If it happened to me ...
I have decided to start weighing myself regularly again and I am now recommending my clients do the same thing. I no longer subscribe to the "you should just go by how your clothes fit" advice and here is why.
Despite earning money as a weight loss coach, this past summer I gained what should have been a noticeable amount of weight on my frame without realizing it.
Our scale's batteries died sometime in early 2014 and neither my husband or I bothered to replace them. We work out most days of the week, eat healthfully 80-90% of the time and figured we would know if we were gaining weight. Apparently not. About 4 months ago I was rummaging through a utility closet and stumbled upon the kind of batteries we needed to fix the scale. Even though I had mentally freed myself from the addiction to weighing, we had just come back from a rather indulgent vacation (note to self: don't rent a house less than a mile from Marion's Famous Pie Shop ever again!) and I thought the timing might be serendipitous. If I had gained a pound or two, seeing it digitally would motivate me to get back on my game a bit quicker.
Well, I hadn't gained a pound or two but EIGHT. Even though I know there are far greater tragedies than weight gain, I was horrified and embarrassed. I couldn't help but wonder if others, particularly friends and other moms who look to me for nutrition advice, had been wondering when and how I fell off my own "get real diet." Fortunately, after a few days of clean eating and drinking a lot of water that first shocking # decreased enough that it looked like I had actually gained about five real pounds (as women, we all know you can gain and lose 2-3 fake lbs based on where you are in your cycle). Still, as a not so tall woman, this is almost a dress size on me so how had I not noticed? I've come up with a few reasons.
The modern thinking on scales is that they are unnecessary and you should go by how your clothes fit. For example, if your jeans are tight, you have gained weight and need to up the cardio and cut the sweets for a few days and you'll get back on track. Well, I've realized that while scales don't lie, it's very easy to choose clothing that does lie to you. This is especially easy to do if you had children and befriended stretchy, oversized styles during your post pregnancy phase and then just kept on favoring those styles because they are cute, comfy and easy. I'm not talking about sweatpants, I'm talking about cute blousy tops, stretchy denim and any dress or skirt made by Athleta, XCVI or Patagonia. Fashionable, yet very forgiving.
These days it's easy to hide your sins and look pretty good doing it. I realized that over the course of about six months I had only worn and bought clothing in these styles. I live in HOTlanta so I don't wear jeans from about April through October, and because my legs are tanned and toned from exercise, I felt fit in my tennis outfit and my "mom outfit": blousy top, stretchy long or short skirt and shiny ballet flats, c) going out outfit (exactly same as mom outfit but with wedges instead of flats, obvi). I'm sure I'm not the only woman who has practiced this form of denial. It's easy to listen to the irrational voices in your head and ignore the rational ones when you don't want to face the truth (or the hard work of losing weight).
It's also true that while the amount of calories the average person eats has increased by at least 10% over the past few decades, clothing sizes have also increased by at least 10%, meaning someone who eats 10% more than she did in the nineties and weighs 10% more than she did in the nineties can likely wear the same size in 2014 as she did in 1994. It's quite easy to think to yourself "My weight can't have changed that much because I'm still a size 4" or "I can't be overweight because I'm a size 8." Well, because of an industry-wide practice know as "vanity sizing," at most popular clothing chains, including high end retailers, a size 8 these days is the equivalent of a size 10 or even 12 a decade or two ago. I can still buy small sounding sizes, but when I try on old clothes in these sizes, they fit very differently!
Last but not least, as we age our bodies store and lose fat in different places. As a woman loses estrogen, her body will store more fat around the midsection and organs and less in the hips, butt and thighs. It's important to know this and to accept it to a degree - don't be that woman who diets obsessively to maintain the elusive flat stomach of youth and ends up looking gaunt in the face and ten years older as a result - but it's also important to realize that weight gain may show up in different places than it used to so a scale really is your best truth teller when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight as you age.
I have since lost the weight by following my plan outlined in The Get Real Diet in addition to cutting portion sizes of some of my favorite high fat healthy foods - nuts and avocado. But a trip last week to a retailer I hadn't visited in awhile and fitting into the same size I fit into in my early twenties when I was almost a little too thin for a period affirmed my thinking and led me to writing this post. To maintain a healthy weight, you really should check in with the scale at least once a month. Scales don't lie, but your clothing might.