Are the Scales Bad?

Scales get a bad rap.

These days multiple PTs will tell you to throw them out, so should you wiegh yourself?

Now he thing to remember is they are pretty inaccurate. The flooring your on, the make and model will affect the reading, what you’re wearing, the time of day, how hydrated you are, when you last went to the toilet, what you ate and when. All these things will affect the number on the scales.

It’s for this reason generally PTs are at pains to tell clients not to be too worried about that number. You could weigh yourself several times a day / week and get vastly different results.

And it’s not just that, what’s the right weight anyway. Most people know BMI isn’t the most accurate measure of a healthy weight and one person at a certain weight can look drastically different to another person the same weight. More than that you can be very slender and light and far less healthy or fit than someone bigger or healthier. So what weight do you even aim to be?

So weight monitoring isn’t the best motivating progress tool around. You have a week where you do everything right and still out on weight because of hormones or something else and then end up feeling disenchanted because what else are you supposed to do. This can end up being the thing that makes people think f**k it and give up.

Of course there are other ways to measure progress, but does that mean the scales should go?

I never quite managed to throw them out. I feel like knowing their limitations is enough and the fact is they can work for you. Regardless what the number is, if you weigh yourself at longer intervals, say monthly, you can see a trend of progress over time that should take into account fluctuations across the month. Another way to use them is the opposite end of the scale (no pun intended) and weighing yourself every day. If you do this you can get used to the fluctuations and the drastic up and down changes that do occur and as well as starting to see a pattern over time, this way also allows you to get used to and accept the daily changes you naturally see in weight.

Scales can be used as a tool to help you monitor your progress if you allow yourself to acknowledge that weight loss is never linear, and will happen over a period of time rather than on a day by day basis. The day to day fluctuations are just that.

Why Slower Weight Loss Is Better

  • Helps develop good habits
  • It’s more likely to be fat (rather than water) that you lose
  • Studies have found people with slower fat loss tended to lose less muscle mass thus helping with body composition (i.e. what you body looks like s your lose weight)
  • You are less likely to get loose skin, stretch marks (This is never guaranteed of course)
  • You are less likely to suffer health issues as a result
  • You are less likely to get brittle, dry hair
  • You will have more (not less) energy
  • You’re more likely to maintain it longer term

Why did you get fat?

When it comes to diets, we talk a lot about what to do to lose weight.

We talk less about how we got to the point where we needed to lose weight. Yet the understanding of how we got to a point where we were unhappy with our weight is actually pretty essential.

Of course we know the basic of ‘I was eating more than I was burning’ that’s why I put on weight, I don’t mean that.

 I mean honest self reflection, as in what specifically was causing you to eat more calories than you burnt?

  • Was it nights out at the weekend and the hangover food the next day?
  • Was it a nightly chocolate and wine binge?
  • Was it emotional eating? If so what specific situations were causing it?
  • Was it lack of knowledge surrounding food?
  • Was it eating ’good’ ‘super’ foods like avocado on toast every day, which certainly have nutritional benefits but are way higher in calories than you small bowl of cereal?
  • Was it never counting the coffee shop coffees and sauces you added to meals each day?

There are loads of reasons we put on weight, some can be hidden calories and from a lack of knowledge, some are linked to lifestyle, some are linked to our mental health. When we identify specifically the reasons we put on weight, down to the specifics of certain situations causing us to over eat, we can look at how to combat it.

Because it’s no good saying on Monday I’ll eat less this week if weekends are your issue and you don’t have a plan, as come Saturday you’ll over consume on calories and be back at square one. Whereas if you know weekends are your sticking point you can look at a strategy. Maybe that’s eating less Monday to Friday so you can eat more over the weekend. Maybe it’s having a plan to reduce your weekend intake (lower calorie drinks, less alcohol so you crave hangover food less the next day, trying different types of nights out some weeks etc.).

If your trigger is a bad day at work causing you to binge on chocolate and wine mid week then saying I’ll be good this week isn’t going to cut it. You need to look at what’s causing the bad days at work or how else you can make yourself feel better after a rubbish day (phoning a friend for a rant instead of opening the wine or having a long bath for instance).

