So, this is the question: Is it time to stop weighing yourself? That, my friend, can be a very scary prospect, but it can also be very liberating to women who have been taught that the number on the scale defines our success, our attractiveness, our level of health, our desirability, our self confidence, and more.
Think about it. One number. And it changes every day, or more often if you keep checking it. Actually, your weight can change each time you weigh in, sometimes by several pounds. Yet we continue to let it control the outcome of our day, how we feel about ourselves, and our worth.
So let’s consider why it might be time to stop weighing yourself, particularly as women over 50.
What happens when the scale shows we’ve gone up in weight?
We step on the scale as part of our daily morning routine, and if the number is higher than it was yesterday, what do we usually do? Well, my typical reaction is to weigh myself again. The scale was obviously incorrect. Flawed thinking, my friend.
Sometimes we freak out and try to figure out what we did wrong. Because of course, it’s our fault, right? We must have eaten the wrong food, or too much food, or didn’t exercise enough (or at all), or maybe there was a full moon…many self-blaming thoughts rush into our head. We might impose a stricter diet on ourselves, or work out even more intensely in an attempt to lose the weight that’s been gained according to the scale.
And sadly, that number we see can affect our self image and self esteem for the rest of the day and beyond.
If we weigh ourselves every day, all of the fluctuations in our body will become magnified–and lead us down an unhealthy path where those numbers could become an obsession.
Consider why you are weighing yourself
It seems pretty obvious, of course. You weigh yourself to see how much you weigh. Duh.
But why do you, do we, do I, put so much ‘weight’ on our weight? What is that number really telling us?
For some, it’s a periodic assessment of progress toward a weight loss goal. I get it. You’re following a particular diet or eating plan, you have a goal weight, and you’re checking in to see how close you’re coming to achieving that goal. It can be a marker of sorts, to let you know how close you are coming to the goal.
Other see weighing themselves as a type of ‘check and balance’ system. That’s how I have considered my periodic weigh-ins. If the scale went up more than I was comfortable with, I’d cut back on the fun foods, or increase my exercise, or both. Or maybe I’d just feel bad about it but not really make changes to my lifestyle.
And yet for others it can become an obsessive behavior, even as women in midlife. If the first thing on your mind as you wake up is, “I wonder what the scale will say today?”, that little number might have become too much of a focus in your life.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why the scale can fluctuate so much, and why we might want to stop weighing ourselves.
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Why it might be time to step away from the scale for good
Stepping on the scale every day, or numerous times per day, is not a good idea for most women, especially as we get older. There are many factors that influence the digits that light up, and we don’t control most of them.
The number on the scale will not tell you how your clothes feel on your body. You will know that right away by the way they are fitting. If they’re tight, then it’s time to reevaluate what you’re eating as well as how much regular exercise you’ve been getting. We’ll come back to that thought a little later.
Hydration makes a difference in our weight at the time we decide to step on the scale. Think about it. Two cups of water weigh one pound, so how much water you’ve consumed (and we know that is an essential to overall good health) may tip the scale upward.
How much sodium in our diet, or recent consumption, will affect our overall weight because it can cause us to retain fluids.
And, if you tend to experience water retention, the scale may dip and then move upward again because of it.
Hormones and metabolism
We may be past child-bearing and menstruation, but our bodies can still go through hormonal changes as we age, producing symptoms including changes in body weight. Yes, our hormones definitely impact our weight, so keeping them in balance is essential.
A slowing metabolism is factoring into our weight issues, too. We have less muscle and more fat, particularly around the middle, as we age. Because our metabolism slows down (about 10% per decade after age 20) and muscle cells burn more fuel than fat cells, we’re more likely to gain weight.
Regularity (or not)
Yes, let’s talk about it because it is a fact of life, my friend. Daily elimination habits affect the number on the scale, and can also be influenced by medications you’re taking.
Even if you are regular with bowel movements, and lucky you if that’s the case, there is no way to really know how much waste is inside your body. That can and does affect the number on the scale.
Muscle vs. fat
Does muscle weigh more than fat? Well, not exactly, because a pound of something weighs a pound, no matter what it is.
