Is the scale ruining your progress with permanent weight loss? Is your goal is to see your pant size go down? Or is your goal to just see the scale number go down? There's a difference!
The scale does not measure fat loss and often women over 35 I have worked with are so obsessed with the scale number that it's sabotaging their ability to remain consistent with their habits and calorie deficit and greatly impacting their ability to lose weight permanently.
Women over 35 are also experts in beating themselves up and judging themselves. They use the scale to beat themselves up more. They make the number on the scale mean something negative about them and their self worth!
Women will often say they need to get on the scale to keep themselves in check, but that is simply a way for women to beat themselves up more and say "this isn't working."
If you are only focusing on the scale weight and your goal is for your pant size to go down, then it is likely you are focusing on the wrong things in your weight loss. You also have a habit of beating yourself up.
In this Dish On Ditching Diets podcast episode 78, I explain the difference between fat loss and scale loss and why focusing on scale loss isn't an effective way to get your pant size to go down.
Also, why women's expectations of what they think they should see on the scale is ruining their progress losing weight and taking good care of their bodies.
In this episode, I share two specific client examples of how women use the scale to sabotage themselves, how the scale creates a restrictive mindset and disordered relationship with food and how the scale creates an unhealthy mindset with food, self-worth and body image.
Much of the behavior women over 35 have learned to do with the scale has resulted from years of chronic dieting and being exposed diet culture.
But unfortunately, this hyper-focus on the scale is demolishing women's goals of losing weight permanently and taking care of their bodies. Is this you? Is the scale ruining your progress? Listen to the podcast to find out!
In this Dish on Ditching Diets Podcast Episode, You Will Hear:
- Difference Between Seeing Your Pant Size Decrease & Scale Decrease (They're Different!)
- Fat Loss vs. Scale Loss (Weight Loss)
- A Study That Shows How Many Calories You Actually Need To Eat To Gain 1 Pound of Fat
- Wrong Mindset To Have With The Scale
- #1 Negative Consequence Of Chronic Dieting For Women
- How Women Beat Themselves Up With The Scale
- How Your Expectations Of Scale Are Ruining Your Progress
- 2 Client Examples Of How Women Use The Scale To Sabotage
Related Dish On Ditching Diets Podcast Episodes
- Carbs & Weight Loss - Podcast Episode 8
- Dropping Self Judgement - Podcast Episode 63
- Restriction Guarantees Overeating - Podcast Episode 75
- Instagram Meal Comparison Video
- Whipped Cream Study
Is The Scale Ruining Your Progress Podcast Show Notes
Hello ladies! Today let’s talk about the scale, and what happens with you see the scale go up or when you eat or overeat, or you just eat normal, and you see the scale goes up. I had a client recently overeat and tell me she gained 8 pounds on the scale from an overeating one day.
I also had another client who we increased her calories and protein, and she told me she gained 10 pounds in 5 days. Neither of these scenarios are true body fat % gain and I will explain more about this in a minute.
Many of you, many of my clients included, tell me how you did something like these two client scenarios, and how the scale went up and usually there’s a lot of panic and anxiety around this. I overate this weekend and the scale went up.
Or I’m eating more calories, I’m eating more protein and fiber, I’m eating a higher volume of food and the scale went up. Just because the scale went up does not mean you gained fat.
Most of you truly believe when you see the scale go up that it means you gained fat, but that is not what the scale weight means. You need to understand the difference between fat loss and weight loss, and I truly believe most of you, women over 35 don’t understand how fat loss works in your body.
Most of you keep focusing on weight loss. You jump on the scale to see if it’s working quote-on-quote, then you get mad when the scale either doesn’t change or it goes up. But the number you see on the scale does not reflect body fat on your body.
The scale reflects your bones, tendons, water weight, inflammation, muscle weight and body fat. For example, if I go to the gym and I strength train, the next day the scale always goes up 4-5 pounds for me. Why? Inflammation.
Exercise creates inflammation from breaking down muscle tissues during strength training. Inflammation is not bad. It’s normal and your body, even my body, is doing what it’s supposed to do.
So, that is one example to highlight for you that the scale isn’t telling you that much about what’s going on with your body fat and your body composition.
Now let me ask you this. Is it your goal to see the scale go down to a certain number or is your goal to see your pant size go down? I’m 100% certain you want your pant size to go down, right? If I told you, your pant size was going to go down, but the scale might stay the same would you even care.