Once you know why you put on weight it becomes much easier to look at how you can cut back on the calories. That doesn’t mean never doing those things again, but if we really want change we do need to make changes to wat we currently do.


I post my blog posts in full on Instagram.

In truth it probably hurts my blog, because I could refer people to the blog link and get more traffic, but actually the point of this blog was always to try and provide useful content, and if I post the full posts on social media more people will see it. If a few more people see it that is better than me just having better metrics on a blog.

But anyway, when you post on Instagram you obviously have to use a picture. I don’t really pay much attention to the picture, the post is what i focus on, sometimes I don’t even put anything vaguely related.

Yesterday though I posted a blog about Slimming World so I used an old photo of me back in the Slimming World sort of time, when my relationship with food wasn’t really that healthy. I was thin though. Arguably too thin, it wasn’t healthy or good for me and it was hard work to stay around 9 1/2 stone at almost 6 foot. I sit much more comfortably around 13/14 stone, I am much healthier with more fat on my body. My relationship with food is much healthier now days. I do think I need to lose a bit of weight these days (knees and running dislike my post lockdown weight) but even pre lockdown when I was fit and healthy and really quite happy with my body I was much bigger than I was in the photo I used.

I got more likes on this post than normal. I got 80% more traffic and views according to my insight page than any post this year.

Now maybe the blog post was just so well written it got a lot more traction, would be nice to think, but I know I’m not much of a writer. I think it was a picture of a much thinner me that did it.

We are conditioned to just see thinner bodies more positively, internet algorithms prefer thinner bodies, we look at people that have lost weight and think wow that’s great, it doesn’t occur to us they could actually be really ill and that’s why. Our brains are conditioned to equate thin with healthy.

I’m not a massive body positive movement supporter. Like most things I think it’s too complicated to simply look at it as black and white, and much like super thin doesn’t mean healthy, nor is being overweight always ok.

I think it highlights how we need to think beyond weight and scales and size in terms of health more than ever though. Are your habits healthy, are you fit and well, are you always tired, and you always stressed or sad, do you feel confident and good, are you doing exercise you actually enjoy? Fitness and health is more than one body type as much as it’s more than one way of training or one way of eating.

Not Losing Weight?

You’re tracking calories but not losing weight. Why?

  1. You aren’t logging everything. Sauces, the odd biscuit, left overs, these all have calories too.
  2. You’re underestimating your portion sizes. Apps like MyFitnessPal will bring up various portion sizes when you search and what you’re eating may be more than this amount.
  3. You’re free pouring things. Again this comes back to portion size, you could be roughly working out your portion but underestimating it. That one bowl of cereal your tracking could in reality be more like 2.5 bowls to MyFitnessPal
  4. You don’t log your drinks. Alcohol, coffee shop coffees, these can have more calories than a full on meal at times so if you aren’t logging them your stats aren’t acurate.
  5. You have cheat meals. Calling something a cheat mean doesn’t mean it’s calorie free, it does mean you’re more likely to go over board and consume way more calories than you think.
  6. Your eating your ‘exercise’ calories. Your watch is telling you you’ve burnt 500 calories so you’re adding an extra 500 calories to your daily allowance.
  7. Your picking the ‘best’ version of a food in MyFitnessPal. Be honest, when you search a food on MFP you will see some questionable entries. As tempting as it might be to go with that really low one to make your data look better the food doesn’t have fewer calories in real life because you’ve done this.
  8. You track daily rather than across a week and scrap a day if it’s ‘bad’. It’s what we do over time that matters not one really good or really bad day. If you stop tracking on days where you know you’re going to end up ‘over’ calories and then start again the next day you won’t see you’re true picture of how you did over the week.
  9. Food on other people’s plate doesn’t count. In my head I live by this rule but it is of course bollocks
  10. Your calorie goal isn’t right for you. Maybe it’s too low and restrictive so you keep ending up ‘binging’. Maybe it was right for you but you’ve lost weight and now it’s just a bit too high or you’ve changed your activity level and it needs adjusting.

The thing to remember is that if you are eating less than you are burning on a regular basis your weight will reduce. Regardless of what you track, if this isn’t happening you are going wrong somewhere with tracking. We all under or over estimate our food intake at times but if you are serious about creating change you need to have an honest look at your habits and see where you are cutting corners and look to rectify those little habits.

