Monday, August 13, 2012

Don't Un-friend the Bathroom Scale

So, like many women, I’m reading an issue of Self magazine while on the toilet, except, I’m not a woman.  Guys will read anything put in front of them while in the moment.  I’ve been known to read the ingredients of shampoo bottles.  “Hmm… I never knew Aveda was in Minnesota.”  Self is a well done kitchen sink women’s magazine with advice on everything from fitness and food to love and fashion.  After a man is done paging through the pictures of women bending over Bosu balls wearing beach volleyball outfits, he starts reading articles.  He bounces from “Toning the Tummy in Ten Minutes” to” 6 Ways Light Up the Bedroom When the Lights Are Out.”  Within minutes, he’s overwhelmed, filled with self doubt and reaches for the comforting factual label of the shampoo bottle.  While I may not understand why bright argyle socks and ankle boots are part of this fall’s hottest looks, I do know the best way to approach the cyclist’s nemesis, the scale.

The reason I was reading Self magazine in the first place was because I was a man on a mission, taking the steps necessary to get an accurate comparable measurement of my weight.  It’s science dammit!  It matters which foot you step in the scale with first.  It’s not a 50/50 daily proposition where either you’re fatter than yesterday or your not.  Weighing yourself like that, especially daily, is closer to the odds of Powerball than a coin flip.  No wonder you want to unfriend the scale.  In your diet, work life and exercise routine, Tuesday is never the same as Wednesday.  You need to tip the scale of the scale in your favor by flushing out the variables.

Eating a vegan diet, this was not my first flush of the morning.  Carnivores won’t get that joke.  My scale ritual is a bi-weekly Monday morning process that involves standing, sitting, a few sips of hot coffee, then sitting again.  Self magazine may softly describe this as emptying yourself.  Remember, if you’re on the toilet, by definition you’re losing weight.  However, it’s not so much as trying to be as light as possible, but trying to be as accurate and comparable as possible.  Welcome to Nerdville.

The Doctor’s office is the worst.  You want to scratch her eyes out every time she points you in the direction of the scale with your jacket still on and your cellphone in your pocket.  “Step on the scale,” the nurse says.  Like the bailiff hauling you out of the courtroom to the gallows, you frantically try to jettison anything heavy.  Clink!  Car keys.  Kick!  Shoes.  It boggles my mind how they can be trusted to prescribe accurate amounts of medication when they have no clue how to measure the weight of a human body.  She plays with the weights.  You hold your breath when she grabs that big 50lb piece and slides it to the right.  You sigh when she reverses and grabs the 25.  Before the teeter totter even stalls, she’s writing down a number.  It’s so frustrating.  Surprisingly, most of us do the same thing to ourselves at home.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever weighed yourself with wet hair. 

So here are my rules for hitting the scale with success:

Same Tile, Facing East
WEIGH BI-WEEKLY:  The scale is like the stock market.  You can’t sweat the daily ups and downs when your focus is on retirement income.  Like meeting with a financial advisor, Bi-weekly is more or less a check in to see if things are moving the right direction.  If you’re reading this blog, you probably eat fairly healthy and workout nearly daily.  Trust in your good habits.  A pound a week is quite an accomplishment.  Two weeks is more likely.  Bi-weekly weighing gives you 13 days of waking up happy, or at least not wanting to pound the scale with a sledgehammer. 

FIND YOUR DAY AND TIME: You’re likely to be lighter on a Monday morning after a weekend of nice long bike rides and a peaceful Sunday night, than on a Thursday, after Wednesday night’s steakhouse social.  If you work odd hours, think about the day and time when you’re likely to be lightest and stick with it.  That’s your day.  As for a time, pick the earliest waking moment, after taking care of business, but before breakfast and a shower.  

WEIGH ONLY YOUR BODY: Aside from your wedding ring, drop the pajamas and lose the watch.  You’d be surprised how much flip flops, socks, undies and a t-shirt weigh.  Besides that, unless you’re wearing the exact same ensemble every time you step on the scale, your weights won’t be comparable.  A large cotton t-shirt weighs more than a dry-fit running shirt.    

BE COMPARABLE: I’m almost savant-like in my process.  I place the scale on the same tile of the bathroom floor every time, the scale always facing east.  I approach the scale the same way, right foot first.  It’s no different than a pre-race warm-up ritual. 

REALIZE LIMITATIONS: Keep in mind, most bathroom scales don’t measure fractions of a pound.  For me, the scale read 154 this morning on the first step.  I was hoping for better.  However 154 could be anywhere between 154.0 and 154.9, nearly a full pound in slop!  Trust that if even if your weight is flat after being good for two weeks, that you probably on track, but its not showing up on the scale.  Or, sit down, re-read the shampoo bottle again, and see if you can muster a 153.  It works!

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