Of course not! So, if you want to see your pant size going down then the scale is not going to reflect that because the scale doesn’t measure body composition. The scale is only one piece of data.
Measurements and pictures are another piece of data that is excellent and reflects whether you’re losing body fat. I’m willing to bet you’re not taking measurements and pictures regularly. You just jump on the scale every morning and get mad when you don’t see what you want to see on the scale. The worst part is you allow the scale to make it mean something negative about you. It’s just data.
I have had many clients throughout the almost 10 years that I’ve been doing this who were focusing too much on the scale going down and then they would stop doing their daily habits like eating their protein, eating high quality foods, walking, strength training, paying attention to sleep and stress.
They would stop doing those habits because they would focus on the scale, get mad when the scale wouldn’t tell them what they wanted to see and give up. Sound familiar?
That is focusing on weight loss and all the diets you’ve done in the past like WW, Optavia, Jenny Craig, Medifast – they all focus only on the scale. Like WW – they throw you on the scale every week. Those diets have taught you to only focus on the scale.
Those diets haven’t taught you the difference between fat loss and weight loss. The scale has very little meaning in my opinion unless you have more than 100 pounds to lose. Body composition is what is most meaningful and is exactly what you should be measuring if you want to see your pants size go down.
Do you know I have had clients in the past drop their pant size, but the scale never changed? Yep! Imagine if those clients had only looked at the scale to measure progress. Those clients never would have dropped their pant size!
They never would have reached their goal! Maybe this is why you’re not dropping your pant size? Maybe this is why you’re not reaching your goal! Because you’re focusing on the scale too much and not enough on losing body fat.
I have quite a few women who come and do free consultations with me and tell me how the scale went up 2 or 3 pounds. I just had a consultation the other day with a woman who’s a healthy eater and was telling me this.
She gained 2-3 pounds and is really frustrated and it’s affecting her motivation and her consistency with her eating and workouts. So, I asked her if she was tracking measurements or only tracking the scale. Of course, she was only tracking the scale and that’s what many of you do.
You only track the scale which isn’t telling you anything about fat loss.
Some women even tell me they can’t eat carbs because they gain weight. They see the scale go up and it’s the carbs, carbs are evil! I can’t eat carbs because the scale goes up every time, I eat carbs they tell me, but that is not true.
Carbs contain water so for every 1 gram of carbohydrate you eat, you will store 4 grams of water. The weight gain you see on the scale is not fat gain, it’s from the water from storing carbs. This is why when you do low carb or keto you drop weight pretty quickly because when you cut your carbs, you lose water weight quickly.
The other thing to note is that muscle takes up less space in your body than fat cells. Did you know that? Did you know that if you gain muscle mass your pant size will go down, but the scale may stay the same? The scale may go down if you have significant weight to lose like 100 pounds or more, but it may also stay the same or even go up. Why?
Because fat takes up more space in the body than muscle tissue. That’s why someone who has more lean muscle mass might weigh more on the scale but have a smaller pant size. That’s also one of the reasons why I’m always preaching the importance of strength training, building muscle.
Focusing on building muscle more than on losing weight. More muscle means you take up less real-estate in the body and your pant size will go down when you combine that with high quality nutrition.
So, a woman could be 165 pounds and be a size 6 with a lot of lean muscle mass and another woman could be a 165 pounds with a higher body fat% and be a size 10 or 12. Do you understand what I’m trying to highlight for you here?
That your understanding of your body is not accurate and that what you are measuring is the wrong thing by just looking at the scale. And that by focusing so greatly on weight loss and the scale, it’s actually making it a million times harder for you to get what you want which is to have your pant size go down!
So, I first want you to get clear with yourself. Is your goal to drop your pant size or is your goal to just see the scale go down? Because if your goal is to see your pant size go down, then you need to be focused on fat loss not weight loss.
Maybe get rid of the scale because it’s not telling you if you’re losing body fat or, if you are going to use the scale use it in conjunction with taking measurements and pictures.
You never look at the scale all by itself because the information doesn’t tell you that much when the goal is to see your pant size go down. Got it?
Okay, now let me tell you about the two client examples I talked about earlier. The first was a client who was overeating, and she got on the scale and gained 8 pounds.
