Me on Hills

Why the Scales Really Don’t Matter

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I’ve said before how evil the scales can be. Repeatedly. I swear to God, they are put on this earth just to toy with my emotions, because whenever I feel like I’ve had a really good week, boom! I can guarantee you I will have apparently gained a few pounds. Never fails.

There are so many variables that can affect your weight from day to day. So many. Water retention, potty-related things, whether it’s anywhere near your time of the month (for the girls – obviously), how much salt you ate in the last 24 hours – there is a hell of a lot working against a ‘good’ result on the scales, especially if you weigh yourself every day.

Before I started using body composition as my main measurement of progress, I used to hop on the scales every morning and expect a different result. Fortunately, I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to spending time on the scales now, so when it didn’t go my way, I’d take the hit and move on. ‘Tomorrow, it’ll be better,’ I’d say – only to be disappointed the next day. And so on, and so forth, until suddenly, I’d drop 5lbs in 24 hours.

Apparently.

Regardless of the fact that I really wouldn’t recommend weighing in every day unless you really have to, that’s pretty much proof right there of why you have to carry on even when the scales seem to be against you. Staying focused on the long-term goal, rather than the day-by-day fluctuations in your weight, is the only way to stay sane – and the only way to lose the weight.

Thing is though – this week, I have been living in a constant state of fear. I’m being interviewed by some UK papers about the blog, and that’s incredibly exciting – but it does also mean I have to have my photo taken. By a proper photographer.

If you could see my face now… I seem to adopt a sort of aghast expression every time I think about it. Which will NOT serve me well on photo-day, I’m sure.

Anyway, that’s rather freaked me out, so I’ve found myself jumping on the scales more than I usually would, because I have the fear and I’m working on the assumption that if I do that, I’ll wake up on said photo day and suddenly be Kate Moss. Alas, it doesn’t work like that – and in all honesty, in my heart of hearts I know I’m way better at rocking the Christina Hendricks look. No worries.

So it’s a minor blip in confidence, which I’ve had to make up for in other ways.

On Sunday, I faced a fear. After my accident in 2007, I couldn’t walk unaided, which meant that I certainly couldn’t join my family on their regular trips to the Malvern Hills. Which is a real shame, because check them out – they’re really pretty:

I didn’t think that, though, when I was 16 and being dragged, panting, red-faced and sweaty, up the damn things by my parents. Nuh-uh. I HATED them. But as Joni Mitchell wisely pointed out, you really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, and in the 5 years since my accident, I’ve rather missed having the freedom to walk up a hill.

I know, I’m annoyingly contrary like that. Sue me.

So on Sunday, I went back. I’ve been gaining strength in my legs for a while now, because I’ve spent so many hours on the treadmill at such an incline that I figured I was strong enough to give it a shot. And going up… I was absolutely fine. Better than fine – I was fit. Far fitter than I’d ever been at 16, or ever, for that matter. I LOVED it.

Here’s how much (note: no make up, because I am a proper rambler type now):

As usual, though, the best laid plans… Yadda yadda yadda. Turns out going down on two bionic knees is actually pretty hair-raising. Feel free to laugh at me – because ironically, that was the bit I used to look forward to when I was younger, far more than the uphill bit. But I made it, even though I had to cling to my Mum’s arm for dear life the whole way down – and that’s one big non-scale victory for me.

I’m doing the victory dance as we speak.

Then, I was pounding away on a treadmill (again) on Tuesday, and I looked down at my heart rate… To find it was stuck at 110bpm. Not enough for the programme, which requires it to be between 115-130bpm to burn fat most effectively. Which was odd, given I’m normally easily in the late 120s on that incline, and at that speed. So I cranked it up to a little higher than my usual top end…and still barely touched 115.

I had to rock that incline way up (for me) to get back in the right zone, which seriously inconvenienced me because I FEAR CHANGE. No joke. And the next day, the same thing happened again. So, being grouchy as hell and slightly convinced that I’d somehow done it wrong, or that the treadmill’s heart rate monitor had been changed by aliens joining the gym without my knowledge, I emailed Matt about it. And here’s his answer to  my question of ‘how come I suddenly have to work a lot harder?’

“Because you are getting fitter! The heart, because of the level of exercise that you are doing in conjunction with greater efficiency in your muscles has caused your body to adapt to your new level of health. Your resting heart rate should now be lower, because you are now fitter – so to raise it will take more effort.”

Ding ding ding! We have another non-scale victory for this week. And because I’ve been working harder, I’ve been getting one hell of a buzz out of my workouts, like I did back when I first started. I’m positively pumped, like a hybrid somewhere between Arnie and Jessica Ennis. Which I guess is another benefit of the programme I’m following – because the fitter you get, the harder your workouts will be, so you get to keep the buzz all the way through.

