Self-monitoring is one of the most important behavioral strategies for improving the healthfulness of your lifestyle.
If, for example, you want to lower your blood pressure, you may purchase a blood pressure monitor so you can self-monitor at home.
Reaching a health goal is easier to accomplish if you measure it on a regular basis.
Having your blood pressure checked just a few times a year by your healthcare provider may not be frequent enough.
Along the same line of thinking, if you’re trying to lose weight, then you need to know what your weight is and how it responds to treatment.
Some of my most successful patients are the ones who track their weight at home on a regular basis – either daily or weekly.
Tracking weight can help you catch lapses early, take corrective actions and most importantly, prevent weight regain or a total collapse of your program.
But self-weighing can be particularly difficult for those who mistakenly tie weight readings to their personal identity and feelings of self-worth.
Unfortunately for these individuals, stepping on the scale then becomes a value statement that can quickly color your mood for the day and rob you of the positive energy you need to focus on your health.
Successful weight management is easier when you’re able to turn around this self-defeating attitude and make peace with the scale.
If this is something you’ve been struggling with, here are some tips to guide you:
1-Know the Basics of Tracking Weight in a Healthy Way
Whether you weigh yourself daily or weekly, weighing yourself at the same time of the day with the same clothes is recommended.
Daily self-weighing, at least to start, enables you to learn your normal, day-to-day fluctuations, which can be 2 to 3 pounds, depending on your dining-out habits (higher salt intake which can add water weight) or a woman’s menstrual cycle.
If you’ve been on a low carbohydrate diet and start adding back carbohydrates, most likely, you’ll start gaining back some weight.
If you’re making lifestyle changes to manage your weight, a realistic goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week.
When things are going well, take time to determine your ‘red zone’ – that is, the specific weight number that will signal a lapse is about to occur and it’s time to do things differently.
2-Put Weight in Perspective of Total Health
The goal of weight management is to achieve improved health, not just to lose weight.
Body weight is just one metric of health.
Depending upon personal goals, other health metrics include improved blood pressure or diabetes control, being able to climb a flight of stairs with less shortness of breath, getting on the floor to play with your children or grandchildren, or feeling more fit and confident.
These health metrics and others often occur with small amounts of weight loss and should be celebrated.
Health parameters should also not be tied to one’s self-worth.
3-Replace Self-Judgement with Self-Compassion
To temper the self-judgement and self-critical thinking that can arise from stepping on the scale, I encourage you to step back and put your weight into perspective – compared to all you do in life.
Taking a more a holistic approach to total health that includes being able to appreciate yourself and treat yourself better is a winning strategy.
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a top self-compassion expert:
“The motivation from self-compassion arises from love, while the motivation for self-criticism arises from fear. Love is more powerful than fear.”
Making peace with the scale also involves making peace with yourself.
For those of you who harbor longstanding issues pertaining to body image, meeting with a health psychologist can be invaluable in helping you garner the positive energy you need to achieve better health, both physically and emotionally.
A health psychologist can help change your inner thought processes and develop a positive mindset – perhaps some of the most important aspects to successful weight management.
Robert Kushner, MD