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I’m not going to lie, I’m decidedly anti-scale.

Not because I’m lying to myself about my weight, not because I want to remain delusional about it, and not because it’s just easier to “not know.” I’m “anti-scale” because it puts unimportant numbers in front of me. It perpetuates the myth that the most meaningful thing that I could do for my weight loss goal is lose a ton of mass, and it doesn’t matter where that mass comes from.

If I know that my body will carry up to eight pounds of water weight, and I go and sit in a steam room for far longer than is naturally healthy and sweat that water weight out then come out and get on the scale, I’m going to see a “weight loss.” Never mind the fact that, whenever I eat or drink something new, I’ll pack that water weight right back on. Never mind the fact that it’s quite unhealthy to dehydrate myself in that fashion, and that I’ll be negatively affecting my daily bodily function to even try it. I will have lost weight. I guess that’s what’s important in the end.

And, what’s to be said of the difference between muscle and fat? Muscle is necessary not only for general function, but also fitness and self-preservation. Don’t I want to be healthier for years to come? Muscle helps with that, and equally important, weight maintenance. If I’m not careful about how I lose weight, I’ll lose lots of valuable muscle, which negatively affects my metabolism far more than losing fat. Should I risk all that hard work just to see a number drop on the scale?

Besides, what about simply watching to see my progress in the mirror? Don’t many people lose a a few pounds simply to change what they see? What do I do when I’m losing weight, but can’t respect – or, don’t know how to respect – the changes I might be unable to see?

I figured out a solution. A way to track my progress, respect what I was seeing in the mirror, and help me focus on what was most important – building the body I wanted – and not a non-descriptive number.

I shuffled through my closet, and pulled out a dress. I’d never been able to wear it before – it was always too small, too tight, and my shoulders were far too large for me to even get it over my head. At this point in my journey, I’d experienced just enough success to get the dress over my head, although I looked like quite the lumpy mess in it. Not to fear, though. I’d put in work, and my new goal was to become a bombshell in that dress.

In fact, the dress became a much more positive reinforcement than the scale ever could. As an inch-by-inch-by-inch cube of muscle weighs more than a cube of fat with the same metrics yet is still smaller, my appearance would change – which was something I wanted – even though the scale might show a gain. I didn’t want to look like a formerly-fat-now-flabby-and-deflated person – I wanted to look toned. I needed muscle to do that. Slipping into that dress every week helped me gauge how well I was coming along in achieving that.

Week after week, I’d slide into that dress – pulling and tugging at first, letting it fall right onto me eventually – and I’d notice something new about how it fit on me. One day, the shoulders would be less round, a bit squarer and even a bit broad. Next, less rolls in the front and back, and more of a waist appearing. Sometimes, I’d whimper about my shrinking breasts, but I was still happy. It meant progress, even if the double Ds had to go.

I even remember the last day I put that dress on – it literally fell on so fast that I couldn’t even get my arms into the sleeves! I was able to fit into it, shoulders and all, without the arm holes. It became time to retire the dress.

I learned a lot from my dress. I learned how to notice changes in my body – both for the better and the worse – and how to act based upon how I want to either encourage or discourage those changes, which was something I’d never learned before. If anyone asks me, I tell them to ditch the scale and go get yourself a sassy dress! It’s not only more fun, but more pleasant. Watch your body – and your self-esteem – thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs her journey of losing over 150lbs. A trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching, she can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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