But, muscle tissue is more dense than fat and takes up less space than a pound of fat. Let’s think of it like fruit because it’s easier to visualize. Fat is fluffy, bulky, and a pound of it is about the size of a small grapefruit. On the other hand, a pound of muscle is dense, and is about the size of a tangerine.
So, if you’ve been putting a lot of effort into strength training and functional fitness exercises, you may have created muscle where fat used to live. Which is wonderful! It helps to boost your metabolism and burn more calories. But the scale may not go down. It might even go up. Visualize two tangerines in place of a grapefruit.
The last thing you want to do is to weigh yourself and be discouraged because the little dial hasn’t moved in the direction you were hoping, and you think you’ve failed. But you haven’t. If your body composition now contains of more muscle, that is a definite win!
Yet another reason to stop weighing yourself, my friend.
Inaccurate assessment of overall health
The number on the scale will not tell you if you are healthier, and focusing on this one health indicator may be getting in your way of making progress with other aspects of your life.
There are a number of essentials for good health, physically and emotionally. If we become fixated on this one area we can neglect the others.
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How to stop weighing yourself
If you decide to ditch the scale it can be easier said than done. Here are some tips to help:
If you’re not ready to stop weighing yourself altogether, try weighing once a week instead of every day, then ease away from weighing more permanently. Here are some alternative steps you can take to help evaluate your fitness and healthy weight goals:
- Take note of what you look like in the mirror and how well your clothes are fitting. That is a truer indication of how well you’re doing in your healthy lifestyle journey.
- Or, get rid of the scale entirely. Throw it in the trash. This one might be a little extreme, but if you have trouble with your weight and are really struggling to break free of old habits then this could actually help.
- Another option is to measure yourself or get measured by someone else. This can work for different body parts like neck size, waist measurement, etc. Measurements can be a more accurate way to track progress and see how your fitness goals are coming along.
- Keep a journal of what you’re eating and how you feel. A daily diary can help to monitor your food intake. It also helps with fitness goals because it provides motivation by recording all the good things that happen when you stick to your diet plan, like feeling healthier or having more energy.
What happens when you stop stepping on the scale?
Eliminating the scale can have some positive effects on your mental health and motivation.
- When you decide to eliminate the weigh-in, it will help to eliminate unhealthy competition with others, and most importantly, with yourself.
- You may also notice more clearly when progress is being made without the confirmation of a number on the scale. Pay closer attention to the fit of your clothes, for example.
- It can be hard to see that we’re getting healthier if all of our focus is on a number and not on our overall health.
- The scale can also be triggering for some people, and it might help to stop weighing yourself if you are struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues.
You may find that without ‘the number’ on the scale influencing your mood, most of these pressures will disappear.
Ditching the scale might not be right for you
You might be reading this post thinking, “but wait…I want to check in periodically with my weight!”. If that is where you’re at in your life, then keep checking in on the scale. There is no black and white, must-do-it-this-way approach to weigh yourself, or not.
We should do what is right for us as individuals.
For me, I have come to the decision that the scale is going to be relegated to the closet. I’ve gone for periods of time without weighing in, and have always dragged the scale back out at some point, thinking that it was the ‘responsible thing to do’.
Not any more. I’m going to measure my lifestyle choices by how my clothes fit, and possibly with some body measurements. As a woman in my 60s I have realized that my body is still changing, morphing, and aging, and being tied to a number on the scale is only hurting my confidence and certainly isn’t helping the self esteem, either.
I want to learn more about intuitive eating. I may already be doing this, but a little bit of education is always helpful. Would I like to lose weight? Sure, a couple of pounds would be nice, and probably healthy, too. But I’m not going to beat myself up over every movement of the scale. Life is too short, and too precious, to be distracted by a piece of equipment.
As women over 50, the best choices we can make for our health are consistent, positive lifestyle decisions.
- Eat clean, natural food as much as possible. Diet plans or healthy eating plans can be helpful, too.
- Practice moderation with choices like caffeine, alcohol, carbs, and sugar intake.
- Exercise regularly, both aerobic and strength training.
- Give yourself the gift of regular, ongoing self-care.
It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that a decision to eliminate the scale from your life doesn’t mean it’s an eating free-for-all. Not at all! By striving to live a healthy lifestyle, staying true to the points mentioned above about our nutrition choices and commitment to exercise, we can keep our weight within reasonable limits as we age.
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