The One Thing You Shouldn't Do When You're Trying to Lose Weight, According to a Dietitian
Technically, I could think of a few things you shouldn’t do. But as diet season kicks off, here’s one thing I hope you’ll skip.
It's January, and a new year means new interest in weight loss. While New Year's resolutions aren't my cup of tea, I know many people who love them. I am in full support of harnessing any inspiration or renewed drive you have to make good things happen to you for the next year (or the rest of your life). Plenty of healthy habits kick off in January and whether your goal is to get more organized, spend less time in front of screens or has to do with your diet, I wish you the best of luck. If one of your resolutions is to lose weight, here's one thing you may want to watch out for.
First let me just say, I don't think you need to make a resolution to lose weight, but I understand the pull. While there are plenty of things you probably shouldn't do if that's your goal, my number one tip is to not focus on the number on the scale. You may be wondering how you'll hit your weight-loss goal without checking your weight all the time, but let me tell you why I don't want you to focus all your energy on what the scale says.
Healthy habits can and should continue regardless of the scale
If the scale is down a bit are you going to stop eating vegetables or drinking water? Would you skip your workout—and the mental health benefits that come along with it? I understand that the number on the scale may be motivating, especially at first, but I would love to see you make sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle that aren't tied to that number. Maybe it's letting yourself have a cookie and not feeling guilty about it (which should be celebrated as a win!). Maybe it's meal-prepping healthy lunches for the week or going for a walk. Whatever small goal you set out to achieve, let's try not to tie it to the scale, even if you're trying to lose weight. The habits that can help you lose weight—drinking more water, eating more vegetables, eating less added sugar—are still good for you no matter what the scale says.
It may impact your mood
The research on how often to weigh yourself isn't conclusive (FYI: here's what the science says about how often to weigh yourself). I know a lot of people who don't like what they see when they get on the scale. Instead of being motivating or neutral, the numbers hold a lot of power and have the ability to ruin your day. You probably know if the scale isn't working for you and in that case it might be time to step away from the scale (or throw it away) and use other ways to track your progress. If the scale is making you feel really good now, that also means it might make you feel bad later. So unless you're neutral, consider taking a complete break or weighing yourself less often.
Weight is just a number
Let's say you started working out more on your quest to lose weight. It's possible you added some muscle mass. If you dropped a lot of weight very quickly on an extreme diet, it's likely mostly water weight. It's also possible you're a little bit bloated, need to poop, need to drink some water or another factor that impacts the scale but doesn't really impact your true weight. Focusing only on the scale won't help you get healthier. Instead, think about some of these other healthy outcomes: Did you hit a fitness goal of running one mile or doing a pushup? Are you feeling less tired or less stressed? Are you sleeping better? Do you feel more confident? There are so many other benefits that may not be reflected on the scale and it would be a shame to beat yourself up if you aren't seeing the numbers change.
If you've got extra motivation to get yourself healthy right now, I fully support you and hope you are able to make small changes that work for you. On your weight-loss journey, I encourage you to look past the scale—especially if it's not helping you eat better or take care of yourself.
Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.