The scales are not the be all and end all!

The scales are not the be all and end all!
The scales are not the be all and end all!

Self-monitoring is an important part of the weight loss surgery journey, and helps in preventing weight regain. Typically the most common self-monitoring strategy used by patients is weighing themselves at home. For many patients this habit is already strong, after years and years of dieting. The appeal of the scales is that they provide you with numerical feedback to measure your progress. While this is true, unfortunately often the scales become a problem in themselves. Many people fall into the routine of weighing themselves daily, and are often disheartened by fluctuating numbers. Does this sound like you?

Self-monitoring is an important part of the weight loss surgery journey, and helps in preventing weight regain. Typically the most common self-monitoring strategy used by patients is weighing themselves at home. For many patients this habit is already strong, after years and years of dieting. The appeal of the scales is that they provide you with numerical feedback to measure your progress. While this is true, unfortunately often the scales become a problem in themselves. Many people fall into the routine of weighing themselves daily, and are often disheartened by fluctuating numbers. Does this sound like you?

If it does you are certainly not alone. The truth is there are many reasons why the scales can fluctuate, and are not always the best measure of your success. For example:

  • Scales do not reflect body composition
    Muscle weighs more than body fat on the scales. Therefore, you may in fact have decreased your body fat percentage, but also gained a bit of muscle. This could yield either no change or even an increase on the scales. You would likely feel very frustrated and disappointed, when in fact this is a positive change!
  • Daily weights are a better indication of hydration, not weight loss
    The fluctuations you notice with daily weights tell you more about if you are hydrated or not, as opposed to how much weight you have lost. If you were to weigh yourself as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, and then again at lunch time, you would likely find your weight has gone up, as you have had something to eat and drink.
  • Different scales yield different numbers
    Many of you have probably experienced this when you have come to see us and jumped on our scales. It is usually a different number than your scales at home (many patients tell us ours put a couple of kilos on). This proves that your weight on scales is not universal, and just gives us a rough indication of how things are going.

So now we know the scales are not the be all and end all of successful weight loss, but what can we do to monitor our progress. Read on for our tips for self-monitoring:

Tips to positive self monitoring!

  1. Take your measurements. This is a great alternative as it still provides you numerical feedback, and is a little more reliable than the scales. For example, you might find that your measurements have decreased which is great, but your weight on the scales is the same due to changes in body composition.
  2. Pay attention to your clothes. The way your clothes fit is another good indication of weight loss. Buy an outfit a couple of sizes down from your current size, hang it up somewhere that you can see often, and then try it on every couple of weeks to see how it fits.
  3. Focus on non-weight goals. This is an important one. While we understand you have had the surgery to lose weight, we encourage you to think about some goals that are focussed on the other positive benefits of weight loss. For example, this may be to have more energy, less joint pain, improve your fitness, take up a sport or whatever is motivating for you. You will probably find that reaching these goals is just as satisfying as weight loss!
  4. Allow for fluctuations. It is quite normal for your body weight to go up and down a little. Once you have reached your target weight it can helpful to set a limit for fluctuation, at which point you would seek advice from your treating team. For example, if a few years after surgery you find your clothes are all of a sudden feeling tight, it would be good to touch base with your dietitian. Small daily fluctuations are nothing to worry about.

On a final note, we recommend weighing yourself once a week at most, if at all. We are interested in the overall trend of your weight loss, over a few weeks or months. The daily ups and downs are not important. So weekly weights at most is all you need! If you would prefer to not weigh yourself at all, and just use some of the above self-monitoring strategies instead that works great too! As most things with weight loss surgery, everyone is different so you just need to find what works for you. Have a chat to your dietitian if you would like some help to come up with a self-monitoring plan tailored to you!

  • Australian Medical Association
  • Royal Australian College of Surgeons
  • University of Oxford
  • Alpha Omega Alpha