This client came to our coaching call, and immediately told me all the things she did wrong. All the overeating she did. How she was so bad, out of control with her eating, and how she got on the scale the next day and gained 8 pounds.
What is interesting when I have clients who do this is it’s almost like they’re trying to convince me how bad they are and it’s like they want me to agree with them.
They want me to tell them how bad and awful they are, and they want me to say yeah, you’re awful, you’re horrible, why did you do that overeating?
It’s as if they’re trying to convince me that I should beat them up. They’re already beating themselves up, but they want me to do it to beat them up too! Which I never do, but they truly believe they deserve it!
People! Beating yourself up does not work. I talked about this in episode 63. You will never motivate yourself by beating yourself up. Most of you think you need to be harder on yourself or stricter on yourself, but that never works.
It’s disempowering and demoralizing. That never motivates behavioral change and will always cause you to give up and overeat.
So, this client not only was beating herself up, but she was telling me how she overate the entire 14 days and how she couldn’t stop eating and how horrible it was. She was beating herself up over and over and over.
And when I looked at her food journal, I said you overate the entire time? Because that not what your food journal says. Do you know what her food journal said?
It said she overate 4 out of 14 days. So, I told her that and then she pulled up her food journal and said, oh I guess you’re right. I thought I was overeating the entire time.
Here she thought she was overeating the entire time and here she was only overeating 4 out of 14 days. Ladies – do you understand why we keep food journals? Because our brains like to lie to us. We can’t argue with it when we see it in black and white.
Our brains like to overdramatize the bad stuff and oh boy, was she overdramatizing. But she was overdramatizing because she never went back to her food journal to see the data. She just kept thinking what her brain was telling her was true.
Ladies - your brain is not always telling you the truth. It’s like an untrained puppy dog. You know when you get a puppy dog how you have to supervise and watch it all the time. That’s your brain!
So, then this client goes on to beat herself up even more telling me how she’s been practicing eating non-fuel foods the last two weeks and how angry she is that she hasn’t gotten control of her eating yet.
For those of you who have worked with me, you know I don’t teach restriction because restriction leads to overeating. I talked about this in episode 75.
You can restrict temporarily, but if you want this to be the last time you ever have to lose weight you have to practice eating foods mindfully you are scared of eating, and that’s what she’s been doing by practicing eating non-fuel foods.
I asked her how many years have you been dealing with this overeating problem? She said 20 years! 20 years she’s been dealing with overeating! Yet her expectation was in 2 weeks I should have this figured out. LOL
Now I hope you can see how silly that thinking is. You’ve been dealing with an issue for 20 years, yet your expectation is in 2 weeks you should have this fixed? No!
But she couldn’t see through all the drama that her brain was throwing up (you know that untrained puppy dog) how her expectation of how quickly she could change that behavior was wildly wrong, but she was able to see it once I showed it to her. This is why coaching is so helpful ladies.
So not only was this client overeating and beating herself up for not having figured this out in 2 weeks after basically struggling with it her entire life, but she also got on the scale to beat herself up more.
Now most of you think you’re doing yourself a big favor by jumping on the scale after you were naughty with food, but that’s just another way you’re beating yourself up and remember what I said.
Beating yourself up never works to make lasting change. So, she got on the scale of course to beat herself up more and she saw the scale went up 8 pounds.
Now the next important thing you must understand about how fat loss works in your body is that in order to gain 1 pound of body fat you would have to eat more than 7000 calories above your maintenance calories. So, a little bit of school here.
You may have heard previously that 1 pound of fat equals 3500 calories. That is from Whisnofsy’s rule back in the 1950’s, but we know based on studies today that increased thermogenesis and energy expenditure from eating food was not accounted for in that rule from the 1950’s.
So, it actually takes a lot more calories to gain one pound of body fat which we know today is around 7000 above maintenance calories. One study done in 2018, had the control group eating an extra thousand calories of whipping cream for 7 days and that only led to 1.25 lbs of fat gain. It takes >7000 calories above maintenance to gain 1 pound of fat.
So, let’s say your maintenance is 1500 calories. You would have to consume 7000 calories above 1500 to gain 1 pound of body fat in one day. That’s 8500 calories. I don’t know, but I’m guessing it would be tough to eat 8500 calories all in one day as a female.