Why Scales Aren’t The Best

1) Your weight fluctuates. A lot.

The time of day, time of the month, how much water you have drunk, how much alcohol you have drunk, when you last had a poo, your hormones.  They will all affect the number on the scale so it’s not the most effective way to track your progress and using weighing yourself alone can be inaccurate and disheartening.

2) A number on the scales won’t make you happy.

Being comfortable in your body won’t automatically happen when you hit a certain number on the scales.  Everybody has some body hand ups regardless of their weight or size. Focusing on feeling strong and healthy will help you feel more positive about yourself in a way a number can’t and help prevent an all or nothing kind of outlook on your fitness journey, where how well you week went depends on one number.

3) Your weight isn’t an indication of your health or fitness level.

Have you ever seen one of those line ups of several women who all weight 60kg.  You could weight the same as someone else and have a totally different body shape.  Someone who is a size 10 could weigh the same as someone who wears a size 14.  Height, muscle, body type – how we ‘wear’ a certain weight is different from person to person, and, unless you are medically obese, how fit or healthy you are has little to do with the number on the scale.

Just a note – muscle doesn’t weight more than fat. A pound of muscle weights a pound and a pound of fat weighs a pound. However muscle is less dense, so if you reduce body fat and build muscle you might not weigh less but you will look leaner.

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

The number of calories your body uses at rest will broadly depend on your size (weight and height), so if you are shorter, you will probably find that your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) will be lower than your taller friends.

That means that the number of calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight will be lower, lower still if you want to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. If you are quite inactive that number could be around the 1500 calories a day range just to maintain weight (whereas for me I’m looking at around 2,500-3,000 calories to maintain).

So why does that make it harder? Well think about your average dinner, you’re probably looking at 500 calories, with perhaps 400 calories for lunch and 300 calories for breakfast.  Now if you’re tall and need to eat 2,000 calories to be in a deficit you would still have around 800 calories for snacks.  That’s enough food to feel easily full, have a high calorie treat or whatever.

What if your target to hit a calorie deficit is 1400? You have 200 calories spare, maybe enough for a couple of pieces of fruit. You essentially have less leeway to play with, battle cravings with, enjoy the foods you love with than your taller counterpart does. It’s a bit like giving two people the same shopping list but one person £100 and the other person £50 and asking them to both buy everything on the list.  The person with less money will find it a bit harder and have to be more careful.

This means smaller people might then find it more restrictive to diet, and when things become restrictive or you feel like you’re hungry all the time then you’re less likely to stick with a calorie deficit and see results.

So how do you tackle that? Well in part there are things you can do surrounding food.  Looking to fill up on more dense, low calorie foods (lots of vegetables) at main meals can help keep you full but lower the calories used, which would free up more calories to snack with.  You might find methods such as intermittent fasting which limit your window of eating help, meaning you have less time to eat the allotted number of calories (this might help mentally), even just switching breakfast for a protein shake could free up some calories for the rest of the day. 

It’s also a good idea to look at your activity levels.  You may be able to increase your NEAT and therefore increase your TDEE to allow you to increase the number of calories you need to eat each day.

If you are looking to lose weight and you have used a TDEE calculator and it suggests a super low target, it’s worth chatting to a PT or fitness professional and thinking about what tactics you can utilise to maximise your chance of hitting your goal.

Weight Loss & Diets … Dirty Words

My latest podcast all about diets and losing weight … how we view it in society and on social media these days and why it’s still ok to want to lose weight along with a bit about why you might be finding it tough to actually reduce the number in the scales–Dirty-Words-e1nm3r7

Weight Loss v Body Positivity

You read so much now about the pressures of social media on people’s perception of themselves. Photo editing, air brushing and the never ending perfectness of the lives and bodies of instagram influencers is blamed for people’s insecurities about their own bodies.

On the other side of the coin, a new wave of body positivity has started to prevail online, celebrating all body shapes and sizes and embracing people as they are.

The thing that sits awkwardly between these two polar sides of these internet discourses is being healthy, because obviously striving to get to a body size and shape which is very thin and requires excessive training, undereating and unhealthy eating habits is bad, but is encouraging people who are dangerously overweight to remain the same in the name of body inclusivity responsible?

