Sunday, May 20


Many of the people I read online (such as in forums) are really, really concerned about what their scale says each day. More than concerned. Some folks if not actually bound and gagged would be weighing themselves by the hour. Hoping for a better number. Despairing if it doesn't show up. The more someone weighs themselves, the more they seem to be psychologically affected by it (which is logical, as the degree of their psychological stress about the subject is probably what determines how often they weigh themselves).

Now if we were talking about what the scale said in general, like for a few days running, this would make sense to me. They are working toward better health and fitness, so obviously, being able to see they lost or gained weight matters.

But every day? Twice a day? More??

The body is a great part fluid, which is pretty heavy. And the exact percentage and quantity of that fluid varies, with many factors involved. Some of these factors are well known: The fewer carbohydrates you eat, the less your body will retain water. The more sodium you ingest, the more your body will retain water. The more water you drink, the less your body will retain water. When my Monthly Mess is about to arrive, the body in its need to dilute and rinse out the womb, collects massive water in the tissues to be sure it has it available.

There are 4,982 other reasons for "fluctuation of fluidic levels in the body," of course. They are all secret. Only 3 people know them, and they would have to shoot you if they told you.

Now given this situation, and given that our food and liquid intake varies a little, the body and external temperature varies, the precise amount of exercise varies, the hormonal levels (of both men and women) vary, and with most scales, even the way you stand on it might make it vary, it seems to me the general lesson here is something like:

It varies.

I understand the need for feedback. If one isn't observing results, re-evaluating strategy, and implementing change when needed, then it isn't much of a plan.

But at some point you gotta ask yourself, is my monitoring serving a purpose of correction and/or inspiration? Or is it causing me more angst in the long run, with the constant variations?

I think psychology plays a great role in weight loss and change of fitness level. Weighing is supposed to be a realistic feedback and, hopefully, at least occasional inspiration. I have seen people who are actually losing weight, consistently week by week, who literally spend at least half of their days per week stressed and worried and guilty because so often the number had gone up slightly instead of down. Well when the overall trend is good, but a good number of daily weighings make ya feel bad, then the psychology is now more harm than help. I call the scale obsession the "Faint-by-Number" plan.

I see people in the forums saying things like, I ate this and that and today I'm two pounds heavier! So I guess food X is bad for me! -- er, well you know, maybe, maybe not. Might have had more sodium. Might be an intolerance issue. Might be one of a zillion other even unrelated factors. If it was 7500 calories in the middle of the night then ok, it might have made you fatter. But otherwise, small weight fluctuations are going to happen just like mood fluctuations do: they are both about the balance of the body, which is not a static thing in one place, but a dynamic process constantly re-re-adjusting to homeostasis. I also see the opposite effect: Well I ate birthday cake last night and I'm down half a pound this morning so it's fine! Heh. Well, you know... the longer-term numbers, and whether carb cravings knock someone off plan, will tell.

I'm not saying the Faint-by-Number approach is inherently wrong; some people really need that constant feedback. I'm just saying that I observe it is demoralizing when weight loss that is not rapid is approached that way, as their comments indicate.


For those who would really like to weigh EVERY SINGLE DAY I thought this might help. You can download free here in Excel format a simple spreadsheet that will not only let you track your weight, but will give you a 3-day, 7-day and 10-day "average" of your weighings. This is an idea I got from someone else I cannot recall the name of now (sorry). It allows you to see the "trend" of the weight change, not just the daily numbers. Also there is a page that automatically gives you a little graph of your weight as well. There are only a few tiny instructions, to set the date and graph for your unique numbers, they're on the sheets and easy.

Folks who already have spreadsheets, or are tracking their weight in a free online place like won't need this, but for those to whom spreadsheets are greek, it might be helpful. Click on the pic below to download the spreadsheet file, save it to your hard drive, and then open it in Excel. If you don't have that program, try Open Office, an awesome office product that has the equivalent of all MS's stuff, FREE, and will open Excel (as well as Word docs, Powerpoints, etc.) just fine.

Click on the pic below to download the xls file. Save it to your disk (remember where!) and open it in a spreadsheet program.
Free Weight Tracking Spreadsheet ( Diet and Eating Plan Stuff )

Now look at the averaged columns. Note that on the (fake) date 6/3 our (fake) person gained half a pound. But the 3 day average shows 0.1 lb lost since the last measure; the 7 day average shows .3 lbs lost since then; and the 10 day average shows 0.6 lbs lost.

So on days when you feel like freaking out because your weight is higher, consider the larger "trend." Look at how the numbers move in the averaged columns. Much less "wiggle factor" than the day to day weights. When the 3 day, 7 day, especially 10 day, averages are moving, then you really know that it's more than a variation or fluke, you're not just guessing. If the larger averages aren't growing much, relax a little. It MIGHT just be the normal variations of the body. :-)

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