For Newbies: Ditch the scale!
I have replied in this fashion so many times in the last three weeks that I'm just going to make a general post here. This is aimed at the people who have come to MDA hoping that they're going to drop weight on this way of eating, not athletes.
The first thing you do is throw your scale in the garbage.
Yep. I mean it. Go pick it up and throw it into the garbage now. If you want a little exercise, use a nice, heavy sledgehammer on it before you throw it away. But get rid of it - it's not going to help you on this journey you've just embarked upon.
I cannot emphasize this enough: The scale is the worst measurement of your health out there. Absolute worst. A few reasons why:
1. Bodyweight naturally fluctuates up to five pounds up or down over the course of any given day. Most people who are chronic "weighers" hit the scale three or four times a day and agonize over every pound. What's the point, when it could be reflecting: water you just drank, urine or feces that haven't been excreted yet, food you just ate, or an increase in muscle mass? The number on the scale tells you nothing.
2. You could be building muscle mass. Muscle takes up less space than fat, but weighs more for the same amount of space as a result. Instead of that arbitrary number on the scale which tells you nothing, get out the tape measure and check out how many inches you're losing and how much muscle you're building.
3. Weight loss is not linear. The body will often dump fat and fill the fat cells with water to "hold" the space, anticipating a refeed of carbs to fill up those storage cells again. Eventually, when it doesn't happen, the body gets the message and dumps the water out. Fat cells shrink, and "whoosh" - you lose five or six pounds in one day. You actually already lost the fat, but your body was hoping you would replace it. When you don't, the body adjusts - eventually - and your weight goes down a little bit. But the timing of this event is not predictable because too many other things affect it for us to say "after five days, you will have a whoosh." Everyone's body is different. The point here is that you cannot expect consistent weight loss or linear weight loss as we've all been trained to believe in. It doesn't really happen that way, no matter what Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig wants you to believe.
4. You may not have a lot of weight to lose. The extreme, spectacular weight loss reported by many people on these forums is largely reported by people who are well over 100 pounds overweight. I only had the spectacular weight loss I had because I started at 400 pounds. I'm now at 295, but after the first two months, I lost at the same rate as most other people are losing - about a half pound a week or so. If you only have fifteen or twenty or even fifty pounds to lose, it's going to take longer than it did for me or someone else who started at "huge" and went down to just "big."
5. As a corollary to #4, you may have unrealistic expectations of what you should weigh. If you are 5'7" and you weigh 150 and you really, really want to weigh 130, that's fine, but it may not be realistic, especially if you're building muscle mass. A muscular woman who weighs 150 is still going to fit into smaller clothing sizes than a skinny-fat woman who weighs 150.
6. You may be healing. If you're healing, the body is going to prioritize that over weight, every time. You may have a very damaged gut or arteries from years of eating the low-fat, high-carb, healthywholegrains Standard American Diet. If that's the case, it's going to be a while before your body recovers enough to feel safe dropping any weight! Give yourself the time and space to heal, and ditch the scale in the meantime.
There are dozens of other ways to measure your health. The number on the scale is not one of them. A pound of feathers and a pound of concrete both weigh a pound. Is the composition of those two pounds the same? Of course not. The composition of a pound of fat and a pound of muscle is not the same, either - and the scale will not tell you which pounds are fat and which are muscle. So throw it out. It's arbitrary, and it's not worth your health to obsess over a number.
Ways to measure health as well as fat loss:
- Clothing fit and sizes
- Energy levels
- Sleep patterns, restfulness, and refreshed-ness
- Hunger patterns
- To some extent, blood work (glucose levels, triglyceride and HDL levels, LDL patterns)
So, the upshot: throw the scale away and refocus your goals. This isn't about weight loss. This is about living your life.