5 Reasons to Ditch Your Scale, Even If You Want to Lose Weight

Personal Trainer (Addison TX) Paul Williamson says to ditch the scale!
Let’s be honest, getting on the scale isn’t exactly a fun activity, and most of us would probably love an excuse to never get on one again. Being a personal trainer, you would probably expect me to be the one telling you to do it anyway – unless, of course, you actually know me or have read anything else I’ve written. So, without further ado, here are 5 valid excuses for never getting on another scale:

1. Focus on Habits, Not Results

Let’s get straight to the point… this isn’t about hiding from bad news, it’s about giving you a better chance to succeed. The honest truth is that we as a culture are obsessed with statistics and most people spend more time tracking results than creating results.

The more time and attention we put toward a specific stat, the easier it is to lose sight of the big picture and get sucked into quick-fixes that promise to improve the stat in question, even if it comes at the expense of things that should be more important (such as overall health). When you take this approach, especially with weight, the results are shallow at best and are practically guaranteed to be temporary because quick-fix shortcuts are not sustainable.

For any goal, whether it’s weight related or not, try to find 1-2 habits at a time that you know will put you on the right path and then have faith in the process. Setting a goal is like planting a seed – you will get better results by focusing on your watering habits than you will by constantly digging it up to check the progress. Just like the seed eventually breaking through the soil, your results will be clear to see if you just stick with the right habits.

2. Weight Loss is NOT a Math Equation

You may have heard the phrase that weight loss is all about “calories in vs. calories out”. Sounds nice and simple, right? The only problem is that it’s pure bullshit… pardon my French. Technically, it is true – but it leaves out more variables than you can possibly imagine, so following this as your approach to weight loss will leave you thoroughly frustrated when the numbers don’t seem to add up the way they should.

First off, this formula completely disregards the quality of the food you’re eating, which is astronomically more important than the quantity of food. When you eat the right foods, you don’t really have to monitor your intake or count calories. Our bodies were designed to tell us when to start and stop eating, we’ve just become accustomed to deceiving our bodies by giving them unnatural foods that trick our natural instincts.

Stress, hormones, muscle mass, and many other factors play a huge role in setting and adjusting your metabolism – and how you eat and exercise (both your body & mind) has an enormous impact on these adjustments. If you simply follow the calories in vs. calories out approach and eat too little food (and/or low quality food) and exercise too hard, the scale will encourage you to continue this method in the beginning and you’ll eventually destroy your metabolism and end up falling back to where you started (or worse).

3. Tracking Weight Can Be Misleading

Continuing on from #2, approaches like the “calories in vs. calories out” one can cause the scale to lead you astray. By tracking your weight, you could think that what you’re doing is working, when in reality it is actually leading you way off course. Let’s look at a simple example…

Imagine that you lost 5 pounds in your first week and are extremely excited about this progress. Unfortunately, 4 of the 5 pounds lost were muscle because you were in too great a calorie deficit (when you don’t eat enough, your body intentionally crashes your metabolism as a survival mechanism to be able to live on less food when food is hard to find).

Now, in just one week you’ve cut 200 calories off of your daily metabolic rate (on average, 1 pound of muscle burns 50 calories per day even without any activity). A few more weeks of this and you may no longer be able to lose weight, even with a low calorie diet. Then, when you eventually get frustrated and stop following the low calorie diet, your weight will balloon up because of your wimpy metabolism.

On the other hand, if you weren’t using a scale as your method of tracking progress, you would have been more likely to notice that after that first week you actually looked and felt worse, not better. In this way, the scale makes it harder to genuinely listen to your body, which is a much more accurate indicator of your progress.

4. The Scale Causes Stress, and Stress Causes Weight Gain

As mentioned in #2, stress is one of the other variables that impacts your metabolism (and obviously your overall health and well-being). Stepping on the scale is a very stressful activity for most people, and sometimes it can lead to the very opposite problem from the one we’ve talked about above. Rather than tricking you into thinking that you’re getting good results when you’re doing harm, it can also trick you into thinking that you’re getting poor results when you’re actually doing really well.

So instead of losing 5 pounds in the first week, what if you were to GAIN a pound? This must mean that what you’re doing is obviously not working, right? Not necessarily. Perhaps you actually lost 2 pounds of fat but gained 3 pounds of muscle, thus increasing your metabolism by 150 calories per day and setting you up to burn fat even faster going forward. This result is far better than the example of losing 5 pounds with 4 being muscle, but the scale might make you question your progress to the point that you either quit or change your approach.

Now, suddenly you’ve been sabotaged into abandoning a plan that was working really well – or at the least, you’ve planted a seed of doubt and created stress, which can also sabotage your results by throwing off your hormones even if you continue with your plan. As with the opposite example, if you had just paid attention to how you looked and felt, you would have noticed that you felt better after this productive week up until stepping on the scale and having your excitement crushed.

5. Weight-Control is Not the Goal, It’s a Side Effect of Health

Even if your scale monitoring does work and you end up losing weight, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a success. This is very similar to a person who goes into a career because they are passionate about the field and love helping people, but over time becomes distracted by money. This person might end up being wildly successful from a financial standpoint, and yet miserable and lacking fulfillment because they stopped enjoying their work once they lost sight of why they started.