Happy days!

And finally, in my quest to find something to wear for these terrifying photos, I ended up rooting through my old wardrobe in the hopes of finding something I could recycle. And look what happened – the top on the left is now the dress on the right:

And that first picture? That’s from the 27th February 2012. Just over six months ago.

Oh yep. That’s another non-scale victory.

You might be wondering… What am I getting at by just sitting here, bragging about my awesome week?

This week… I have apparently gained two pounds.

And that, my friends, is why the scales do not matter at all. This is about health, and this is about having the best body you can in health terms, rather than in numbers on a scale. This week, I’ve proved to myself that I’m (relatively) fearless, I can conquer challenges, and I’m getting fitter by the day – and I gained a nice new dress – regardless of that number.

This sort of thing will happen all the way through your journey to fitness, but it’s all too easy to miss these moments whizzing by if you’re constantly preoccupied with why or how you haven’t lost any weight in three days. Which is a shame, because these are the types of things that make the journey almost as thrilling as the result.

Which leads me back to the point I always seem to return to. It’s not just about weight loss, and when it is, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. This is about changing your life, and being happy with yourself, mind and body.

So for everyone’s sake – step away from those damn scales. And go change your life!

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Comments
  • comment avatar Toni 6 September, 2012

    Fantastic post. Well done on your amazing week.

    I know the heart rate thing well. When I first started going to the gym my heart rate on the cross trainer at level 1 was (a terrifying) 185bpm (my resting rate was about 88). Now granted the cross trainer works you hard and it was a fair bit lower on the treadmill but that was still a scary number. Now even though I work on the cross trainer at level 3 and go for 10 minutes without stopping my heart rate never goes above 165bpm. Something that made me really happy.

    I keep track of my program (times, intensity, speed, reps, weights, etc) and post on my blog once a month to show the changes. I think knowing that when I started (only 2 months ago) I could only do level 1 for 2.5 minutes before I needed to rest and now I can do 10 mins at level 3 without stopping (could probably do level 4 if it wasn’t for the rib injury), that’s the sort of non-scale victory I can look at and say ‘See I am changing my life, even if the scales aren’t showing much change I know I’m giving myself a chance for a longer healthier life).

    We all need to start celebrating the NSV more often.

    Toni. xx

    P.S. Gorgeous view. I am so jealous of those hills. One of my goals for when I am fit enough is to do a walk in the Pennines from Hebden Bridge up to Stoodley Pike Monument and back down, I used to go walking up there with my Dad when I was a teenager and it would be great to be able to go back up there.

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 7 September, 2012

      That’s incredible progress Toni – and recording your progress like that is a really great idea! I do wish I’d made more of a note of what weights I started on, inclines on the treadmill and so forth from when I first started, because having that to look back on would be really great :)

      And you’re absolutely right – a longer, healthier life really is the end goal :)

  • comment avatar hazelmarie 6 September, 2012

    Fantastic post as always! Just what I needed too…this morning I stepped on the scales and had gained 1/2 a lb in two days. I was devastated. I’d had a meal out, enjoyed a glass of wine, and clearly the scales were punishing me. But when i thought back, I had 150ml of wine ( first in 10 weeks ) I ate 1/3 of my plate at the restaurant, and I have walked 16,000 steps a day this week. These aren’t bad things to have done, and they are a huge change in my behaviour only 3 months ago.

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 7 September, 2012

      They’re not bad things to have done at all – they’re just examples of you living your life properly whilst getting healthy and being happier. Don’t beat yourself up about it – just savour the moment and move on :)

  • comment avatar Toni 6 September, 2012

    Also meant to say…..

    Kate Moss?????

    Christina Hendricks is waaaaaaaaaay more beautiful than Kate Moss. I can’t think of any guy I know that would pick Moss over Hendricks. Fact.

    xx

  • comment avatar Heather 6 September, 2012

    Dang. Very well said. Im hoping back up there even on the days I dont want too…even when my scale doesnt seem to want to budge. Im actually excited at what I will look in 6 months. Lord knows I want to look as cute in shorts, tights and a pair of boots as you. Absolutely adorable. Welcome to being bad ass.

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 7 September, 2012

      Haha, thanks! I’m amazed at the difference 6 months has made – if you’d told me in February where I’d be now, I wouldn’t have believed you. And yeah – shorts, tights and boots are the goal! :D

  • comment avatar Lily 6 September, 2012

    For one thing, body composition is scientifically superior to scale weight. Scale weight means NOTHING (except *total mass* of lead or feathers on it; lead’s gonna be tiny compared to how many feathers it takes–still weigh the same, though!). You know this but I’m restating for anybody going “huh?”

