Weight Loss

Bathroom Scale: Friend or Foe?

Bathroom Scale: Friend or Foe?

There’s an issue that deserves to be tackled, and I believe that doing this helps keto dieters and every person out there… it’s FAT BIAS. Yup, you read it correctly. If you’ve been obsessing over the bathroom scale and relying on it for your health and self-worth, you need to stop.

It’s no secret that we live in a culture where people discriminate against others, even themselves, because of their weight. Celebrities, leaders, and many influential people practice fat shaming. In fact, a study revealed that patients who were obese or had a higher BMI felt that they were devalued and judged based on their weight. Instead of encouraging people to improve their health, fat bias or weight stigma triggers behaviors that lead to poor health [1].

This bias has influenced our preoccupation for weight loss and the need to always step on the scale. In today’s post, we’re going to answer your biggest question: Is the scale good or bad?


Bathroom Scale: Is It a Friend or Foe?

As a self-monitoring tool, the bathroom scale can be beneficial or harmful depending on how you use it. It would be practical to explore how it helps you and how it doesn’t. That way, you can decide if it’s worth using for your goals.


The advantages of using a bathroom scale (a friend)

Self-weighing gives you a sense of awareness that is helpful for the following reasons:


1. Check your loss of water weight on the keto diet

Weight loss is just one of the many positive effects of following the ketogenic diet because it trains your body to use fat for energy.

A lot of people report losing weight fast within the first week of doing keto. This is especially true among those who have been used to eating carbs.

Here’s why you’ll see a quick drop in your weight when you’re just starting out:

Excess carbohydrates are stored as glycogen. Each gram of glycogen in the body is stored with 2-3 grams of water [2]. When you drastically reduce carbohydrates, your body uses up all your remaining glycogen stores which makes you lose water.

Stepping on the scale and seeing those pounds drop because of losing water weight is one way to tell that the diet is working. However, please note that the scale should never be the only thing you use to detect ketosis.


notebook-scale-and-measuring-tape-on-a-white-plate-with-white-wooden-background

2. Objectively track your weight loss progress

Wanting to lose weight is not a bad thing. What isn’t right is when you look to weight loss to feel worthy even when you’re healthy.

For anyone embarking on a weight loss journey, for example, women with PCOS or someone who’s obese, taking a baseline number using the scale is helpful. It gives you data to work with and structure your weight loss plan on.

Weighing yourself can also serve as positive reinforcement for the steps you took to achieve your desired results. For example, if you avoided sugar-laden foods or did HIIT workouts regularly.

Seeing the number on the scale decrease or increase within two weeks also enables you to build a connection between your lifestyle choices and weight.


3. Detect water retention

Water retention can be detected by simply stepping on the scale, given that you know your normal weight or dry weight.

You could be retaining water for several reasons. If you’re a female, it could be your hormones telling you that your period is fast approaching. If you’re using a contraceptive, know that many contraceptives have water retention as a side effect. Menopause could be another reason.

The scale will also help you identify unexplained, rapid weight gain over a few days that may be linked to a medical condition, which you should report to your doctor [3]. For example, you noticed a gain of 5 pounds in a week which didn’t subside after a day or two.


The downsides of using a bathroom scale (a foe)

Here are the reasons why you should not weigh yourself and throw away the scale for good:


African-woman--sitting-on-a-weight-scale-feeling-happy-and-proud-of-herself

1. You use it to define your happiness

Studies show that our emotions impact the choices we make. When we’re happy, we make healthier choices. For example, we drink less alcohol, exercise, and stick to our diet plan [4].

But for some people, the number on the scale is more than objective data - it’s their source of happiness and sadness. Do you often tell yourself, if only I lost weight, I’d be happier, successful, popular, etc.?

What if the scale shows you the opposite of what you want? If you believe that a certain number makes you feel superior or inferior, then the scale is doing you more harm than good.

Using the bathroom scale as your source of happiness and self-worth can be very tricky. It’s easy to go into a downward spiral of bad habits and wreck your health because you got upset by a number.

If you follow a diet because your only goal is to lose weight, what happens when you step on the scale and realize that you’ve hit a weight loss plateau? Will you slip back into your previous lifestyle?


2. Frequent weight fluctuations make you angry

If there’s something you must keep in mind, it’s that your weight changes at any given moment. Weight fluctuation for up to 5-6 pounds in a day is normal and something you shouldn’t be worried about [5].

But if frequent changes in the number on the scale make you rant, then the scale is only standing in the way of your long-term goals.

