About Fogdog's Weight Loss

Don't Focus on the Goal...

If you've followed this blog you know that I've struggled for many years with improving my health. I've finally reached a point where I've managed to maintain a small amount of success. Now it's time to take the next step, but I believe it requires a new way of thinking.

Instead of trying to get healthy, why not shift focus toward learning how to build healthy habits instead. Follow me as I try to teach myself how to Engineer healthy habits that will allow me to take my health to the next level. Let's see where this experiment goes!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Do We Weigh Ourselves?

Ahhh the beloved bathroom scale; one of the greatest inventions of all time…

Simply step on this device and almost instantaneously you can have a 3 digit number that defines who you are!  The only thing more amazing than being able to get this 3 digit number is our ability to interpret its meaning.  Here are just some of the interpretations we can get from reading this number:

My most recent scale reading means…
My plan is working, My plan is not working, I’m making good progress, My progress is to slow, I must have followed my plan perfectly, I must have strayed from my plan, I will be down X pounds by (insert date here), I will never hit my goal, I’m retaining water, I am a good person, I am a bad person, I am a horrible person, The battery must be low or this scale is broken!

How many of these have you said before?  The list could go on and on, people will always find infinite ways to interpret that 3 digit number.  The truth is, you can’t conclude anything from that 3 digit number other than that is your current weight at that very moment.  That’s it.  In fact 5 minutes later you could weigh something different.  Don’t believe me?  Simply drink a glass of water and weigh yourself again.
Why do we weigh ourselves?  Seriously, stop and think for a moment about “why”.  If you scour 1000 blogs written by people trying to lose weight, you will see an amazing array of different styles people use to lose weight.  However, the one common element you will find is that all of them will be weighing themselves at some regular frequency.  Some people weigh-in monthly or even weekly; some as much as daily.  Is that a mistake?

Investing in Healthy Living  
Investments typically have a longer term time horizon.  If you invest in a 401K I bet you don’t check the balance every day.  Why not?  Because it really doesn’t matter what your balance is today, you don’t need that money until you retire.  You might look at it once a quarter or once a year just to make sure you are still on track but you certainly don’t need to see it every day.

When we decide to lose weight, we should treat it in the same manner; it’s an investment in healthy living.  If your end goal is to be at a healthy weight in 3 years, then why are you looking at your weight every day or even every week? Like your 401K, just a quick check now and then to see you are on track is all you need.
Reasons Why We Say We Need to Weigh-in

“To track my progress” – Ok I get this one, you want to see progress.  However, the big problem here is that we create linear goals.  We’ve all done it; “I want to lose 50 pounds in 1 year”.  Somehow that translates into “I should be losing 2 pounds every week”.  So now you need to measure yourself every week to see if you are “on track”.  Weight loss doesn’t work that way; in fact it’s more like a curved line, taking longer and longer to lose weight as you get closer to your goal.  You don’t really need a scale to measure progress, when you walk down the street and your pants fall down because they are too loose, you will have your progress report.

“It motivates me” – Oh, I see, daily losses and gains of 0.2 pounds sounds really motivating.  How motivated are you when you suddenly gain 2 unexplained pounds over the week.   If anything I think the scale becomes a de-motivator.  The sad part is that all too often our gains and losses on a daily and weekly basis fluctuate due to a variety of factors.  We all have played the game before, have you ever started your diet weighing in in the evening only to have your first weigh-in in the morning?  Or how about starving yourself the day before the weigh-in just so you can be motivated by that number the next day (or just so you can hopefully break even and somehow salvage a bad week).  Wouldn’t it be more motivating to see 25 pounds lost after 2 months?  It’s harder to game the system when you spread those weigh-ins out.  Wouldn’t it be more motivating knowing that you had the confidence in your abilities to stick it out for a month or two without weighing in? 

“I use it to confirm that I’m not doing all this hard work for nothing” – Are you serious?  If you feel like you have to suffer in order to get some reading on a scale, then you probably shouldn’t be trying to lose weight because you are likely doomed to fail.  Unfortunately I think this is something that happens a lot; we need confirmation, we need something to tell us we are good.  Unfortunately if you are seeking confirmation and you don’t get it, it can cause you to abandon you plans.  A number can’t tell you if you are good or bad, it’s just a number.
“It gives me an out” – No, you probably don’t say this (at least not to your face), but subconsciously you might be sabotaging yourself.  Sometimes we look for a reason to fail because failure is the easy path.  As soon as the scale stops telling you what you want to hear you have the permission to quit.  Sounds crazy, but I bet it happens.

All About the Number

Weighing ourselves has become an obsession.  If people notice you’ve lost weight the first thing they ask is “How much have you lost?”  They don’t ask if you feel healthier or if or if it’s easier to climb the stairs, it’s the number that counts.  I’m not going to try to convince anyone here to completely abandon weighing in, in fact, I still plan on getting on the scale myself.  However, if I can get you to stop and think about what weighing in means and maybe some of the pitfalls associated with it, then this post will have been successful.  We are more than just a number on the scale and if you can see that you might find that the need to see that number just isn’t that important. 


  1. I'm back and forth with my scale. It is just a number, and being a tall person - it'll never be a societal "good" number (I remember when I was thin and I weighed 152, the nurse commented on how no woman should weigh more than 115. I explained I'd probably be dead at that weight, being 5'10. She really had NO clue and she was a NURSE!) It can motivate me or devastate me. So, I've worked hard to focus on my pattern of behavior for the week rather than the scale (I often don't step on it anymore for that reason.) But I do check in now and again.

    The scale is a tool that only measures mass. It shows nothing else. But it's hard to keep that in mind sometimes.

  2. I stopped weighing regularly a long time ago, but now every time I step on that number creeps up. I'm not sure how to deal with the fact that so far the only effective thing for me has been rigid counting and tracking of everything, so I'm going to restart that (as hard as it is to admit I'm back to an unhealthy spot) and try to figure out a better way at the same time.

  3. I really really like this! I am using the scale more or less as a part of a complement of tools to measure progress. My bigger picture is dropping my shirt sizes (I am that guy who carries almost all my weight in my belly area. size 36 pants, size XXL shirt). Also, in the last month, walking and getting up out of a chair have become much easier. The fact that only 4 pounds have come off in that month doesn't phase me in the least.