Let’s talk now about this client scenario. She said she gained 8 pounds. To gain 8 pounds in one day, she would have had to eat 56,000 calories above her maintenance. If her maintenance were 1500, she would have had to eat 57,500 calories in one day. Now there is no way anyone could eat that many calories in one day. It is very highly unlikely. So, the 8 pounds was not fat gain.
A portion of those 8 pounds is likely from body fat, but not all of it is. Some is from eating foods that have more water like carbs, more food moving through the body and what’s more likely was that she was moderately overeating for weeks leading up to this.
Remember she has a lifetime of restricting and overeating. So, I’m pretty sure she was doing some overeating leading up to this just not as bad as it was on this one day.
The message here is that our bodies simply do not gain fat overnight. One day of overeating does not translate immediately into fat gain. Just like eating one salad doesn’t immediately make you healthy. That’s why when you beat yourself up for overeating it’s so silly.
You’re getting caught up in something that likely isn’t going to be that detrimental. Our bodies are very good at adapting so if you have a bad weekend or an overeat so what? Just get back on track.
However, what is truly detrimental is all the dramatic negative thinking you have about the overeating and then you beat yourself up and jump on the scale to beat yourself up more and then you throw in the towel and give up and say this isn’t working. So what? You mess up one day, just keep going.
When you give up, your consistency sucks and this is the thing I see time and again. Consistency is key to losing body fat and getting your pant size to go down. Which is why if you overeat just get back on track. So what! Don’t make a big deal out of it.
You’re overdramatizing the situation. Get back on track with the next meal or next day. Get on track right away. Shake it off. Remember what I said, just like one salad doesn’t make you healthy, one day of overeating doesn’t mean you demolished your goals or that you will never get there.
Your mindset and how you’re treating yourself by beating yourself up IS demolishing your goals. Your expectation of how quickly you can change your behavior IS demolishing your goals and your consistency.
Your overdramatization or negative perspective of the overeat IS demolishing your goals. Your hyper focus on the scale which doesn’t even measure fat loss IS demolishing your goals. Do you see what I mean?
Now let’s talk about the last client example. So, this client was not eating very few calories, not eating that many high-quality foods and she had an extensive history of undereating and dieting. She did things like HCG, Medifast, Keto, WW.
She’s been dieting since she was a teenager and her hunger was out of control. Now this is what happens when we diet too much is that our hunger hormone ghrelin increases and our fullness hormone leptin decreases making us hungrier.
That’s because your body is in a constant state of dieting and restricting. This is the biggest problem I see women doing. They’re spending their entire life dieting which is wreaking havoc on the metabolism. So, this client was really suffering these negative consequences from her decades of dieting.
She also wasn’t eating any carbohydrates either and this was contributing to her insatiable hunger. Most people need all 3 foods groups. If you don’t have balanced meals and you’re missing a food group, it is highly probable you will be hungry.
I explained to this client in the very beginning that the goal could not be to lose weight. It had to be to build her metabolism and get hunger under control because when you do this many diets for so many years, the metabolism adapts and fights back.
This is the hormonal side of weight loss that many of you do not understand. Leptin and ghrelin are the big players. Leptin decreases and ghrelin increases. This is your body trying to force you to eat even though you have body fat to lose. Why?
Because your body is wired for survival. It wants homeostasis. When you have put your body through diet after diet and have lost weight and gained weight over and over again, your body fights back. This is metabolic adaptation.
These two hormones become altered forcing you to eat more because your body senses danger. Your body doesn’t care that you want to lose weight when you get into a scenario like this client.
And the only way to get your body to respond to weight loss is to eat more high-quality food to build the metabolism and sometimes that means you might gain a little weight while doing that which I explained to this client upfront.
I always explain these things to clients who are in these scenarios because they are tricky scenarios and most of the clients who I have worked with in this type of scenario have a lot of mental and emotional ties to the scale number and they tend to give up and sabotage themselves easily. That has been my observation in my practice.
So, she began eating more calories and simultaneously we were working on getting more high-quality food into her diet and balancing her meals because frankly her diet wasn’t great. She was eating more non-nutritious foods than nutritious foods and she was trying to restrict carbs.
But that’s why we were working on that stuff. It’s a process and it takes time to build those new habits! So, anyway within a few days of increasing her calories and working on her meals, she tells me how she gained 10 pounds and how this isn’t working.