So, what are these factors that cause normal fluctuations? They include the following:

  • Food - Regardless of the calorie content, any kind of food will add weight to your body as soon as you eat it. So when you defecate, the scale now moves down.
  • Water - Drinking a large volume of water in a day will reflect on the scale until you dispel it. It’s the same as when you eat. On the other hand, dehydration makes you bloat because your body compensates for the lack by holding on to water.
  • Alcohol intake - A night of alcohol drinking can lead to water retention especially if you drink large amounts of alcohol. Aside from the fact that alcohol stays in your system for longer periods, it also irritates your digestive system which causes swelling in the body.
  • Exercise - If you step on the scale right after a sweat session, chances are, the number will be lower. Remember that your body loses water regardless of the form of exercise.

3. The scale doesn’t reflect your health

What the scale never does is tell you about your current health status.

You may see the pounds drop or increase, but you’ll never know whether your blood sugar levels, HDL (good cholesterol) levels, and other health markers are within the optimal range.

I believe that people would do a better job of taking care of themselves if they focus on creating healthy habits. Why? Because weight loss doesn’t always mean better health. You can be thin but diabetic or have a thyroid issue. Hopefully, you get the point.

You get better information about your body by having yourself tested for the following:

  • Biomarkers for inflammation - Measuring inflammatory markers allows you to detect the presence of inflammation which plays a role in the development of many diseases [6]. Examples of these markers include C-reactive protein (CRP), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1).
  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) - This reflects your average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months. If you’re testing yourself for diabetes or monitoring how well you’ve managed your blood glucose as someone with diabetes, HbA1c is a reliable health marker [7].
  • Blood cholesterol - Pay attention to your cholesterol numbers. Your LDL “bad” cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dL. Your HDL “good” cholesterol should be greater than 60 mg/dL. Your triglycerides should be below 150 mg/DL.

As you can see, these markers give you a clearer picture of your overall health - not the bathroom scale!


Confident-couple-working-out-with-dumbbell

4. Your scale weight increases when you gain muscle

Another reason why the scale is wrong about you is that it doesn’t factor in muscle gains. When you’re burning fat and building muscle mass, you won’t always see the number on the scale decrease because muscle is denser and weighs the same as fat.

Instead of relying on the scale to assess your fitness progress, why not see how your clothes and pants fit this time? You might be losing waist inches already. How about your muscle strength and endurance? The scale doesn’t say anything about these things too.


5. The scale says nothing about your efforts

Nothing can undermine your efforts in achieving the healthiest and fittest version of yourself like the scale - that’s why you should let it go.

You’ve worked really hard to get rid of all the sugar in your diet. You’ve cooked your own meals, stayed active despite a busy schedule, read books to improve your lifestyle, and followed a good sleep schedule.

But does the scale congratulate you for the positive changes you made so far? No. This is why the scale can quickly become a source of frustration.

Trust that you are improving yourself each day. Nobody knows you more than you do. If you want to keep track of your accomplishments, write them down in a journal. It’s a better way to gain a deeper understanding of your personal journey than the scale.


6. The scale doesn’t reflect how you feel inside

Your feelings are important because they guide your actions. Unfortunately, the scale doesn’t reveal a positive disposition.

If your diet or exercise regimen makes you feel confident, more energetic, and happier inside, don’t let the scale turn those positive feelings into self-loathing and resentment just because it didn’t budge.


Does the Bathroom Scale Tell the Whole Story?

In a nutshell, no. The number on the scale only shows your relationship to gravity. It’s an incomplete and unreliable assessment of your health, progress, positive disposition, attitude, muscle mass, and energy levels.


Conclusion

The bathroom scale gives you an idea of the water weight you’re losing at the start of a keto diet, sudden water retention, or your weight loss progress (if you’re tracking that).

However, there are so many things that it fails to reveal - things that are worth considering in your journey to health. Stop attaching your identity to the scale. It’s a lifeless tool and can be deceptive in many ways.


Takeaways

  • Fat bias or weight bias has influenced people’s obsession with their weight.
  • There are more downsides than advantages to using the bathroom scale.
  • We achieve better results by focusing on healthy lifestyle practices, not weight loss.

References:

  1. Tomiyama AJ et al. How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health. 2018 August 15 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6092785/
  2. Greene J et al. State-of-the-Art Methods for Skeletal Muscle Glycogen Analysis in Athletes—The Need for Novel Non-Invasive Techniques. 2017 February 23 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371784/
  3. Better Health Channel. Fluid retention (oedema). 2017 April - https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/Fluid-retention-oedema
  4. Mogilner C, Aaker J, Kamvar SD. How Happiness Affects Choice. 2011 December 13 - https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article/39/2/429/1798974
  5. Cleveland Clinic. How Often Should You Step on the Scale? 2016 March 8 - https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-often-should-you-step-on-the-scale/
  6. Watson J, Round A, Hamilton W. Raised inflammatory markers. 2012 February 3 - https://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e454.full
  7. Sherwani SI et al. Significance of HbA1c Test in Diagnosis and Prognosis of Diabetic Patients. 2016 July 3 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4933534/

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