I’ve gotten into a bad habit. I find myself jumping on the scale every morning, which isn’t really an issue. The problem is I also jump on the scale every night, too, after a full day of eating. I’ll tell you there is nothing more depressing then getting on the scale at night and feeling like you messed up the whole day because of that extra yogurt you ate at noon.

People can fluctuate around five pounds through the course of the day, just from changes in water weight. Water is surprisingly heavy, as a pint of water (16 ounces) weighs one pound. A gallon of water is eight pounds. Throughout the day, we consume and expel water creating constant fluctuations all day long. Depending on what time you weigh yourself, how much you’ve had to drink, what you’ve eaten . . . your weight is like the stock market! This can be pretty discouraging when you are trying to lose weight, especially if you are being silly like I have been and getting on the scale too frequently.

Peanuts, scale

What I need to do is take a step back and put on my bioinformatical glasses again. It isn’t about the minute to minute, hour to hour, or even day to day change in weight. Its about long term trends. I need to trust the math of calories and exercise and not worry about what my weight is. The important thing is feeling better and getting myself moving.

I try not to make sweeping generalizations, but here I go anyway. I feel like people my age, and really our culture in general, require instant gratification. We want to see that one pound fall off every day, even though that is a completely unrealistic and unhealthy goal. We don’t like long hauls, which is why we have the term “long haul” to describe something that takes too long and is probably going to suck. It is much easier to feel good about yourself if we get instant feedback that we kick ass and are on the right track every step of the way.

Now, I am not going to declare war on my scale, go Office Space on it like my sister did to hers, but I am going to try not to obsess over the numbers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still probably check it every day, but i’ll take what it says with a grain of salt. I’ll graph the data, look at the trends, and determine that I am, in fact, on the right track. A scale is just a tool, a measuring instrument. You need to use it properly but at the same time be able to properly interpret the results.

I guess the take-home message of the day is this: getting discouraged about numbers on a scale is pointless. Saddle up and hit the pavement (or trails!), and good things will come, but it’s going to take a while.