Even though I had explained to her she might gain some weight and I explained to her just like I explained to you about how the scale doesn’t measure fat loss and how the quality of her food matters and the balance matters too. But she still beat herself up and got on the scale because in her mind that’s all that mattered. The number on the scale!
Now just like I explained to you earlier, I told her she would have had to eat 7,000 calories above maintenance to gain 1 pound of fat. She told me she gained 10 pounds which means she would have had to eat 70,000 calories which would be impossible to do in just a few days.
We simply don’t gain fat in a few days. It’s over an extended period of time. But we were increasing her calories and now she has more food moving through her digestive system. That’s part of what was being reflected on the scale for her was more food moving through her digestive system.
She also had been working with a trainer so remember what I said in the beginning about exercise creating inflammation and how the scale will go up as a result of that.
A % was likely body fat increase because we were increasing her calories, and just like the other client she had issues with overeating. Very likely she was slightly overeating leading up to this timeframe.
Like I told you, it takes much longer than just a few days to gain 10 pounds of body fat. But in her mind, she believed it was a mystery why the scale went up 10 pounds.
Why? Because all the diets she did in the past taught her that the scale was the only thing that mattered so her mindset and lack of understanding of how fat loss and how the metabolism works was demolishing her goal of losing body fat.
The other thing was she put ZERO effort into eating high-quality meals and balancing her meals with protein, fat and carbs. She was only focused on hitting her calories. You can eat 1800 calories of junk food, or you can eat 1800 calories of high-quality food.
But if your goal is to drop body fat % or to see you pant size go down, then eating higher quality food most of the time matters and it matters for those hunger hormones I talked about earlier. You can fill your calories with junk but then you will be hungrier, have poor energy and your body composition will not change the way you want it to.
Calories are just one piece of the weight loss equation. Meal composition and high-quality foods have to be part of the equation, not just calories. But she told me she didn’t want to learn what a protein, fat and carb was, and she didn’t want to have to plan what she ate ahead of time.
She simply did not want to change. These are tricky situations for me as a nutritionist because I cannot force anyone to change. You have to want to change, and you have to actually put your faith in the expert you hired.
Now listen I’m sharing these examples with you because I know you can relate to these clients. I also want you to focus on the right things in your journey and I know many of you are not.
You jump on the scale, and you make it mean something that it doesn’t mean. Your perception of what the scale means is wrong. The worst part is you use the scale to judge yourself.
The scale is one piece of data, but it doesn’t give us a complete picture of fat loss not unless you have a lot of weight to lose.
If you’re jumping on the scale to see how much damage you’ve done from an overeat or to beat yourself up or because you’re obsessed with the scale and don’t care at what cost it comes to your body and metabolism, then the most important thing you need to work on right now is how you’re treating yourself and your unrealistic expectations.
I know many of you think being harder on yourself, restricting food more and beating yourself up is the answer. But it’s not. It’s causing you to be more inconsistent.
It’s causing you to yo-yo with food, with your weight and your healthy habits. Remember I talked about in episode 76 mastering the BASICS. So many women aren’t doing the BASICS because they get mad at the scale.
Your expectations of the scale are destroying your goal of losing weight permanently. You must learn how fat loss actually works in your body because fat loss is not a shake program or diet pills or cutting a food group or simply following calories or a number.
It’s your daily habits and actions, doing the BASICS! Eating high-quality food most of the time, it’s your mindset - controlling your mind when it wants to overdramatize a mess up and getting out of the all or nothing thinking, it’s prioritizing sleep and recovery, it’s delaying instant gratification of seeing your pant size go down by X date, it’s having your own back when you mess up.
Focus on the BASICS – the actions and habits, not the outcome of losing weight. Stop thinking everything needs to change tomorrow.
Many of you have years of chronic dieting that has damaged your metabolism, or you have decades of disordered eating patterns that need to be worked on.
Stop thinking about losing weight or body fat in the next 2 or 3 months. Start thinking in years!
Your goal is to focus on the BASICS – the actions and habits that lead you to the outcome of losing body fat.
Jumping on the scale and beating yourself up is not an action that leads you to the outcome of losing body fat and the scale also does not measure fat loss.
If your goal is to drop pant size, start focusing on the BASICS - your actions and habits and start measuring the right data. The right data is not using the scale all by itself.
Your expectations of the scale are killing your progress. Change your expectations and focus on fat loss not weight loss!