Category Archives: Weight Loss

Weighing In on “Weighing In” – Facts about stepping on the scale every day

Guest post by FalafeLover, Grit by Brit Nutrition Expert – A registered dietitian, psychological counseling grad student, former Israeli professional basketball player, former college teammate of Brit.

Imagine if you stepped on a scale every day, recorded your weight into an excel spreadsheet, and then created a chart representing your weight trajectory for a whole year. What, if anything, might you learn about your body weight pattern? And what, if anything, would be the effect on your weight itself?

My dear friend Carly Pacanowski, a Cornell nutrition researcher and fellow Registered Dietitian, has spent the last 3 years investigating these types of questions. And her research as yielded some pretty remarkable results: Carly and her team found that people who simply stepped on a scale and recorded their body weight each day were more successful at losing and/or maintaining their weight!

Recommending daily self-weighing as a weight loss tool remains controversial though, and for good reasons. Although daily weighing may help some regulate their body weight, critics have expressed concern about the impact this routine might have on the psyche. After all, we are not robots, and for a lot of people, weight is not just a number. Would seeing your weight pop up on the scale can negatively impact your self-esteem or trigger upsetting emotions? Even if daily self-weighing does help you lose or maintain your weight, would it cause you psychological distress? Could it lead to a weight obsession, or in extreme cases, lead to an eating disorder?

 I sat down (well, actually, went on a walk 🙂 with Carly to get her thoughts on the practice of daily self-weighing. Read on for her expert opinion, so that you can decide for yourself whether or not self-weighing is a habit worth incorporating into your daily routine.

Lindsay: How does self-weighing supposedly lead to weight loss/maintenance?

Carly: This is actually still not completely understood. There are a few different mechanisms proposed for how daily weight monitoring can help prevent weight gain/may even facilitate weight loss. One idea stems from the school of thought behaviorism – that the feedback (weight) of the consequence of our actions (eating/physical activity) is necessary to inform future behavior. The way I like to think about this is like a long term biofeedback. This includes not only weighing oneself daily, but also viewing a graph of their weight trajectory over time. All participants in the studies we do use a computer program to view the graph as well.

 Lindsay: What are the potential benefits of daily self-weighing?

Carly: Benefits of self-weighing include increased information about body weight and body weight patterns/fluctuations, which can lead to increased awareness of your eating behavior. An added benefit of daily weighing for women is that they learn to expect a monthly change in weight when they are menstruating. Daily self-weighing may help women recognize and become accepting of this natural change when they see that it is a normal part of their monthly cycle.

 Lindsay: What about the potential risks of daily self-weighing?

Carly: For some, daily self-weighing is clearly not a good idea. Other researchers have found associations between frequency of weighing and unhealthful weight control behaviors (excessive restricting, excessive exercise, purging, etc.). On the other hand, there are also associations between daily self-weighing and healthy weight control behaviors (consuming more fruits and vegetables, improved portion control, etc.) More research is needed to identify those who will benefit versus those who might be adversely affected by this practice.

 Lindsay: What would you tell someone who is considering daily self-weighing?

Carly: I think I’d first be curious to know their intention for adopting the practice. There is better data showing that daily self-weighing is effective for: 1) preventing gradual weight gain that comes with age, and 2) for preventing regain after weight loss. There is less evidence for self-weighing leading directly to weight loss. But then again, this could simply be because there have not been many studies done on the latter.

Lindsay: Anything else GRIT readers should know about daily self-weighing?

Carly: Whether this practice is beneficial or not really depends on the person. While some may find it to be psychologically detrimental, it works very well for many others who find it to be a useful tool to help them notice a small weight gain before it gets out of control. If you do decide to weigh yourself daily, it is important to be both aware and honest with yourself about the trade-offs.

To learn more about Carly and her research on weight regulation, check out her page: http://www.human.cornell.edu/bio.cfm?netid=crp56

GRIT readers, feel free to share your thoughts, reactions, and personal experiences with daily self-weighing. This is a very new topic, and it would be great to hear your feedback too!

My weight loss journey: How my “slip-ups” helped me “shape-up”…

This post was originally published as a guest feature on  Greatist.com, the fastest growing site in health and lifestyle content, reaching more than 3 million visitors in just one year! Follow @jshakeshaftthe amazing fitness editor, who helped me with this post!

