Part of our ultimate goal in doing all this habit changing is to lose weight, of course. We've talked about making goals and keeping our eye on them, and how to set achievable benchmarks for ourselves as we do what we can to make ourselves healthier. Part of that is the practice of weighing in and seeing what our progress has been. Unfortunately, this is another area where people too frequently miss out on developing a good habit, and find instead discouragement and frustration.
The tricky thing is, sometimes the scale doesn't have good news. Sometimes we stand on it and we don't see the decrease we want, or, worse, we see we've picked up a pound somewhere despite all our hard effort. This is hard to take sometimes, and is one of the biggest causes of giving up. However, just like all other problems, there is an explanation and a habit that can help solve it.
The Weighing Habit Step 1 - Picking the Time
The first problem that tends to come up is setting the wrong time length for our weigh-in sessions. Eager to see results, we often start by weighing in every day. On the surface this feels logical. After all, we keep a daily food journal, make daily goals into weekly milestones, and try to plan daily meals for ourselves. However, body weight takes a long time to settle properly, and can actually fluctuate from day to day. So even though what we see as an extra pound we've gained between today and yesterday might not be a permanent thing, seeing it there causes discouragement.
Instead, set your interval for one week. Don't even look at the scale in the intervening days! A full week is enough time for your body to begin responding to changes, so waiting a week lets your measurements on the scale have more impact. That way the short term swings and dips don't give you the wrong impression, and you gain an idea of the way your weight is trending. Also, make it the same day and time every week, to establish firmly in your mind that this is a habit to be followed, not something you squeeze in when you can.
The Weighing Habit Step 2 - Treat it as Information
Information is neither good nor bad; it's just something we can use -- if we're willing. If all goes well and we stick to our plan, then we should see a steady, downward trend in our weight, and we can be happy about that. However, if we trend upward for one week, we shouldn't get too discouraged.
The body responds to all manner of things in its environment. Some people retain more weight in the winter, and peoples' metabolisms react strangely to diet changes. If, in fact, you aren't trending downward, simply accept that it means you need to either keep at it, or perhaps change something more, instead of giving up.
The Weighing Habit Step 3 - Keep it Consistent
Gathering information can be tricky, and there are ways to fool ourselves into thinking we aren't progressing as much as we'd like. There are elements that can be adjusted or changed in order to make information-gathering more accurate. These are what scientists call 'controls,' because they allow someone to keep control of the information.
First, make sure you weigh in at the same time every week, as we mentioned earlier. Your body has patterns that it follows, and may weigh in differently in the morning than at night. Set a convenient time you know you can meet again and again, and stick to it.
Second, make sure to weigh in wearing the same clothes, every time. Your clothes can add a significant weight to any scale you stand on, so make sure you note down what outfit you're wearing the first time you weigh in, and wear it every time. This will make your results more accurate, and help cement the habit of the matter in your mind.
Third, always use the same scale. Different companies calibrate their scales to different standards. Broadly speaking, they should provide similar results, but a digital scale could present differently than a counterweight scale in a hospital, for example. So even if you're at a friend's and they have one handy, don't hop on for a quick check. Stick to your scale, each and every time.
Fourth, remember your system of rewards. The best way to use the scale is to integrate it into your whole, habit-building and habit-changing plan. When you reach a benchmark that you're proud of, reward yourself somehow with something you enjoy. Reinforce the positive aspects of reaching your goals, even while you make sure not to beat yourself up over temporary setbacks.
The scale is a tool. It isn't a judge that we should fear or feel guilty before. Like any tool, it allows us to address matters professionally and systematically. Sometimes our weight will seem higher, other times it will seem to trend lower, and the scale can help us with that. Don't treat it as something to dread; learn to use it properly, and it will be a tremendous help in setting up a good, solid habit.