Best Times to Ignore the Scale
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how regularly weighing yourself could help with weight loss. What I failed to mention is that there are times when you should ignore the scale. Following are instances where the number you see may be misleading, inappropriate or downright wrong.
Don't weigh yourself right after a meal. The extra pounds you'll see aren't fat; it's the weight of the food and fluids you've taken in. Weighing yourself after high sodium or spicy meals can show an even greater increase. The salt helps you retain water and spicy foods cause people to drink more. Both will show gain, but it's not permanent. As soon as you visit the bathroom the weight starts to drop back down.
Skip the scale when you finish a workout. It may look like that intense interval program helped you lose a few pounds, but it's just water loss from sweating. Because water makes up more than half a person's weight, a small variation in water content can shift a scale by 5 or more pounds from one day to the next. That's why detox programs that use diuretics are so popular. They flush water out of your system so you weigh less, but they don't change your body composition at all. The moment you drink something, the weight goes right back up to where you started.
Sometimes after a weight training workout, it may register you've gained weight. Unfortunately muscle doesn't appear that quickly. In those instances you're seeing the weight from the water you drank during the workout. Take a leak and the weight goes back down to normal.
Stay off the scale at random times and stick to a routine. If you weighed yourself first thing in the morning, it may be tempting to see what the difference is before you go to sleep at night. Avoid the temptation. If the weight is different, it doesn't necessarily mean you've gained or lost weight. It may simply reflect when you last had a drink, ate a meal or relieved yourself. First thing in the morning, after you've visited the bathroom but before you've eaten tends to be the most reliable time to check your numbers.
When looking to make changes in your body's composition, a traditional scale won't help. Muscle is more dense than fat. If you take two people who weigh the same (let's say, 160 pounds) and put them side-by-side, the one with a higher percentage of fat will appear bigger. The person with more fat will also have a larger waist and less definition.
By simply comparing the numbers, both weigh 160 pounds so you assume they're both in the same shape. But if one is at 30% fat and the other is at 12%, you've got one person who's technically obese and another whose body is considered in athletic shape.
For people already near their ideal weight, the scale won't help because your goal should be about dropping fat and increasing lean muscle. In those cases it might be good to invest in a scale designed to measure bodyfat.
For women, anytime during your menstrual cycle can be iffy. Weight can fluctuate by 2-4 pounds at various points during the cycle and you'll drive yourself crazy trying to track it. You need to know that weight gains during that time are temporary. Maintain a regular diet and exercise program and it's not something you should worry about.
After childbirth is another bad time to jump on the scale. You might expect a dramatic loss but discover only a few pounds are gone. The first week you may drop up to 15 pounds, but after that you'll lose weight at about the same pace you put it on. Plan on 6-9 months before you're back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
Use the scale as a guide, but don't get too excited, or depressed as it goes through typical daily fluctuations.
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