I’m pretty sure we all have those days when we’d like to assume our scales are either hopelessly broken or lying simply to hurt our feelings. There are times when the numbers aren’t what we want them to be, and any reason for them to be inflated will do just fine, thank you very much. We’ve all heard the scale be dismissed as a “lying machine,” a “crying machine,” and simply an untrustworthy source of information when it comes to measuring our progress, but what’s the truth?
Organizing Your Toolbox
The scale is a tool, plain and simple. And if you look in any given toolbox, how many tools are there? It’s likely there are several. If you look in a carpenter’s toolbox, you’ll find an entire range of tools to help him do his work. Same thing for architects, writers, plumbers…everyone. In fact, no one needs a toolbox to carry around just one tool. A toolbox is used to help organize an entire set of tools, so that all of them can be utilized when they are most needed.
Same thing for our health. In order to maintain optimum health, we need to look at a variety of things. We need to utilize a wide range of tools to help us reach our desired fitness, health, and weight levels. It just so happens that a scale is one of those tools. And if we use it how it’s intended, it can play a decent role in helping us get where we want to go.
Before We Went Digital
I remember our old bathroom scale, the one with the traditional speedometer-type dial. When I was feeling particularly bloated or puffy, I could lean slightly to the left, and skew the numbers a little lighter. I could also let my big toes creep just barely over the edge of the scale, shaving a few pounds off the dreaded number. Of course, in my head, I KNEW I was fudging things, but somehow it made it better when that little dial didn’t quite make it to the next number up!
It’s a little tougher now that things are digital. Down to tenths of pounds, the truth comes out—and there’s no way to fudge it. But we still find ways to tell ourselves the scale lies:
- We say, it’s all about muscle. (And to some extent it is, but the scale still gives us an idea of how we’re doing regarding nutrition and holding onto unnecessary weight.)
- We say we’re holding water. (And sometimes we do, but not enough to traumatize us and scare us away from the scale forever.)
- We say it’s more about how our clothes fit and how we feel. (True as well, but the scale isn’t going to lie about which way the numbers are trending, which will give us some pretty solid insights regarding where to start tweaking our plans.)
In Eat to Perform’s 8 Nutrition Myths That Need to Die, the scale is tackled as a subject many have sought answers from in the past. But in lieu of getting the answers we want, we chuck it aside, refusing to believe that when the numbers don’t change, maybe we should be doing something differently. In other words, according to the article’s author, “The simple fact is that you don’t want to check the scale because you can’t handle the truth.”
Ouch. But truth. There have been ENTIRE MONTHS I haven’t been able to handle the truth, and that’s why my digital scale has found a cozy home in the darkest recesses of my closet. I fully bought into the “Your scale lies” mentality. But it’s not true.
The truth is your scale is a tool. It’s one tool among many that can be used to help you gauge your progress along a long road toward being fit, healthy, and physically functional. You can also look at things like how your clothes fit, how well you breathe and move during certain exercises, body fat, strength increases, endurance…among many other valuable measurements. The scale won’t lie to you. If you weigh 200 pounds, it will tell you flat-out, to your face, “Dude, you weigh 200 pounds.” And while weight isn’t the be-all, end-all determining factor of health, it’s one way to measure how you’re doing.
According to Eat to Perform, in general, “a downward trend on the scale usually means fat loss, and an upward trend usually equals fat gain.”
While the scale isn’t the only way to measure how we’re doing, it’s a place to start. It can give us a glimpse at certain things we can start to fix. It can TELL US THE TRUTH and point us in the right direction, and we can use it as a metric to guide us as we aim for better health.