Nobody would argue that people who are a size 12/14 feeling fat because we have generally always been conditions to think that anything over a size 10 is ‘big’ is alright, and the more positive discourse around size and shape and what’s normal is clearly a step in the right direction, people who are not super slim can of course be fit, healthy and strong. More women looking to lift in gyms has aided this change in mindset as strong is now often more desirable than skinny and more women want muscles and a bum (remember this has not been the case until pretty recently, I grew up in the 90s when a flat bum was the goal!).

All of that is great, but within this movement there is also the argument that nobody should be told to lose weight no mater what their size. Is that right though? Of course BMI is rubbish, I’m obese according to that yet I teach group exercise classes with ease, lift, and have recently run a half marathon. Last time i went to the doctor and got my blood pressure tested they commented ho healthy I was physically. Lots of people are bigger but strong, fit, in good health, size alone shouldn’t be the only thing to define a person’s attractiveness or health. Should body positivity stop people who are overweight and unhealthy from being encouraged to get help though? If someone is finding their size is affecting their health or their ability to do things, surely this should not be part of the everyone is entitled to be the size they want?

As ever, we seem to be unable to look at the grey areas between the black and white of two different camps. If you’re happy does it matter what size you are? Personally I think no, but if your size or lifestyle if affecting your health and ability to do things I think we should be able to advise them that they could benefit from making changes. Weight loss doesn’t have to be the be all and end all of a positive lifestyle change, but it also shouldn’t be a dirty word. Encouraging a client to lose weight if it’s part of their goal shouldn’t make them some kind of enemy to the body positivity movement.

What are your thoughts?

Can cutting out coffee help you lose weight?

Can Intermittent Fasting help you lose weight?

Sure, if you eat during a shorter time window every day but don’t eat dramatically more than you usually would at each meal or eat extra meals in that time period (i.e. you don’t just eat breakfast later) you will possibly lose weight. Why?  Because you’re eating fewer calories. You may also find other health benefits to eating in this way and it can really suit some people’s lifestyles and mindsets.  But is it a magic formula in itself? No, if it’s not for you the fact is you’re really not missing out on some great health cheat.

Can cutting out coffee help you lose weight?

Maybe, if you normally drink it with milk and (or) sugar and cut back you’ll reduce your calorie intake naturally and you may see an effect on your weight. Equally, even with black coffee you may find you sleep a bit better and as getting enough sleep is helpful when it comes to both weight loss and training you might see a small benefit there. Having said that coffee can sometimes act as an appetite suppressant so cutting back may affect your appetite a bit at first, if you’re also adding in pre workouts to replace a pre gym black coffee you might even end up consuming slightly more calories.  Essentially, whilst there may be benefits they might well be minimal.

Can using an acupressure mat help you lose weight?

It is reported that Acupressure mats provide many benefits, including weight loss.  The idea being the pressure points relieve stress due to the release of endorphins, lowering cortisol and this reduction in stress helps weight management.  I have an acupressure mat and try to use it every night, I certainly feel I sleep better and feel more relaxed after 20 minutes laying on it, for me, whether there is much scientific research or not it makes me feel good. Does it help with weight management though?  If it does it’s probably minimal and only in conjunction with eating the appropriate amount of calories.  Would laying on this mat alone reduce weight? No.

Will meditation / mindfulness help you lose weight?

Mindfulness, practiced often, can be an effective method for helping change habits and ways of thinking and as such could help you lose weight by helping you adjust your habits. Again, on it’s own it will not help you lose weight, it’s a tool which can help you adjust your behaviours and the change in behaviour is what will lead to weight loss.

There are many habits, actions and behaviour changes which, can when incorporated into your life, make you feel better and assist with weight loss. Ultimately though, weight loss comes from consuming fewer calories than you burn over a consistent period of time.  Sometimes on a weight loss journey, the habits we adopt across the way can feel like the magic ingredient that actually made the difference in losing weight. Perhaps they are, in the respect if they make us feel better and more positive and help us stick to a calorie deficit then they are positive weight loss tools that can also bring other benefits at the same time.  It’s important to recognise that in terms of weight loss however, these things alone do not create a calorie deficit and understanding this will allow long lasting changes to occur.