Playin’ college basketball in 2006 – feeling FIT

Long story short, I’m a fan of “plans.”  It started in high school when I discovered Slim Fast and dropped 15 pounds.  I gained that back in one summer.  During college, I was captain of my women’s basketball team which kept the pounds under control.  But when I entered the working world, I packed on plenty of extra “cushioning.”   I tried Weight Watchers for about a month, but always skipped meetings and under counted my “points.” Then there was the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Lipodrene diet pills and the cayenne pepper/lemon juice cleanse (Beyoncé put me on to this one).  I’d lose 5-10 pounds with each program only to gain it back in a few months.  I had officially reached a point where I was failing at every weight loss system.  I was a 5’8” 25-year-old who weighed 179 pounds and felt “less than stellar.”  I had to get it together.  I REFUSED to let another day of my 20’s go by without rockin’ short shorts, high heels and lots of swag!   This is when I accepted my weight control Slip up #1: I tried to be perfect

Fall break vacation 2009 – weighing over 175 pounds

I have a super Type A (slightly neurotic) personality and get really pumped up about new a diet plan or workout regimen.  But if I slip up even once, I beat myself up and eventually quit.   Being mean to myself does not help me lose weight.  So, I had to accept the reality that most “plans” aren’t doable for the long haul.  This meant getting rid of my “all or nothing” weight loss mindset.  Instead of feeling guilty for slipping up, I started keeping a mental note of what I ate and tried to match my food intake with equal calorie burn.  For example, if I killed a burger and fries at lunch, that was cool.  It just meant I’d have a small side salad for dinner followed by an extra 30 minutes of cardio. Simple, right?  Not quite.

Despite having this revelation and starting to feel more balanced, I wasn’t losing as much weight as I wanted.  What was the problem?  After downing a bag of trail mix one afternoon, I realized Slip-up #2: I ate too muchSimply put, it goes like this:

  • Choosing a healthy snack = a good look 🙂
  • Eating five servings of a healthy snack = not a good look  🙁

At a wedding in 2009 “mean muggin” – I was thick but still cute right? 🙂

The fact that I ate too much was the most difficult truth for me to accept because I actually ate healthy food!  The problem was that I simply ate too much of it.  So, it was really hard to burn more calories than I consumed, which is the only way to legitimately lose weight.  You’ve heard it before, “eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.”  Well, it’s true.  I had to accept that portion control is just as, if not more, important than food choice.

On that same note, I discovered Slip-up #3: I overestimated my calorie burn.  Since I work out regularly, Ialways figured I deserved a diet “buffer.” But, turns out our bodies don’t blast as many calories as we think.    Calorie counters and heart rate monitors often over count calorie burn.  This is because several factors like hydration, stress, diet, genetics and room temperature aren’t considered.  The bottom line is this: The harder you work the more calories you burn.  So, I started using the Talk Test to quickly and effectively measure my Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and indirectly measure my calorie burn.   If I’m breathing really heavy (like “sucking air”) I know I’m torching calories because I’ve reached my anaerobic training zone.  Now when I work out, I try reaching and staying in this calorie blasting zone to maximize the burn!

Hosting a house party in 2010 – gettin’ my GRUB ON

I’m not going to lie, after weeks of trying to eat less and move more, I was having some serious hunger pangs!  Luckily, I found that simply drinking a glass of water did wonders for my cravings.  Check this, most of the time we think we are “hungry” we are actually “thirsty” due to dehydration.  Also dehydration makes us feel lethargic and we crave sugar and other simple carbs that make us fat. So there you have it, Slip-up #4: I didn’t drink enough water

Now, I was on a roll! After a few months proactively addressing my weight control “slip-ups,” I was feeling good, slim, and energetic.  So one day I decided to weigh myself.  Up 6 pounds?  WHAT?!  How did that happen?  Then I thought to myself, hmmmm… I had indulged in ice cream the night before and a little bacon at breakfast… and pizza on Friday night.

