Weighty Matters

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The Numbers Game

on February 14, 2012

When losing weight it is so incredibly difficult to not focus on the number on the scale.  It’s like the entire measure of success is seeing that number steadily go down, down, down.  I’m obsessed with weighing myself every morning, buck naked and before breakfast.  If the number hasn’t moved sufficiently, my brain goes into wacky thinking like, “Maybe if I go to the bathroom again it will help.”

Seriously, that’s wack.

Logically I know the math behind weight loss.  A pound is equal to approximately 3500 calories.  Expend 3500 calories more than you take in and you will lose a pound.  Ingest 3500 calories more than you expend and you’ll gain.  Even if you lie on the couch immobile for days on end, your body burns calories by breathing, living and performing other bodily functions.  When you’re heavier, you burn more calories in the simplest movements.

However, the body has its own schedule and other factors figure in so even with all of the mathematical reasoning, the scale does not always move every single day.  Here’s a great case in point that should emphasize this in my head.  Prior to the surgery, I was on a full liquid diet for two weeks.  I lost 20 pounds in two weeks.  The math definitely added up.   My activity level was normal, for me, but my calorie intake had drastically dropped.  I switched to clear liquids the day before the operation.  Then I didn’t ingest anything — not even water — for 24 hours.  Once they let me have something it was only gelatin, Italian ice, and juice.  I was on IV fluids and dextrose around the clock, too.

Two days later I was released from the hospital and couldn’t wait to get on the scale at home and see how much additional weight had come off.  Imagine my shock when the scale said I’d regained those 20 pounds!  I must have shrieked because my sister-in-law, a nurse, immediately asked me what was wrong.  When I told her she wisely ordered me to back away from the scale and not get on it for a few days.  It was all water weight and swelling from the surgery, she advised, and would go away as quickly as it had come on.

It did, although not all that quickly.  It took a week but it finally went away and hasn’t been seen again since.

Focusing so much on a daily weight is not healthy for me.  It’s no more healthy than when I was overeating and avoided the scale for weeks on end so that I wouldn’t have to face that I was steadily gaining.  The key is balance.  I’m trying to wean myself away from daily weighing.  It’s like trying to cut back slowly on other addictions.  I can’t go cold turkey and reduce myself to once a week right away.  I weighed myself today and will now hold off until Thursday before weighing again and then skipping another day and not weigh myself until Saturday.  If I can maintain an “every other day” schedule for a week, I’ll put two days of not weighing in between my scale days.

I believe I can strike the right schedule to not obsess while also providing positive reinforcement for all of my efforts.  In the meantime I just need to remember the math of weight loss and know that, regardless of the number on the scale, I’m shedding pounds.

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8 responses to “The Numbers Game

  1. Bethany says:

    I used to have to weigh myself any time I saw a scale (it sucked in high school since there was one in the restroom at my job, in our school gym, in my home bathroom, and in the health classroom).

    So when I first moved out on my own (no roommate) I let myself keep a tape measure (I sew) but no scale. I still had to weigh whenever I saw a scale elsewhere (work, friends’ bathrooms) but it helped a lot to not be doing it every day. Cold turkey sucked at first and I transferred it to the tape measure (which fluctuates as well during the day) but somehow the tape measure was easier to wean off. Now it’s tape measure every few days or so while I’m on a program just to help me keep track as well as whenever I sew or go to buy something.

    Good luck!

  2. Mary Stella says:

    Karen, I’d never hold out only weighing once every two weeks. Right now I’m shooting for twice a week and then, hopefully, once a week. Good luck with that reckoning. It took me a while to face the music and remember that just because I avoided the scale didn’t mean I wasn’t adding pounds. 😦

    Judie, I hear you! Try not to let such a small amount as 2 oz throw you off. That’s only four paltry tablespoons. A few mouthfuls. It’s definitely not enough to sabotage yourself over and keep eating. You can do it!

  3. I have read that when you are on a slow, maintainable weight loss plan, you shouldn’t weigh yourself more than once every two weeks. More than that and you don’t see the progress. I mostly manage to avoid the scale altogether, although I know it and I are going to have to have a reckoning soon. Grrrr.

  4. Judie says:

    I do the same thing. I. Must. Weigh.
    I have to let it not blow my whole day if I’ve gained 2 oz. It is a sickness. Sometimes the daily weigh in is motivation and at times it is not.

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