Charlotte Sinclair admits she hops on the scales on a daily basis - but is weight the best measure?
How often do you weigh yourself? Truthfully? My own routine – which seems completely bananas now that I’m actually writing it down - goes something like this: a hop on the scales every day when I’m at my fighting weight for a little self-congratulatory boost, and, when I’m not, total avoidance. (The head-in-sand method of self-regulation).
Scales have somehow become our conscience when it comes to current eating habits but also levels of physical fitness. You can’t beat the scales, nor conceal from its absolute logic that packet of Jaffa Cakes you inhaled at teatime. But nor can it dissemble your progress if you’re eating lean and clean and hitting the cross-trainer several times a week. There are few things more delicious than stepping on a scale and seeing a number you worked damn hard to achieve.
Not that I’m saying that we should measure our worth in kilograms. Please! We’re over that, right? Right? God knows, the myriad other ways by which we measure ourselves these days – against celebrities, models, visions of perfection that have little to do with the real world - are deleterious enough to our sense of self. And yet, a little careful self-monitoring can be good. Some forms of control are helpful.
If scales offer a check on our bad habits, kick-starting a search for balance, then we should be in favour of them. As Tracy Anderson advises on this very website: “Weigh yourself every day. I know this runs contrary to popular advice, and that your weight can fluctuate according to what you eat and your monthly cycle, but if you know what you weigh at the same time every day it puts you in control.”
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However. The problems start when the number on the scales begins to weigh on your mind. For instance, if I (timorously, tentatively) step on and see the dial pointing further north than I’d like, it’s impossible (for me, at least) not to fall into a fug of self-recrimination which then metastasizes into a kind of glum inertia: why go to the gym if it’s so damn pointless? (I don’t do half measures with my moods.)
There is also the, frankly annoying, fact that as you exercise, extra kilograms sneak onto the scales via the addition of all that lovely fat-burning muscle to your body. In other words: you look better as you begin to weigh more. Trainer Claire Finlay from Transition Zone, (a tiny, toned, pocket rocket of a PT), says, “Your weight may stay the same even as you lose inches. Knowing the difference between losing weight and losing body fat can change how you get results and may even change how you look at your own body.”
In which case, scales seem a totally misbegotten, illogical way to measure ourselves. As Claire attests, scales just don’t tell the whole story. “They don’t tell the difference between fat and muscle. That means a person can have a low body weight, but still have unhealthy levels of body fat.” Hence the legion who advocate a wholesale expulsion of weighing scales from the nation’s bathrooms.
Instead, if we must have our progress tracked (and evidence suggests that more and more of us are addicted to tracking our lifestyles, be it exercise, sleep, food or weight via apps and websites), then why not use a measuring tape? Equally truth-telling, but far more fun: a loss of two inches is instantly, gratifyingly apparent next time you zip up your jeans. (I know plenty of women who refuse the tyranny of the scales, using, instead, the “thin part” of their wardrobes to ascertain whether they need to shun the bread basket for a few weeks.)
Or why not take a few self-portraits? The camera doesn’t lie; if your muffin top has deflated into your waistband, the picture will show it. And what’s more alluring than a Before and After shot? In any case, I’m weaning myself off the weighing habit. (Well… down, to twice a week.)