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Scales: are you really a slave to them?

24th September 2013

SCALES! You know you have a ‘diet head’ when your moods and emotions are dictated by them! So are you someone who feels great and in control when the number on the scales goes down a fraction and feels defeated and useless when your weight hasn’t changed or has gone up? Have you felt positive until you got on the scales and you read the numbers? Has your weight become the most important thing rather than what really matters –  feeling good or being in control?

Weight watching and slimming clubs rely on and create this obsession with weight. The motivations for dieting are complex but the focus is on weight loss. Dieters are lined up and weighed in front of other people and congratulated if their weight has gone down.

They are not congratulated if they are feeling good about themselves, even though this was a major original motivating factor for their attempts at dieting. So what exactly happens if you become preoccupied with weight?

First of all you begin to forget why you wanted to diet. Life becomes ruled by the scales and improving your self-esteem takes second place. Perhaps more importantly, preoccupation with weight contributes to the general process of diet-breaking.

Weight fluctuations occur for a multitude of reasons. In the first week of dieting many dieters lose up to seven pounds. This often acts as a great motivator to continue dieting and raises the dieter’s expectations of future weight loss.

However, more than half of this is water, about a quarter muscle and only a quarter fat, the stuff dieters are trying to get rid of. Once the excess water has gone from the body the following week’s weight loss will be much less, if any.

If the dieter is preoccupied with her weight this will come as a shock, and she will be disheartened.

Dieters rely on the scales for reinforcement and recognition of their efforts and yet weight changes often seem erratic and unfair. Feeling disillusioned with the diet, dieters go out for dinner or eat chocolate ‘because I can’t be bothered making all that effort for nothing any more’ and break their diet, a perfectly understandable response to their unrewarded suffering.

A main cause of weight fluctuation is pre-menstrual water retention. Many women retain water just before their periods. This is usually experienced as feeling bloated and finding that your clothes feel a bit tighter than usual.

If you are dieting it is also experienced as a two pound weight gain, just enough to make you fed-up with your dieting efforts. It is surprising that even though women are perfectly aware that the excess weight is water retention and will go in a few days, dieters still feel that they are to blame and see it as a failure.

Scales can run your life if you're on a diet

Feeling a failure can lead to overeating.

I have just spoken to a lady who has an interesting relationship with the scales. This is what happens to her – sadly many people might relate to it.

‘Every day I step on the scales. If I’ve lost weight then I think ‘wow that’s fab’ and I reward myself with food, perhaps some chocolate. On the days I’ve put on weight then I feel down and eat chocolate or some other treat to make myself feel better.

Then when I don’t weigh myself I feel scared because I think I will have put on weight.’

This is all too often the case and what’s happening here is this: Eating chocolate stimulates the brain’s opioid production. Opioids are neurochemicals responsible for diminishing pain sensations and enhancing pleasurable ones.

Research studies support the premise that the instant mood improvement associated with chocolate is related to the reward response. The particular opioid in this instance is dopamine.

Then there is the vicious cycle that results. This cycle desperately needs to be broken. There are other foods that trigger dopamine – this is for another blog post but you should Google and you will be amazed!!

I really believe knowledge is power and if you are someone who goes through something similar then take steps to break the pattern. Avoid weighing yourself altogether and just be led by the way your clothes feel.

You might very soon notice how much better you feel about yourself.

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