to step on the scales!

I’m getting really tired of hearing the advice that if you’re trying to lose weight you should throw away your scales – you shouldn’t be a slave to a number, it’s the “sad step”, go by what you can see in the mirror, etc.

Not only are you feeling fed up because you’re dieting, but you’re now expected to feel bad about wanting to monitor your weight loss too!

The thinking behind this advice is that bodyweight doesn’t tell the full story. Your body weight changes according to losses and gains in water, fat and muscle. And that’s true, the science of body composition is complex. But what I’ve noticed is that most of the people telling you to throw away your scales have a background in personal training. Personal trainers are generally people who have never had a weight problem and who have therefore always been more concerned with adjustments to body composition to improve their muscle definition, strength and tone. Muscle is heavier than fat, so to them an increase in body weight can sometimes be a good thing, as it can indicate a more muscular or toned physique.

But we’re not all advanced exercisers. And if you have, say, 10lbs of fat to lose, you’re not going to gain 10lbs of muscle to offset it. So stepping on the scales will enable you to effectively monitor your weight loss.

And that advice which tells you to judge your progress by what you see in the mirror? Since when has a one or two pound loss been visible in the mirror? When you’re struggling to stick with a new way of eating you need to know your efforts are paying off, and if you want to step on the scales to do that, go for it.

So don’t throw away those scales if your goal is weight loss. They are the simplest and most convenient form of measurement you have. Use them as often as you like, but at the same time of day. First thing in the morning is good – after you’ve been to the loo but before your breakfast makes for the most consistent time. Keep in mind that your weight will fluctuate, and some days you’ll be heavier due to water retention or a treat meal the previous day, so don’t be disheartened by that. Over the course of a week you’re aiming at a downward trend, and the scales are the best possible way of tracking that.

PS: I have nothing against personal trainers, they perform a great job in helping to make exercise sessions as effective as possible, and I recommend having one if you can afford it. It’s just that their own experience of eating and body weight is likely to be very different to the average person’s.