Why I no longer care about the scale

Real Talk: I’m going to say what needs to be said.

F*ck the scale.

It’s crazy how much anxiety, stress, and diarrhea one single little measurement can cause. And it’s not just an issue for teenage girls anymore, it affects hundreds of thousands of men every single day.

Even though I don’t like admitting it, as a man I am just as affected by the scale as the ladies are. The scale does not discriminate against age, gender, or sex and it does not abide by the geneva convention (that’s a joke, FYI).

For years, even as a competitive weightlifter, I judged my progress and my fitness by the number on the scale. Even when I set personal records, it didn’t feel the same unless my body weight was low.

Snatchin’ 245 pounds when I was a competitive weightlifter

In between my competitive weightlifting career and today came a nasty and vicious clinical depression. I put on 45 pounds and my life was in shambles. Every time I got on the scale, it would send me into a tailspin for days.

Here’s what that looked like:

After working with a therapist through intense psychotherapy, I finally managed to get back on my feet, get back in shape, and turn my life around.

The difference this time was I refused to diet and I refused to let the scale be the only measure of progress.

A Big Mental Shift, Kinda….

Picture 1: 235lbs, Picture 2: 198ish pounds
Bending the Bar with a 445lb squat for 5 reps

A few weeks ago, I started tracking my eating diligently. This is phase III of my personal transformation:

  • Phase 1: 235 lbs → 215 lbs
  • Phase 2: 215 lbs → 197 lbs
  • Phase 3: 201 lbs → 185 lbs? (I rebounded 4 pounds in between phases, as they are 3 months apart. I am currently in phase III as of this writing.)

But on Friday (May 19), I weighed myself. So after 2 weeks of being diligent, I was ready for the magic.

Start weight 201… Today’s weight……. 200.4.

IMMEDIATE FRUSTRATION. WHAT THE F***???? All that work for .6 pounds!!!!!!

This frustration carried over to Saturday (May 20). My training partner, Matt, and I were trying to decide where to grab lunch after a grueling and intense workout.

Saturday post-workout is typically reserved for a relaxed lunch (aka — a fantastic NJ bagel) and an afternoon beer. Before we even chose, I blurt out “I’m not drinking, I didn’t lose any weight this week.”

Matt, knowing I can turn into a psycho when I start tracking, says “Well, why do you even care, you look the best I’ve seen you and you’re training great.”

Damn, what I am complaining about? What he said is true.

What was I freaking about?

Sometimes the scale does not tell the entire story.

But I am human and sometimes I fall into “the scale is the only thing that matters” mindset.

It began at 12 years old

When I sat back and thought about why the scale was so important to me, it started when I was 12 years old.

When I was a kid, I was made fun of for being chubby. A lot. And I was a really, really sensitive kid. When I lost weight, I was made fun of less. So naturally, I tied my weight to how much people like me.

The way I lost weight was through dieting.

My first diet was at 12 years old. The success or failure of the diet was determined by one thing and one thing only: The Scale.

If I lost weight, the diet was successful. If I didn’t lose weight, I failed.

Read that again.

Either I failed or the diet succeeded.

It was never the diet’s fault, it was always mine. Man, being a diet must be good.

But the scale can’t tell you how you feel in your clothes. The scale can’t determine your energy and focus. The scale can’t decipher whether you are proud when you look in the mirror. These are all direct results of how we eat.

So now we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Not going to a party or not eating something you enjoy because of the scale is absurd. Again, it sounds crazy when you say it out loud, but once the scale creeper voices start taunting you, it can be hard to use the logical part of your brain.

So, What’s the Point?

So here’s the point: life can’t stop because you are trying to lose weight. Avoidance, whether with food, or anything in life for that matter, is not a solution.

This is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. Sure, the bleeding may stop for a little while. But once that band-aid comes off, the bleeding will start again and that wound is likely to be infected. If you don’t treat the wound, it will never heal.

If you have a poor relationship with food, you have to learn deal with all kinds food, not abide by a list of restrictions.

Ok, I get your point, What do I do next?

Change your Expectations:

  • Sustainable weight loss means losing 1–2 pounds per week
  • Learn how to incorporate foods you like into your diet in moderation
  • Control and Consistency are more important than following a list of food restrictions blindly

Change your Habits:

  • If you wouldn’t eat it on a Monday, don’t eat it on a Saturday
  • Eat consistently each day instead of “clean” Monday — Friday and like a pig on the weekends.
  • Stop labeling foods as good or bad (Read my article on this subject here.)
  • Be aware of what you are eating by tracking your food. You should have a general idea of how many grams of carbs, fat, and protein you are eating each day.
  • Make only small changes and execute them day in a day out. Habits take 3 weeks to implement, but only 1 week to break.

Change your Life:

  • Lose weight without stress, anxiety, or being held to a number
  • Only use the scale as a single metric of change. The way you look in the mirror, feel in your clothes, and your energy levels day to day are more important.
  • Build a relationship with food. The better relationship you have, the more empowered you will be regardless of what food is in front of you. (Remember the give a man a fish, teach a man to fish saying…)

In Action: The Scale doesn’t tell the entire Story

This topic always takes me back to an interview I did with one of my most important client transformations: Laila.

Without getting into intimate details of Laila’s story, Laila had an idea of 120 as being “healthy weight”. When Laila came to us, she was getting sick of coming to the gym without making more improvements. We surveyed her current eating habits and found some of the following:

  • M&M’s for breakfast
  • 80 ounces of soda daily
  • Eating under 50g of protein per day

The list goes on and on. Laila was able to hover around that weight. This perception of what was “healthy weight” was determined by the scale, instead of how she looked, felt, and performed.

Her transformation in 12 weeks was nothing short of phenomenal. What I am most proud of is her emotional transmation, not just her physical. Here’s what this looks like.

Left: Laila at 125, Right: Laila at 135 (yes you read that right)!

And here’s what Laila had to say about her transformation:

“NEVER would have thought I could gain weight and feel, not just accepting of it, but actually good about it. Don’t get me wrong, at first I was a little surprised and temporarily upset when I saw the scale go up…but I quickly gained perspective when I realized all of the PRs I was hitting and noticed that I was feeling and looking so much different. I am so glad I decided to trust the process and see it through. When I started at CFJC almost 2 years ago, I weighed my “ideal” 120. As of December I was at about 125.

Now I’m closer to 135, and I look and feel a million times better than I did when I weighed 15 lbs less. I am significantly stronger and healthier, and surprisingly my same size clothes fit even better now. My before and current photos are ridiculous to look at side by side. Seeing and feeling the positive changes have been so rewarding and confidence-building. I finally feel like I have a more normal relationship with food. I can’t express enough how much this plan has meant to me and helped me change my mindset.”

What you learned today

  1. The scale is only one metric of change. Do not let it control the way you eat.
  2. Build good habits, not a list of restrictions
  3. Build a better relationship with food so you can make good decisions by yourself
  4. Change your expectations, change your habits, then change your life. They must be done in that order.

To learn how to lose weight without dieting, download my free guide — The Diet Terminator at https://www.strengthlete.com/pages/the-diet-terminator