Thursday, February 4, 2010

Monitoring is Bad

Awhile back, I mentioned that I was going to take progress pictures every 4 months to give me some feedback on my weight loss aside from my ever-loosening clothing. I figured this was a "safer" method than the scale, which I fear will be a very bad influence on my motivation. That sense about the scale has only been intensified as I've started to read more blogs by people losing weight. The obsession they have with weighing themselves and the emotional roller coasters they ride with its numbers prove to me that the scale is "bad".

I've discovered that, for me, the pictures weren't a lot better. I had my husband take a second set of pictures to compare and I wouldn't even look at them until he gave me feedback. Unfortunately, we weren't careful about noting positioning when the first pictures were taken and I stood closer to the camera the second time which made it hard to do size comparison. The best my husband could offer because he said that the picture didn't really do a good job of revealing what he could see with his own eyes was that "things don't hang down as low." Sigh.

One can imagine how disheartening it is to earmark their journey with progress that can be measured in flab that is receding a bit. While this is not surprising since at my size the distribution of a weight loss of as high as 40-60 pounds over my entire body wouldn't mean a serious loss in any particular area, it was still depressing. Watching for signs of any sort, whether it be numbers on the scale or figure alterations in photos just depresses me. Even when I succeed (and I am so very much succeeding), I feel like I'm failing because I don't look "better" so much as less bad.

So, I've decided to scrap the photo progress idea and stop watching in any concrete way. I'll stick with watching my clothes and my disposition relative to my environment. I noticed lately that, when I sit in the only chair we have with handles, I don't fit tightly (though there aren't gaps, it's no longer a difficult and uncomfortable squeeze) and I can actually put my elbows on the arm rest. In the past, my upper flab tire was between me and that part of the chair as it squished out over the top of the handles. I've also noticed that my overall width has noticeably decreased and my stretchy pants that used to fit snugly are getting baggy in the thigh area. When stretch pants start to bag a bit, it's a good sign.

My mantra now is "focus on behavior and the weight loss will come." I don't want to focus on the weight loss because it's like the old adage about a watched pot never boiling. Looking and looking is just going to exhaust and frustrate me. I have to view controlling my food intake as a behavior with an inevitable result rather than one in which the desired result might not happen. If you eat less than your body burns in a day, you will lose weight. It is inevitable. Therefore, checking to see that the inevitable is actually occurring is as pointless as watching the kettle as it heats up.

6 comments:

justjuliebean said...

I understand the frustration about the scale, but it really is the easiest way to monitor progress. It may be that you're okay with NSV like fitting clothes, furniture, etc., but you don't really know how you're progressing. The National Weight Registry keeps statistics on this stuff, and most who successfully take it off and keep it off have a very close relationship with their scale.

I think the people who find the scales so frustrating are people who expect weight loss to be linear and timely. I exercised yesterday, so I should weigh less today. Or I ate too much yesterday, so the scale is up today. It might show next week, but not next day. If you look at long term trends, it really is very helpful, especially if you're not exercising, thus not building muscle. My weight bounces around a 4 pound range, so I know it may be 148 today, 152 next week, and if I let that bother me, it sure could. But I know that salt, pms, what's in my tummy, etc., all make the scale bouncy, and I tolerate that.

If I was smarter, I'd only weigh once a month, right after period, but I weigh a few times weekly. I just don't let it irritate me, though I still roll my eyes. Some people prefer to measure themselves, I'm too lazy. OTOH, I know I'm neurotic, and live with it, so you may have a better way. Possible as you lose more, you'll learn to embrace the scale, or maybe you'll never need to.

screaming fatgirl said...

Though I'm sure you're correct about the statistics justjuliebean, it's important not to make more of such data than is really there. In particular, it's important not to see causation where there is simply correlation. Does using a scale help you more successfully lose and maintain weight or do the types of people who use a scale represent a group of people who would be more successful regardless?

Personally, I don't think the scale is the issue. I think the issue is the behavior of the parties and how they regard weight. People who regularly weigh themselves are more weight conscious and aware. They are less likely to fool themselves psychologically about how much they weigh (or how they look) and more likely to see the scale as a tool rather than a weapon of humiliation. Those who avoid the scale have a different psychological outlook on weight in general and see weight as something beyond their control.

