Does the number on the scale preoccupy you?
July 3, 2023 - By Karine Larose, M.Sc.
Do you watch your weight? Do you feel the need to weigh yourself regularly? Does the number on the scale influence the way you eat or your level of physical activity? Does it affect your mood when the number on the scale doesn’t match your expectations?
If you answered YES to one or more of these questions, let me show you that the number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story, and shouldn’t be the only motivating factor in changing and maintaining your lifestyle habits.
Why can’t we control our weight that easily?
Let’s start by explaining what the number on the scale represents. Body weight gives you an overview of everything in your body at any given moment: the weight of your muscles, body fat, organs, and bones, as well as the weight of all the fluids and foods in your body.
Have you ever weighed yourself on Monday and found that you’d gained 3 or 4 pounds over the weekend? Do you honestly believe you’ve gained 4 pounds of fat? It’s often just a matter of water retention from consuming too much sodium and/or drinking too much alcohol. Remember that a caloric surplus of 3,500 kcal is required to gain one pound of fat… so would you have consumed 14,000 kcal more in one weekend? Highly unlikely! So, there are several factors that influence the number on the scale.
Factors that cause body weight fluctuations
In addition to eating habits and level of physical activity, many other factors influence a person’s weight and body composition. Here are a few examples:
- Biological factors: age, gender, genetics, hormonal variations, etc.
- Physiological factors: resting metabolism, dietary thermogenesis, etc.
- Environmental and social factors: income, place of residence, work, etc.
- Psychological factors: stress, self-esteem, motivation, body image, capacity for self-control, etc.
- Medical conditions and medications
- Lifestyle habits: smoking, drugs, alcohol, quantity and sleep quality and quantity
To demonstrate all the interactions between factors, here’s a diagram taht confirms the complexity of body weight.
As you can see, some factors are controllable, while many others are not. Have you been consuming more sodium? Are you dehydrated or drinking more alcohol? How’s your sleep? Are you stressed? Taking medication? All these factors will influence your weight either upwards or downwards. So, weight fluctuations are not the sole result of fat loss or gain.
That’s why you shouldn’t base the success or failure of a change in behavior on the number on your scale.
So, should we be monitoring our weight?
Weight is an indicator that can be included in an overall assessment of health status, along with other indicators (genetics, personal history, etc.), but it is not the most determining factor. As you’ve seen, the factors influencing body weight suggest that controlling body weight is an extremely complex issue. So, it may take more than simply changing your eating and exercise habits.
Improving eating habits and introducing regular physical activity are key behaviors for better overall health and should be adopted first and foremost with this in mind, as well as with the objective of feeling good…, not to see a number magically appear on the scale! Because, although the weight on the scale may seem to be stagnating, your efforts to improve your health are certainly not in vain – on the contrary! Your physical and mental health are far more important than the number on the scale.
However, in a society where we’re hammered with messages promoting weight loss at all cost to improve our health, it’s only natural that you feel concerned about your weight taking up too much time and space. Don’t hesitate to meet with one of our nutritionists, who can help you improve your relationship with food, physical activity, and your body.
- Terry L. Davidson1*, Sabrina Jones1, Megan Roy1 and Richard J. Stevenson2, The Cognitive Control of Eating and Body Weight: It’s More Than What You “Think” Front. Psychol., 13 February 2019, Sec. Eating Behavior, Volume 10 – 2019
- National Library of Medicine, “Factors that influence body weigyht”, Institute of Medicine (US) Subcommittee on Military Weight Management.Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Factors Affecting Weight & Health”, Undestanding Adult Overweight and Obesity.
Does the number on the scale preoccupy you? is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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