    I go on and on about this not because I want to be RIGHT. It’s because I beat the crap out of myself for decades (since 1985 when I first joined a weight loss program) til 2009. And boy, do I not want anybody else to do that to themselves. Even though I *know* this, I can still freak out because the scale didn’t move buy I’ve lost inches…WHY, WHY, WHY? Erm, I know why…I still want the scale to say something different.

    It breaks my heart that I’d been so vicious to myself OVER NOTHING. We’re told for 62″, you should weight ___.

    And it’s FALSE! I made a similar blog post (nobody cares about me, though–you’re famous! I’m just babbling into cyberspace) recently. “A Tale of Two Camis.” http://tinyurl.com/bwxpa65

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 7 September, 2012

      I’m so glad it’s not just me that’s this passionate about it! And your Tale of Two Camis blog is brilliant – a perfect example! Thanks for sharing :)

  • comment avatar Stephanie 6 September, 2012

    I too have such a hard time with scales and instead begun measure my progress with inches and clothing sizes.
    When I started my weight loss journey, I would weigh myself daily and agonize over the tiniest rises and falls in my weight- feeling guilty and like a failure. I never remembered that the body’s chemistry is constantly changing and that muscle weighs more than fat! (I’m trying to lose 120 pounds! I’m at 50 down now! )

    Your non-scale victories are fantastic!!! You look amazing!! You don’t even look like the same woman! The best feeling is when you realize that you need a size smaller or when you realize you’re doing something you never dreamed you could do before!

    Amazing and inspiring post!

    -Stephanie from the states

    P.S- The picture on the left was taken on my birthday- and I too compare current pictures of myself to pictures taken on that day. :]

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 7 September, 2012

      50lbs down is amazing – congratulations! And thanks for your kind words – I love a good before and after pic so feel free to send me yours! x

  • comment avatar Kim @ Coffee Pot Chronicles 9 September, 2012

    I’m trying to wean myself off that evil scale. I keep fluctuating between the same few numbers even though my pants and clothes are arguing much differently. If we’re going by numbers, my scale says I am between 236 – 238. But how I feel and how my clothes fit feels more like 227-230. So who/what do I believe? I think I’ll go with my clothes.

    Overall, I’m just trying to use that number as a base idea of where I am at rather than the be all and end all to my weight loss efforts. I’m eating well and sort of exercising (I haul ass on my university campus even though I don’t have to so that’s my exercise) so I’m feeling okay there. The pounds will come off eventually and being healthy is much more important than what my scale says. =)

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 10 September, 2012

      I couldn’t agree more – your clothes will always give you a better guide to what’s going on than the dreaded scale! And as long as you’re improving your health, it really doesn’t matter what that number is. I just clicked through to your blog and it’s great – you’ve already done really well! Keep it up and the scales will definitely drop eventually :)

  • comment avatar Sandi 15 September, 2012

    Reading this blog encouraged me to join your subscription club…I am a sparkspeople member on the maintaining path now & I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding the importance of the scale regarding the healthy lifestyle journey…I have embraced a combo of eating well, sleeping longer (I work nights) & incorporating more activity into my daily life…The benefits of that are the BEST…balance is the key….& a healthy mindset is the 1st step to a healthy body too!!! This is no matter what the medical challenges we all face…kudos to you & ALL you’ve accomplished…I love the photo journey too!!!

  • comment avatar Krista 17 September, 2012

    Oh my god…you’re awesome! I’m so glad I found your blog…it’s witty, well written and super motivational. Maybe I can stick to it this time!

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 18 September, 2012

      Awww! Thanks Krista – and good luck on your journey! x

  • comment avatar Camyla Barbosa 19 September, 2012

    Hello Katie, this is a beautiful story! I’m from Brazil and his story inspired me recently arrived here. I spend the same problem and you and your blog, you are an inspiration to me more. Thanks for sharing your story with the world and please don’t stop writing here hahaha . xoxo

  • comment avatar Jo 24 September, 2012

    I have recently restarted running and was horrified that once upon a time not long ago I was running races to raise money for charity, and here I am struggling to complete 2 miles. Shameful.

    Chin up on your progress, you are obviously a huge inspiration to many. If it’s of any consolation my weight constantly fluctuates within the same 3lb. It’s normal, even for someone who is at a healthy weight (5 foot 1, 109 to 112lbs). I don’t change anything cos I know it’s not a report card of how “good” or “bad” I have been. It just means I am a normal living organism. I am confident that by the time you get to your goal, minor daily changes like that won’t faze you. :-)

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 27 September, 2012

      Thank you Jo! It’s so funny how much your fitness levels can change in a short time – which is why I’m mentally preparing myself for a change once I have my knee surgery in a few weeks time. Fortunately, once you get going again you get a big boost in progress so it all cancels out :)

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