MYST 179: Chaos, Confusion and the Bathroom Scale


Bathroom scales. We love them. And we hate them. But mostly we hate them. I mean, think about it. When you see a weight drop, you think to yourself “Well, finally!” as if the scale had been cheating you recently but not showing a loss. When you see a weight gain—and we all see gains, unless you never step on your scale—you immediately think “You LIE!”

When was the last time you saw a number on the scale and thought “Yeah, the scale loves me”?

No, they don’t love us. Or hate us. They simply weigh us. They give us a number that is accurate—for that moment only. When you next eat, drink or use the bathroom, that number will change.

But let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume the scale went up. What are you going to do? There are three options, based on the underlying cause.

What’s the first option? How about this: Do nothing. That’s right. Do nothing.

We all know—or we should, by now—about the saw-tooth weight loss patterns. Weight gains for no apparent cause, weight losses when we should have had a weight gain. We go into stalls when we eat under budget and have losses after a splurge.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before. Our bodies conspire with the scale to mess with our minds.

So our first default response to a scale increase should be to do nothing. Look at the scale. Sigh. Record the number and move on. There is no need to get off the scale and get on it again, hoping for a better weight. Or to stand on your left leg only in a wasted effort to get a smaller number. Your weight is your weight. Log it. Own it. Move on.

One point to make here. It’s easy to confuse “weight gain or loss” with “fat gain or loss”. The scale cannot easily differentiate between losing weight because you are reducing your stored fat or because you are dehydrated. I talk about why “Weight Loss is Wrong” in MYST 157.

If you want to wring your hands, and post “Oh, I’m a weight loss failure” on LoseIt, go ahead, but that won’t change anything. Sure, some people will respond with comments that have become meaningless platitudes to weight loss frustration, such as “You’re probably gaining muscle because muscle weighs more than fat” or “Don’t forget to take measurements because that’s how you really measure weight loss” or “You need to eat more/eat less/eat keto/purge/binge/cleanse/ or whatever Dr. Oz is pitching today”.

All of that advice is garbage. It’s all given with good intentions, but it is useless. Worse than that, the advice you receive distracts you from the steps you need to take to get back on track.

You need to get off the scale and go about your normal day. Eat. Log. Walk. And stop obsessing about the scale.

Here’s the second option: Maybe the scale is telling you more than you want to acknowledge. Random and intermittent gains are one thing, but have you been seeing steady and slow (or maybe fast) gains, almost every time you stand on the scale?

I’m sure we’ve all had periods when then scale just continues to climb. That is a signal that something is wrong.

Don’t obsess over the bathroom scale, but maybe start to obsess over the kitchen scale. Answer these questions:

  1. Are you weighing everything you eat?
  2. Are you logging everything you eat and drink?
  3. If you cook (at home or professionally) are you accounting for every Bite, Lick, Taste, and Sip (“the BLTS of weight loss”)?

If your answer is “No” to any of those questions, you probably found the cause. And once you know the cause, you also know the corrective action you need to take. That does not mean the corrective action will be easy or enjoyable, but knowing what you need to do is the first step in finding more success.

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then answer these:

  1. Are you moving enough? If you spend your day at your desk, and your evenings binging on Netflix, that may be the problem (especially if the Netflix binge habit is new.)
  2. If you are still active, are you eating your exercise calories? If yes, stop.

Again, when you know the action that is causing your problem, you also immediately know how to correct it. So, now we are at the final option. I will assume that you are accurately weighing and logging your food and that you are appropriately active and not eating your exercise calories. What’s left?

Those were the easy-to-find answers. Now you need to dig much deeper. These questions are more difficult to answer, and to be totally honest, it may be even harder to correct.

  1. Are you under new levels of stress at home?
  2. Has your sleep pattern been disturbed? Did you recently change to a new work schedule?
  3. What’s happening on the job? New responsibilities? A possibility of job loss? Impending retirement?
  4. How is your health? Any recent changes? New medications?
  5. Any medical concerns, for your spouse, children or pets?
  6. How is the family life? Spousal problems? Issues with children?
  7. Has your alcohol consumption increased recently (for whatever reason?) You can listen to more about Alcohol and Weight Loss in MYST 123. (Alcohol)
  8. Have you recently moved to a new home?
  9. Had a death in the family?

All of those can play havoc with weight loss. Sometimes stress causes people to stop eating—making their weight drop. More commonly, we seek solace through food. Sometimes a lot of food. Sometimes we force feed ourselves, and sometimes other people are the food pushers in this situation. It’s common. It’s natural. And it is dangerous because if we are eating due to stress, and we see a weight gain, we will feel even more stressed. This will lead to the classic and catastrophic weight-gain spiral.

I talk about Stress Eating in MYST 138. I also discuss the physiological effects of anxiety and how it makes weight loss much more challenging in Anxiety and Weight Loss MYST 102.

I don’t have answers to help you in this final situation. All of those emotional, physical and spiritual stressors will have their own mechanism for correct and is beyond the scope of this show. But if any of those apply to your situation, I will tell you that you are not alone. This happens to everyone. I hope that you have someone that you can confide in. Sometimes, just talking to someone will be enough to help begin the restoration of balance in your life.

So, what is the bottom line?

Assuming that your life stress today is generally at the same level as “normal” then when you see a scale increase, your first reaction should be to do nothing.

If the scale creep continues, you need to look at your eating/logging habits and make the necessary corrections. And if you are being attacked by external stressors, you need to find your support person and take refuge under their protective arms.

Photos via Pixabay by StillWorksImagery (bathroom scale) and ElseMargriet (food scale)


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero.