What to do when the scale drives you crazy

Scale paranoia isn’t rare. Lots of sane, sensible, confident people fall apart at the idea of stepping on the scale. That metal contraption on the bathroom floor is just waiting to wreck their day, maybe their week, perhaps their life!

I can’t argue that it’s not discouraging to cut back on how much you eat while tracking every bite in minute detail, and exercising until you’re practically screaming in pain, just to see the scale reveal the same number. Sometimes you bust your hump and the number has gone up. It’s an indescribably bad feeling.

It makes no sense. You do everything perfectly to the plan. If anything you are on the minus side of perfect. If you strayed from the plan at all, it was only to restrict your calories further. There were absolutely no little slips, no little tastes or bites… nothing, but the scale seems to jeer at you while it says, nice job, Fatty, you gained weight!

If it happened just once maybe we could take it in stride, but the scale fails to cooperate multiple times. Sometimes we are hoping for the best, but we know we didn’t come close to our best adherence, so we can accept that we gained. It’s the times when we feel so certain we’re going to see a nice loss because we worked so hard and instead we see a gain that shakes us up and the paranoia begins.

You can beat the scale. You can get back the control it feels like the scale has stolen from you. Here is how:
  • Weigh yourself once a week under as close to the same circumstances as possible. Weigh yourself at the same time of day, wearing the same (or no) clothes, using the same scale.


  • There’s an old Weight Watchers proverb. He who has one scale always knows how much he weighs; he who has two scales is never sure.  Stepping on and off multiple scales trying to see the number you want will not change anything. Accept your weight and remember there are many things that affect your weight that have nothing to do with how effectively you’re losing body fat.
    • Eating more carbs than you do on a regular basis causes water retention. You may see 3 or 4 pounds added to your body weight just from the stored glycogen in your muscles and liver. It’s not body fat and it will be gone in a few days.
    • Had a fun night out and you’re feeling a little hungover today? The first morning step on the scale may surprise you with a low number. No, alcohol doesn’t burn fat; it dehydrates you.
    • Have you been sick or prescribed a new medication? Even over-the-counter drugs can affect your weight usually by fluid retention, but some are appetite stimulants and some will suppress your appetite.

  • The scale doesn’t lie, but it definitely can misguide. If you have a lot of weight to lose and you are doing muscle-building exercises while you diet, you will not gain pounds of muscle faster than you lose pounds of fat. If you are closer to your goal, however, you may build a pound of muscle faster than you lose that pound of fat. That’s okay (more than okay, that’s great) instead of fretting over the scale take note of how you look and how your clothes feel.

The scale is only one tool in your weight loss kit. The scale gives you feedback but its message needs to be combined with other information to get the true picture of your progress. That’s why keeping track of food and exercise is so important.

That allows you to get a complete picture. If the feedback from the scale continues to be negative the first place to look to understand what’s going on is your eating and exercising habits. 



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.