A number on a scale will never make you happier, so if this is all you are chasing then it will only lead to a neurotic, unhealthy obsession. So why do people want to lose (or gain) weight? Everyone is different, but it could be for confidence, the ability to keep up with your kids, to be capable of travel and an active lifestyle at an older age, or for any number of other reasons that have nothing to do with the number itself.

If you stay in touch with your own “why”, then you’re bound to achieve the result, but it doesn’t work both ways – just because you get the numerical result doesn’t mean that you will achieve, or even remember, your “why”. Keep your focus on what actually matters and is important to you, and enjoy your journey as your scale collects dust.

Why Most People Dread Exercise (and the Simple Solution)

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Most people treat exercise like it’s a battle of wills with the goal of the mind conquering the body. This approach is harmful to both your body and your mind because it ensures that half of you will lose regardless of which side wins the battle – and in a battle between allies, even the winner loses in the end. With this attitude, it’s no wonder that people tend to dread exercise!

Always remember that your body and mind are on the same team, so the goal is to work with the body, not against it.

When we think of exercise as imposing our will upon our bodies, we tend to be far too aggressive in our methods. The way most people exercise could be seen as a brutal assault on the body, whereas the healthy approach to exercise revolves around stimulation, not destruction. Nobody wants to be miserable and exhausted (unless you’re a masochist), but we’re taught to think of exercise as punishment, so we just assume that this is something we have to put up with if we want to be fit. Not only do you not have to put up with this, but if you do put up with it then you will likely do more harm than good.

What about no pain no gain?

This single phrase has done more damage than just about anything else in the fitness field. Ever notice that in Eastern cultures, exercise is light, stimulating, and enjoyable – and the people in these cultures actually enjoy partaking in these practices and tend to be much healthier? Here, where our motto is no pain, no gain, most of us hate exercise and our society is incredibly overweight and unhealthy. It isn’t a coincidence that less of us exercise here, given that our ways of exercising simply don’t feel good.

Eastern exercise is energizing and relaxing, while Western exercise is miserable and exhausting. Heck, just look at how we each refer to our exercise sessions: In the East it’s called a practice, and in the West it’s called a workout. Sounds appealing right? Ok, maybe not… Think of it like this – stimulating exercise is like spending some time outside on a regular basis; you’ll end up with a healthy tan, lots of Vitamin D, and the best anti-depressant that money can’t buy. Aggressive exercise, however, is more like locking yourself in a tanning bed for an hour at a time. Sure, you might end up getting darker, but you’ll also end up with painful burns (i.e. muscle soreness), a higher risk of skin cancer (injury), and an all-around negative experience that requires significant recovery time and won’t exactly encourage you to make it a habit.

It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it

Here’s the twist… Switching to yoga won’t magically solve this problem. More often than not, we end up bringing our Western mindset into yoga and turning that into work too. Yoga is fantastic for many reasons (beyond just fitness), but this problem has nothing to do with the type of exercise you engage in. While the spirit behind yoga is intended to be light, fluid, effortless, and meditative movement, many yoga practitioners here tend to go through the motions in a forceful, rigid way, thus making it little more than a workout that happens to involve yoga poses.

Regardless of the form of exercise you choose, the same principles apply when it comes to getting the most of that practice and doing it in a way that actually feels good and brings you back again and again…

1. Breathe

The first thing people do when they push too hard is change (or stop) their breathing. Rule #1 for exercising in a stimulating (not destructive) way is to always breathe calmly. It’s not enough to just not hold your breath – your breathing should never be forceful either, even if you are winded. Labored, forceful breathing is a clear sign that you are straining, and strain leads to tension. After all, we want to release tension, not create it!

Rule of thumb: The easiest way to monitor your breathing is to simply breathe quietly. There are exceptions to every rule, but if you can’t help but pant vigorously, you’re probably pushing too hard.

2. Stay Loose

Modern exercise is traditionally taught in such a way that the appearance of “good form” is emphasized over how it actually feels. When your goal is more about how an exercise looks than how it feels, you will almost never be able to move in a loose and light way. This is yet another form of straining and creating unnecessary tension. Lightly maintain the best posture you can without becoming tense, and trust your body to move naturally from there. Keep it simple – the more details you try to control, the less natural it will be. Little kids tend to enjoy being active more than adults because they don’t take it too seriously and haven’t forgotten how to play!

Rule of thumb: If your face becomes tense, then it’s a good bet that your body is too. Keep your face relaxed (it’s even okay to smile from time to time!), shake out any tension from your arms and legs, and move like you’re playing!

3. Listen to Your Body

This is where we come full circle back to the notion of not turning exercise into a battle between the mind and body. Your body knows what it wants, so why not listen? When you push through warning signs like pain, you are ignoring your instincts, creating an internal battle with yourself, and forcing your body to protect itself (from you!) by tensing up.

Limited flexibility is not a matter of your body not being able to move beyond those limits, it’s a matter of your body not trusting you to move outside of those limits without causing harm. Just like with another person, that trust is regained over time if you improve the way you’re treating your body. Luckily, the language your body speaks is much easier to learn than English. Here are a few common translations… Pain -> Stop. Ease -> Continue. Strain -> Stop. Relaxation -> Continue. Exhaustion -> Stop. Invigoration -> Continue.

Rule of thumb: This one is easy… If it doesn’t feel good, stop.

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