Hi, I’m Sharla, and I’m a Recovering Gravitophobic
I’ve recently achieved a sort of grudging détente with my bathroom scale. I went more than 15 years without voluntarily weighing myself. When I’d be forced to do it at my doctor’s office, I would stand on the scale with my back to the numbers and tell the nurse I didn’t want to know. Ha! I’m sure they really loved that since I’ve never been overweight enough to alarm anyone. But I just didn’t think I wanted to know. I’ve actually ditched doctor’s appointments when I was really sick, all because I didn’t want to get on the scale. (My doctor was kind of nazi-ish about the whole check-in protocol.)
Much to my twisted delight, I’ve discovered I’m not alone in my phobia. There’s a word for it and everything—gravitophobia: the irrational fear of your bathroom scale. Well, in an effort to Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway (a great book by Susan Jeffers that I read in the 80’s), I asked Santa Claus for a digital scale last Christmas.
And I avoided it there on my bathroom floor like it was a land mine. For eight months, I gingerly stepped around it. My husband jumped gleefully out of the shower and onto the thing stark naked every morning, and it didn’t explode. But not me. Oh, no, not me. Especially not in front of anyone!
Then on September 21st, after Ted had left for work, I just did it. I stepped on to the vile little rectangle, and it wasn’t awful. It wasn’t great either. I knew I had been slowly but steadily gaining a little weight over the years, and like that bald guy on channel ten at 3:00 says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” I wanted to change it. So I decided to acknowledge it.
And I’ve been acknowledging it every morning for three months now, and damn, does it piss me off. And damn, does it delight me, especially after an hour-and-a-half of hot yoga or the stomach flu. But I never know what it’ll be from day to day. In the long run though, it’s been working for me. I have “gained” as much as four pounds in a single twenty-four hour period, and “lost” as much in as little time since I started weighing. But the average of a week of numbers seems to be telling the true story. Slow (very slow) decline, less than a pound a week at this point, averaged out over seven days. And I’ve settled (i.e. stalled) at a good weight for me. Just in time for all the holiday parties. It’s fun getting dressed again.
So, anyway, I try not to get discouraged when the numbers go up. And I try not to get too cocky when the numbers go down. Then I average them out.
I wrote the following article a while back before the bathroom scale and I kissed and made up. A little physiology for your reading enjoyment:
Just Breathe (And lose three pounds a day!!?)
If it sounds too good to be true, of course, it’s probably because it is.
Or is it?
If you’re trying, like most of us, to manage your weight, you know what it’s like to fall prey to that fickle little household appliance—the bathroom scale.
It’s frustrating, baffling even. On Monday you’ve miraculously maintained your weight despite a few splurges over the week-end. (Whew!) By Tuesday you’ve lost three pounds. (Hooray!) And by Wednesday, you’re up the three pounds you had so happily misplaced yesterday. (Dang!) How can this be? Can you lose (or gain) three pounds over night?
Since you can’t for the life of you remember running two back-to-back marathons on Monday, and you are equally sure that you didn’t consume an excess of 10,500 calories (the equivalent of 19 Big Macs)on Tuesday, the numbers just don’t make sense.
Take heart, however, and before you crack open the carton of Krispy Kremes in celebration OR frustration, consider three more “ations” relevant to the weight loss game.
Respiration — Just Breathe! You take ten to 20 breaths per minute, depending on your activity, and with every exhalation, water is released into the air. During the course of a day, lung respiration can account for as much as two or more cups (a pound) of fluid lost. Since you do not replace fluids in your sleep, your tissues release water as you snooze.
Perspiration — As you learned last Thursday on “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader,” your skin is your largest organ. And a busy one to boot. Your dermis is constantly working to keep your body temperature constant. It does this through perspiration. Usually, we are not even aware that we are perspiring, especially at rest. In a 24-hour period your skin sucks a pint, even much more if you are very active, of fluid from your body. That’s more than a pound of sweat, no matter how strong your antiperspirant is! Again, as you sleep, unless you’re hooked up to an IV, you are not taking in fluids, but your skin is releasing them.
Elimination — Obviously, what we flush down the toilet is not going to show up on the scale. A quick trip to the bathroom before you weigh, can result in immediate and observable fluid loss, as much as a pound or more. And your “morning constitutional” can account for another half a pound or much more. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz and Michael R. Roizen, M.D., in their book, You, the Owner’s Manual, adults excrete 1000 pounds of waste a year—the equivalent in weight to a concert grand piano! Divide that piano by 365 days and you’ve “lost” 2 ½ pounds today.
But is this true weight loss? Sure. If you never eat or drink again. Is it fat loss? You already know the answer. A three pound fat loss does not occur while you sleep. The good news is that neither does a three pound fat gain. Again, several “ations” account for those frustrating increases you see on the scale from one day to the next. Menstruation, constipation, even mild dehydration (which can actually cause your tissues to hoard fluids), can all tip the scale the wrong way.
The bottom line? Even if you weigh yourself at the same time, same place, stark naked every day, the scale may not accurately reflect how “fat” you are or aren’t. If you are compelled to weigh every day anyway, keep those “ations” in mind. And then go shopping. Sometimes a great pair of “test” jeans is as good a way as any to monitor your progress. Buy them a little snug, or even at your goal size. Try them on once a week. Levi’s don’t lie.