ILANA KATZ MS,RD, CSSD
Is your scale the boss of you? Really, are you allowing this unforgiving, inanimate demon to constantly determine your moods? I ask this of many clients almost daily, and believe it or not, I get a defensive nod, and a “yes, of course!” Why people? Jokes aside, I do understand why, since I too have known to be a slave to a scale. Oh yes, and shamefully, I too allow that scaly, dumb thing determine my self worth. But I am done… I am ready to give you all a break. I am offering a plea bargain here – trade the scale in!! Open your mind, soul and mood-swings to more up-to-date, smarter devices, such as yourself, mirrors, and clothes. Hey, I am not turning in my food police badge here, and neither is this a journal entry from my deepest, darkest soul search. This here is my curtsey to ol’ faithful science and Ilanalogic (an emerging scientifically evidenced phenomenon). Are you ready for the mind boggle?
To be fair, before I totally dis the scaly dumby, I will offer some credit, where credit is due. It is good for one thing, and that one thing is the determinant of scientific concept called gravity. Gravity, yes, the force that pulls objects towards earth. In other words, if you were to weigh yourself on the moon which has no gravitational forces, you will weigh approximately only 20% of your current earthly weight. Moving to the moon seems to be a good weight loss option then, right? Wrong! You will take yourself with you. If you have diabetes, you will still have diabetes. If you have high cholesterol, you will still have high cholesterol, Your body fat, will be your body fat. Ahhhh, but your weight will be less…mmm… would you still want to live on the moon with the same body fat? (Darn, I guess I am not moving to the moon after all). So does that put the scale in its place yet? Do you now realize that when you lose 10 lbs in a week, or gain 3 lbs in a day, what you are losing or gaining is not fat, but simple a gravitational pull to the earth? It is in my nature to further define this gravitational pull to the earth, so that we can finally send all our scales to the moon (rather than ourselves).
Definition of weight can be “Ilanalogically” broken down into 3 distinct matters: Undigested matter, body water, and muscle mass. I dare you to study these each individually to get on my bandwagon. Firstly UNDIGESTED MATTER, known to the layman as poop (I am not shy, dietitians speak of this daily, it is what we do.) Undigested matter is created from the food we eat, so if we eat less on a day here and there, we will weigh less on a day here and there, since less poop will be created. Yes, all those unanswered questions can be finally put to rest, you know the ones: “is it possible to lose 2 or 3 lbs by tomorrow?” Sure it is, just eat less today than you usually do, and matter of factly, you will lose a gravitational pull of poop to the earth. It may even be 2 to 3 pounds less if you eat that much less. Your metabolism has not risen suddenly, your body composition is mmm status quo, and your health has not magically improved over night.
I hear you… many of you are itching to point out that I do not typically eat that much to begin with, so cutting back by 2 or 3 lbs of digestive matter in one day is not quite possible, huh? Well this brings me to my second component, and that is WATER. Did you know that 60 – 70% of your whole being is water? When you eat, the absorptive matter is attached to water which is transferred in the body. Do not forget, everything has weight, and every particle of weight is a component of gravity, and our scales measure gravity, in this case water. Did you know the word carbohydrate means “glycogen” (storage of carbs) plus “hydrate” (the 3 – 4 molecules of water attached to the carbs). Quite mind boggling, huh? So eat less carbs, and the initial response by your body is weight loss, because there is an absence of water that would normally be in those carbs. Now eat hardly any food, in other words a low calorie diet, or a diet that does not equate in calories to your needed calories to survive (your basal metabolic rate), and what do you think will happen? Your body will begin to use up the glycogen stores to the point of depletion, and once again you will lose weight !! Let me be clear – this is not fat loss! You have not magically raised your metabolism, you have not drastically improved your health, and your body fat is once again, status quo.
This brings me to the third component of weight, MUSCLE. Unfortunately, the greatest component of weight loss, particularly on too-low calorie diets, is muscle mass. Too low calories causes deprivation of nutrients, carbs, protein and also vitamins and minerals necessary for an effective metabolism. I say unfortunate, because loss of muscle also means loss of your most metabolic active tissue. Loss of metabolic active tissue translates into training the body to store more fat. You may very well ask why do you not burn more fat in a state of deprivation. Although this seems like the a logical step, fat cannot burn unless there are carbs present. The by-product of carbohydrate metabolism is the oxygen in which fat burns. Depriving yourself of the right amount of carbs will shift the body into finding the most available energy source for survival, and that is muscle. Once again, you are losing something that has a gravitational pull to the earth – weight !! And again, you have not lost any fat, you have not improved either your metabolism or your health… in actual fact, you have trained your body to store fat, and are going further and further away from the original goal of health and fat loss. Literally, it would be to a point of no return, since muscle mass, although the easiest tissue to lose, is the most difficult tissue to rebuild.
So now back to the original question of what is the value of the scale (unless you have already thrown it away, in which case, good for you!!) No longer are you going to scream with joy and accomplishment when your weight goes down in one day (sorry I took that illusion away), but neither are you going to tantrum in defeat, failure and wonder “why why why!!
I hope I have somewhat eliminated the awe of a 2 – 4 lb weight shift from day to day. Ilanasology should have explained the normalcy of this, and it has nothing to do with fat loss. If you are still not convinced that the 4 lbs you gained overnight is not fat, then get out your calculator: One pound of fat is 3500 calories. This means that to gain 4 lbs, you would have to eat 14 000 calories, and although some of you may snicker, I doubt that you ate that for dinner. Similarly, if you are convinced that the 4lbs you lost within a day or two is because you have been a perfect angel on your eating plan, then again, get out your calculator. Realistically it is viable to lose 1 – 2 lbs a week but a 10 lb fat loss in one week would equate to a 35 000 calorie reduction over the week. Not really rational, is it?
So now that the technical stuff has bogged you down, there is one simple take home focus, and that is that you can realistically lose 1 – 2 lbs of fat a week. With that said, if you are not willing to give up your dysfunctional relationship with the scale, at least consider “dating” the scale. And by that I mean, set up a date or two with the scale, play hard to get, keep your distance, and do not let that dumby become a mood swinger. Keep the scale at bay, and date night should be at max once a week. Well, maybe not date night, since the dumby is more effective in the morning. Weigh in at the same time and under same conditions on each date, meaning no clothes. Always put yourself first! No really – YOU are your best critic for your success and continuous motivation. Look in the mirror, pinch your firmer muscles for a reality check. Do you feel good. Are you feeling fit and healthy. Get in touch with your feelings, since they are the real proof in the pudding (and no, not mmmm pudding). Are your rings slipping, is your skin feeling tighter, are your muscles shapely, and do your clothes feel loser. You know when you are eating well, sleeping optimally, de-stressing. So never let your scale tell you any differently!