Tuesday, November 22, 2011
the scale's a lying liar
My bulk having come to its end, at least for awhile, I spent the past weekend, Friday through Sunday, not counting anything. It was my birthday weekend and I wanted to eat mass amounts of carbs, very little protein, and however many calories passed my lips, no less, no more. It's been a long time since I've eaten whatever I wanted without regard to its nutritional values, macros, or calorie count for several consecutive days (18 months to be exact). It felt wonderful. It was a prelude, however, to the next four weeks of dieting***. My plan is to diet until the week before Christmas, get off the bulk bloat and whatever fat I've put on, and see if I actually did grow any new muscles under there. In order to have a starting point, a reference number, I felt I had to weigh myself yesterday morning.
Well. After my weekend of just eating "whatever"--in particular, high carb "whatever"--I weighed in at a whopping 125. This may have horrified me had I not been well aware that I am still fitting into all my size 0 and 2 clothes, and the last time I weighed 125, I was a solid size 4. In other words, I *knew* that 125 was a bogus number, all water weight gain and muscles full of glycogen. After one day of eating low calorie, high protein, and moderate carbs, drinking a ton of green tea, and peeing like the proverbial racehorse, I weighed in this morning at 122. See that? Three pounds of ugly fat gone overnight! Oh, the lulz.
I can laugh about this, but in my tenure of reading weight loss and fitness forums on the internet I have seen SO MANY PEOPLE who live and die by the scale and who, against all the known laws of physics, think that they really can gain three pounds of fat from one day of overeating or that those six pounds they lost their first week of dieting was adipose. I have seen people in all seriousness say "I ate [dairy/artificial sweetener/carrots] yesterday and I was up a pound this morning, so obviously that's a 'staller' and I can never eat that." I always want to tell them to go take a poop, weigh themselves again, and add the dairy back into their diet. I have seen people absolutely freak over situations like mine: their clothes fit fine, they look fine in the mirror, but ZOMG! the number on the scale is higher than their "perfect" weight! And perhaps saddest and most nonsensical of all, I have seen (mostly female) people who are attempting to get thinner who refuse to exercise because it will make their scale weight go up temporarily.
Even I, who ostensibly know better, got incredibly frustrated at the scale number not going up during my bulk, even though I had to admit to my weightlifting friends that they were right when they pointed out I was making continuous strength gains and it's impossible to do that without gaining at least some muscle. I didn't care. I wanted the number on the scale to confirm it for me, even as I was rolling my eyes, cursing, and saying that number on the scale meant nothing.
Of course, if there was an easy, inexpensive, and accurate way to measure one's bodyfat percentage****, we'd all be able to more reasonably obsess about that. We'd see that our weekend of birthday celebrating, our adding a different food to our menu, our starting a new exercise program really hasn't made us fatter no matter what we weigh on a particular morning. Unfortunately, most at-home, or in the gym, methods of measuring body fat are inaccurate to the point of being completely worthless. In fact, sometimes they lie worse than the scale does. So, no help there.
I don't know what the answer to this conundrum is other than to obtain the knowledge that your weight will fluctuate from day to day and that only long term trends mean anything and then to not be crazy over it. Obviously, one part of that sentence is easier to implement than the other.
***Yeah, I know. Starting a diet the week of Thanksgiving! Bloody brilliant!
****Um, the ol' buttoning-your-pants kinda actually works for this, but since there's no numerical value to that, it seems woefully inadequate to a lot of people.