Ramped up my workout intensity w/  hour-long Turbo Kick classes

That’s when I clearly saw Slip up #5: I needed a reality check.  After that random weigh-in, I started weighing myself every morning (yes EVERY day) and have done so for over 1 year now!  This habit is controversial because body weight fluctuates for a variety of reasons (mostly due to hydration levels).  However, the fact of the matter is that the numbers on the scale are your body weight at that time.  THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE (or at least it did for me)!  Being mindful of my weight on a daily basis makes me think more deeply about what I am consuming, my digestion patterns, hydration levels, sweat output and calorie intake/burn.  While my daily weigh-ins help keep my weight in line, my “heavy days” can be very discouraging.  I have to constantly remind myself to keep the big picture in mind – my fitness, health and happiness, not just the numbers on the scale.

Me now at 153 pounds 🙂 Feeling “STELLAR”

My slip-ups have taught me that weight management isn’t about the latest and greatest diet or workout plan; it’s about continuing on a lifelong journey of developing and strengthening healthy habits.  There will always be good days and bad days, but success comes from balance.  Now, at 27 years old, my weight ranges from 150-155 pounds.  I’ve maintained this weight range for over a year without the use of any expensive weight loss plans or diet pills.  I feel strong.  I feel healthy.  I feel authentic.  Most importantly, I ALWAYS rock my short shorts, high heels and lots of SWAG!

What are some of the “craziest” weight loss plans/cleanses that you’ve tried?

Do you have any “slip-ups” to add to my 5?

Me now in 2012 – teaching Turbo Kick for my “side-hustle” 🙂

Top 5 reasons you AREN’T losing weight

I know most of you are already hard working, disciplined people who make sure to get your workouts in and stick with a pretty healthy diet.  But when it comes to knocking off that last 5-20 pounds, it’s like nothing gives.

Well, I hear your pain.  Despite being active in sports and dance since I was 3 years old, I was def a fat kid growing up.  I weighed 106 pounds in 3rd grade…yeah it’s true.  I also struggled with my weight throughout middle school.  In high school I discovered Slim Fast and dropped about 15 pounds, but then after college I “fluffed up” again after I quit playing basketball.  Now, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’ve figured out my body enough to really be able to drop weight and keep it off.

Even though I worked out a lot and ate relatively healthy, I identified 5 key reasons why I wasn’t losing weight.  See if any of these habits apply to you…

  1. I tried to be perfect – I have a super Type A (slightly neurotic) personality and would get really pumped up about a new diet plan or workout regimen.  However, if I slipped up even once, I’d beat myself up and end up quitting the plan altogether.  Now, I’ve learned to be nicer to myself.  Look, there will always be good days and bad days, but weight management is all about balance.  If I smash a burger and fries at lunch, that’s cool.  It just means I’ll have a small side salad for dinner followed by an extra 30 minutes of cardio.  Don’t take everything so seriously!  Just keep a mental note of what you are consuming and make sure that you always match your intake with calorie burn.
  2. I needed a reality check – They ONLY way I’m truly able to manage my weight is by weighing myself on a DAILY basis – yes daily!  Sometimes, you just need to see the numbers on the scale to give you a reality check.  If you actually see that you have gained 5 pounds, you will be more mindful of what you eat.  I challenge you to go to Wal-Mart, by a digital scale and weigh yourself every morning.  You will thank me later 🙂
  3. I ate too much – Even though I ate healthy food, I ate too much of it.  Therefore, it was really hard to burn more calories than I consumed, which is the ONLY way to legitimately lose weight.  You’ve heard it before, “eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.”  Well it’s true – portion control is just as, if not more, important than food choice.
  4. I ate too late – Unless you are doing a hardcore cardio workout at 8:00pm, your body really doesn’t need that much fuel late at night.  Try to eat most of your calories early in the day so that you have all day to burn them off!  Think about it this way, everything you eat in the evening just kind of sits on you…not cute.  One of my favorite quotes is, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.”
  5. I didn’t drink enough water – So check this, most of the time you think you are “hungry” you are really “thirsty” due to dehydration.  Many of us get tricked into eating when our bodies really want WATER!  Your metabolism slows down when you are dehydrated.  Also dehydration makes you feel lethargic so you crave sugar and other simple carbs that make you fat.  Drink up, water is your weight loss friend!