In other words, people who don't weigh themselves have a very different character type than those who do. You can't create a character type in yourself that is more successful at weight control by weighing yourself or becoming a scale addict. The scale has no causative effect on weight loss.

I don't use the scale, so I don't find it frustrating. I also do not expect weight loss to be linear. In fact, I think knowing that it is not linear is all the more reason not to use a scale because you're just going to see the type of bouncing up and down numbers that you mention. Is this of value in monitoring your progress? I believe not. In fact, reading so many women freak about gaining 4-7 lbs. in a matter of days would indicate that the scale has a bad effect on motivation. At best, weighing oneself infrequently would be of use. At worst, it is just a potential source of depression and mood manipulation.

I never used the scale when I lost weight before (when I was in college). Mainly, my feeling is that I want to place as little of my "control" outside of myself as possible. I'm not empowering a device that can manipulate my emotions by using it. I will do what is best, and the results will come one way or another.

Thanks for your comment. I love to consider these points!

dlamb said...

I am so impressed with the way you were flexible in terms of your plans. You dropped or adjusted the behaviors that you found counter productive.
Not unlike selecting a mate or a profession, I believe that when you are embarking on a difficult and long (possibly life long) behavior change, one needs to know what strengths and "weaknesses" will need to be EMPLOYED in order to succeed. When I say 'employing' weaknesses, I am referring to the crutches that makes the long haul possible (i.e. my SF hard candy, your diet Coke). Perhaps there may be healthier ways of achieving one's goals but I believe that by eliminating the small things that make this possible, we may fail entirely.
If you found that using the scale was not a good idea, good for you for not doing it and causing yourself unnecessary stress. The same with the photos. I've always thought that if I am doing the best I can to achieve the results for which I am shooting, what difference does it make what the scale says? It is not like if I see that I am losing slower or faster I will change what I am doing, so why make myself crazy daily?
Now as I say that, I DO use the scale daily but that is because I believe I have pretty much conquered the ability to do what I am going to do regardless of what it says. I do NOT, however, weigh myself after a "special occasion" or if I find that for a week or so it is showing the same thing or even a .5# gain, when it "should" show a loss. What I am trying to say, much less elegantly than you have, is that if I find that it is detrimental for me to weigh myself, I stop for a while. I use it to encourage myself with the results but if that is not what is happening, I stop.

screaming fatgirl said...

I think that it's not only important to figure out what is productive and counter-productive for each individual, but also to know that what works now may not work forever.

I'm finding now that I'm back in America that there is a lot of seduction in the low calorie snacks. Right now, I'm trying to figure out if the difference in calories means that it is "okay" for me to just eat some of these things, or if it's ultimately a return to bad form. I'm undecided right now, but not especially worried either way. I figure I'll experiment and see how it goes. All I know is that I'm continuing to keep tabs on volume, though my main issue now is frequency. Those relatively low calorie salted snacks are calling to me at night when my husband and I watch T.V. in bed. I never did that before, and I'm not sure that it's a good habit to get into now. I'm trying to use this as an exercise is saying "no" and saying "yes" for now. I guess I work it out through time, but it's not so much about a new "rule" (I have no rules), but simply seeing how it makes me feel and the effect it has on my body.

dlamb said...

Oh dear, just know that I probably have not seen most of the replies you have so kindly left, until now.

It is interesting that you mention eating in bed. It is probably the one thing I have never done, though I DO need to eat RIGHT BEFORE bed, otherwise I will not sleep and I sleep with the aid of two sleeping pills as it is...With an empty stomach, I do not sleep at all!. I also am not a night eater, to the extent that I have never gotten out of bed and eaten.

I wonder how you are managing this new behavior, now that I know you had this challenging decision. I can definitely see how appealing it would be. I have too many idiosyncrasies to eat in bed ;), otherwise I'd probably do it.

screaming fatgirl said...

My husband is the same as you in that he can't sleep on an empty stomach. Sometimes, he has to get up in the middle of the night and have a snack or he can't keep sleeping. I feel very lucky that I can sleep even if I'm a little hungry as I think it's an individual biological tendency. It nags him more than it does me and he wishes he didn't have to do it and has tried to resist, but ultimately, it's not worth the potential lost sleep (and I agree with him).