It’s important to manage the scale, and not let it manage you. My approach to scale management has really evolved over the years as I’ve maintained. When I was losing the last 100, it was a requirement of my program that I only weigh once a week on their scale. That suited me fine.
However, the whole time I was losing weight I was very apprehensive about transitioning to maintenance as it approached, and the first year of maintenance I was PSYCHOTIC about the scale, I would get on it 2 or 3 times a day. If it went up I would berate myself mightily and if it went down it was never enough. I also discovered, through my obsessive scale-watching in those early days, that eating at restaurants was hard on my efforts so I needed to minimize restaurant meals. Another discovery was that Asian foods – Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, pretty much all of them, were very high in sodium and would immediately bounce that number on the scale up by 2-3 pounds. Incredible!
But every time my weight bounced up (and I weighed every morning religiously. I also frequently weighed at night too, but the number I tracked was the morning weight), I would go into a crazy mental cycle of berating and abuse – “Oh No! I’m such a pig! Oh no, I’m failing at maintenance! No more restaurant meals this week!” I was going through huge mental swings every week based on the number on the scale. But I was also putting together a very valuable set of data points on how my body reacted to different situations – restaurant eating, various forms of exercise, menstrual and hormonal cycles, etc.
Then one day, about a year into maintenance, I realized that every time it went up a little, it eventually went down again just following my (new) normal eating and exercising habits, so maybe there was no need for the freaking out and mental abuse I was heaping on myself, and I slowly started to get that under control. After a while when it ticked up I would just acknowledge it and say, “Ok, a little more effort today.”
The maintenance portion of the program I did ran 18 months, so I was pretty confident in my skills by the time I completed it. I think that a good long course in maintaining weight loss is a valuable investment, and having those “training wheels” helped me to hone my skills with guidance. I was able to go through multiple cycles of trial and error with my eating and fitness habits.
Now, I don’t weigh myself every day. In fact, over the last couple of years I’ve gotten to a point where I weigh myself maybe 2-3 times. That’s right, 2-3 times a month. Initially when I transitioned over to reducing my scale check-ins, I thought I would weigh myself once a week but one of the valuable things I learned from my obsessive phase was that I should never, ever weigh myself during my menstrual cycle. I can shoot up 5-7 pounds during my cycle and that number is not beneficial to my mental state. So that’s one week a month I’m not weighing myself. I also often find myself on business trips on my “weigh-in day” (currently Tuesdays) so if I’m away I just skip it. It’s important to always use the same scale so that skewed results don’t upset my delicate mental balance.
Managing the scale, for me, is more about managing my mental state. If I know that I can’t handle what I will see without berating myself I will sometimes skip the weigh in. Not always, because sometimes seeing evidence that I need to be more regimented in my efforts is just what I need. But sometimes a bad number will kick off depression and a sense of failure, and those are the days I need to be careful and really evaluate whether the information is worth the mental impact. But I needed to build up a baseline in my first few years before I could start to loosen my grip on the daily weigh-in.