Midlife Battle of the Bulge–Become Friends With Your Scale

As the warmth of spring turns into the heat of summer, we soon will be wearing less and showing off more. It’s much harder to hide those extra pounds gained over the winter without our sweaters and thick winter coats. Will you be proud to show off your body by the pool or at the beach?

Many of us over 40 are caught up in the never-ending ‘battle of the bulge’: Do you sometimes get on the scale in the morning only to learn you’ve gained 3 pounds from the day before?  Does this apparent weight gain emotionally ruin your whole day, perhaps even lessen your self-esteem? On a bad day, I’ve had the scale implant in my brain the notion that I looked fat in my clothes, lacked self-discipline and even harmed my self-confidence in interacting with others!

Perhaps like me, you’d like to throw that nasty scale out the window so you’d never have to get on it again. In fact, rather than blaming your scale for weight gain, why not make the bathroom scale your best friend? Here are a few suggestions on how to strike up a friendship:

  • Make it your routine to weigh yourself once and once only at roughly the same time each day–preferably early morning.
  • Step on, step off. Whatever the reading,  leave the scale’s presence both  physically and emotionally.
  • Look, then move on–it’s just a number–neither negative nor positive.
  • Note how you’re trending–chart your progress over time.
  • Never assume you’ve gained or lost weight based upon a single reading. The number on your scale can be influenced by a variety of factors (liquid retention, your most recent BM, the barometer outside, your level of stress.)
  • If you’ve gained a few pounds–it’s not because of that cheesecake dessert you ate last night.  Your body takes a long time and persistent over-eating to translate food intake into actual fat stores.
  • Detach yourself emotionally from the numbers–keep with your weight-loss intentions. Today’s reading is like a mid-term grade, not your ‘final exam’.
  • Stick with your scale. If you stop weighing altogether, your weight can get way out of hand.

One of my least favorite aspects of the annual physical exam is the weigh-in. Why is it the nurse always announces your weight for all to hear and the reading is about five pounds heavier than your home scale? Here are some suggestions on how to deal with the dreaded doctor’s office weigh-in:

  1. Simply decline: “I prefer not to be weighed today, if that’s OK.”
  2. Inquire: “Is my weight important for what I’m being treated for today?” Often, the obvious answer will be “no.”
  3. Offer the nurse the early-morning reading you copied down from your home scale.
  4. Keep your eyes closed and request the staff member not to announce your weight out loud.

Without doubt, you have more clothes on and probably have eaten breakfast and/or lunch before your appointment so doctor’s office weight will only distract (and discourage) you from your actual weight trending.

Here are five times you should never step on the scale:

  1. Right after a vacation.
  2. Right after a special holiday or celebration.
  3. Right after travel, business or pleasure, especially on a plane.
  4. Right after you’ve been sick.
  5. Whenever you feel vulnerable, e.g., following a crisis or personal loss.

As sound practice, always keep in mind the “three-day rule”: whenever you experience a major shift in fluid levels because of a disruption in your normal routine, it takes at least three days for your weight to return to normal.

Here are a few common myths about the numbers on your scale:

  • I can lose weight from the flu.” Fluids lost through vomiting and/or diarrhea may make you lighter for a day or two, but you will gain this weight back as you recover and resume normal eating habits.
  • “I exercise, so any weight gain only means I am gaining muscle.” It takes an extended regimen of both diet and exercise to transform fat into muscle, and generally muscle strengthening doesn’t cause you to gain weight.
  • It’s because of the sweets I ate this morning.” Weight gain doesn’t happen that fast and isn’t caused by an isolated ‘pig out’.
  • Extra pounds today mean I’ve been doing it all wrong–I’m quitting my diet!  Stick with the program and watch for a weight-loss trend.

Periodic weigh-ins at irregular intervals without a solid weight-loss or maintenance plan in place can indeed be traumatic. Therefore, it all starts with a clear diet and exercise plan in mind, a permanent shift in attitude and a positive outlook on life in general. With these three elements solidly in place, it soon becomes easy to make friends with your scale. The modern bathroom scale was built to assist you to get you where you want to go in weight, in shape and in health. It is not meant to traumatize you–so begin today the scale your friend for life!

To learn more, tune in to the May 5, 2014 edition of my weekly Internet radio program “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age”–you’ll find our program link on Google. (You can listen to my May 5 program at any day and time from that date on.) I interview health and nutrition expert Linda Spangle who describes how to turn your scale into a powerful weight-loss tool.


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