For any college student trying to lose weight, the most dreaded activity of the process can be stepping on a scale. Even after a diet transformation and the adoption of a strict workout regimen, the number read on a scale can make or break a person’s confidence. Eager for positive results, some people will obsessively step on their scales, whether it is once a day or several times a day, in order to discover some sign of a smaller, leaner figure. Although this behavior is completely normal, the scale can eventually become a source of anxiety or frustration if this habit persists.
In order to prevent feelings of discouragement, it is important to step on the scale at specific times of the day. Weighing yourself after meals poses a major problem because weight tends to fluctuate between two and four pounds throughout the day on average. In other words, the scale could read a completely different number first thing in the morning than the number directly after dinnertime. It is virtually impossible to gain weight after one large meal but an increased number reading could indicate that blood volume levels have risen due to the large amount of food recently consumed. As a result, experts recommend weighing in before the first meal of the day on the same day of the week, every week. If mornings pose an issue, remain consistent with the time of day and the particular scale you use to weigh yourself. It may sound silly, but you should remove all clothing or strip down to your underwear, since clothing can add as much as five pounds to your weight. Lastly, the scale should rest on a solid surface, rather than on carpet, for an accurate reading.
In addition to the specific timing of weigh-ins, there are several other variables that can complicate measures of progress without taking correct precautions. Sometimes people begin to feel more positive about the way they look, their clothes fit better, and they have more energy, yet the scale doesn’t agree. Just because the number doesn’t reflect weight loss doesn’t mean it has not actually occurred. Take fluids into account, for example. Two cups of water can roughly translate to one pound of weight. Similarly, the high sodium content in certain prepared foods also causes the body to retain fluid, thus increasing the number on the scale. For women, water retention can also occur during menstruation.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics concludes that people who lose weight are less likely to regain it if they weigh themselves on a regular basis. Weigh-ins do not have to be as fearsome as people initially make them out to be. In fact, you can think of weighing yourself as a simple data-collecting exercise; weigh yourself once a week and after four weeks, calculate the average of these numbers and subtract from your starting weight. A positive attitude and emotional preparation before stepping onto a scale can reduce the risk of ravenous behavior such as binge eating and the accompanying feelings of disappointment and resentment after the act. Remember that losing weight is a process that takes time, energy, and a lot of patience. Stick it out, and the results you see on the scale will be worth the fight.
By Allison Milch