The scale is a tool, not a crystal ball, not a measure of your self worth and not to be the thing that sets the tone for your day. Here is how I approach using a scale every day and how you might use it to your advantage with your weight loss goals:
- Weigh yourself at the same time every day. Your weight will fluctuate throughout the day, the best way to get an accurate read on your weight changes is to develop a routine of when you stand on the thing. I get up every morning, go to the washroom, turn on the shower to warm it up and stand on the scale before I hop in.
- Understand your scale is lying to you. There are lots of variables around what the scale is saying. If you are dehydrated, haven't had a (ahem) suitable bathroom visit in a while, or still have last nights burrito lodged in your stomach the scale from day to day is going to change up or down in minor ways without relevancy. What you are looking for is trends. When you weigh yourself every day, over time you will notice changes, but you have to learn to ignore the daily ups and downs that are naturally going to occur. It helps to use a scale that sends data to your smart phone like the Withings ones, they produce a graph for you where you get individual readings but also an average trend which is more helpful.
- Use the scale to help make decisions about your exercise and food plans but don't obsess. This is where personality comes into play. I'm very comfortable with my routines and have come to understand what is happening with my body largely because I'm so in tune with it. Generally I feel that I'm healthiest around 145-150 pounds. That is where I feel my best and I think aesthetically I look my best (lets be honest, we all have a place where we feel good about how we look, yours may vary and it should, I find 140 or lower and I look a little gaunt, above 150 I start carrying some middle stomach fat I don't like) and so I use the scale measures as an indicator of when I need to make some changes. If I consistently hit 150 or higher I start adjusting my food and/or exercise amounts to bring that back in line. It's not a big deal, I'll just skip the apple pie for a while. Right now I'm ok with my weight loss (I'm currently floating in the low 140's) as I'm marathon training. I know my weight is going to decline and so long as my muscle mass stays the same I'm ok with that until after the marathon when I'll gain some weight back.
- Try to get a scale that shows body fat percentage. From what I understand body fat measure on these scales is largely inaccurate but they are consistently inaccurate meaning you get a good baseline to follow (even if the actual number is wrong) so you can track your muscle mass vs your fat mass. This is helpful for me when I'm training as I lose weight naturally. If my fat mass is declining I don't worry about it, that is a positive as I don't want to carry an extra 5 pounds of fat around a 42km marathon course, it just slows me down. If my fat mass stays consistent or increases and I'm losing weight alarm bells go off because it tells me I'm losing muscle mass which is not helpful weight loss and probably means, like in 2014, I'm about to get injured.
- Understand the concept of a set point. Your body has a weight it is used to being at and generally if you carry on living without thinking about it your weight will stay close to that. Yes your weight will bounce up and down slightly but on average it'll remain relatively constant. Over time this changes as you exhibit consistent behaviour change to force that new set point. I witnessed this myself when I lost 55lbs from 198 to 143 in 2012. There were rapid losses and then no matter how much I ran or how little I ate my body seemed to refuse to progress. My body had a series of plateau's followed by periods of weight loss. I had that lightbulb moment when I noticed this as a trend every month or so, my body was establishing new set points and adjusting my metabolism. It was comfy where it was and was signalling me that "OK, we can just chill out on this weight loss thing, lets hang out here for a while." You can change your set points by consistent behaviour, you just have to relax about it. Don't go crash dieting to force the change, don't all of a sudden double your run mileage (you'll just get hurt). Be patient, carry on with your plan and eventually the weight will start dropping again when your body realizes it's still being fed and you aren't trying to starve it to death. Btw, your set point can change the other way too with weight gain when you consistently feed it too much over and above what it needs to maintain your set point weight, it will eventually assume this is the new reality and adjust upwards.
There is this concept of orthorexia that I've been seeing on the internet recently where people become so obsessed with healthy eating and "perfect" health measures that it actually becomes unhealthy. It seems possible that a scale could be used toward this type of unhealthy behaviour. Again, I think this is more about personality. If you tend to be the type of person that is full of anxiety around weight and food then I wouldn't weigh yourself every day. I feel its important to be able to somewhat detach yourself from the emotion of the scale. Some days it will let you down, others it will be a surprise in a pleasant way, but never should it determine your self worth. For me, it really is exactly like the fuel gauge on my car, I don't get too worked up about it unless the reading is consistently outside of my goal. If the gas is at a half a tank I don't sweat it, if it's overflowing or the low fuel light is flashing I get concerned and take action. Do the same for your weight, set a high and low goal (for me, when not training between 145 and 150) and just let your weight bob up and down in that range. If it starts to dip or grow too much, make adjustments just like going to the gas station. No big deal. But without measure, at least for me, the whole thing becomes very subjective. I spent 20 years going from thin to chubby little by little while ignoring change and keeping an eye on the gauge I feel will stop me from returning to it.
Whatever your New Years resolution is, I wish you well with it. If it is weight loss, then great! Good for you, you've got this!