Stepping on the scale can be scary. But we can't ignore the number it shows

Doctors tell us we need to know our numbers, and one of those numbers is how much we weigh. But what if you just can't bring yourself to step on that scale? 

It's not uncommon to feel anxiety about stepping on the scale, whether you're at home or at the doctor's office. It can lead to frustration, anger and resentment - but we can't ignore that number. 

Dr. Leslie Heinberg of Cleveland Clinic says it's important to always know how much you weigh, but to also keep in mind that the trusted scale isn't always telling the whole story. 

"The scale is a horrible barometer of behavior change. You can do everything right today; you can exercise, you can have a great diet that really would make any dietitian thrilled, but then you get on the scale and you're up two pounds," she says. 

So what gives?

The doctor says for any of us, when it comes to weighing in, even for people within a normal weight range, the average fluctuation is about five pounds. She says weight fluctuation can be a result of factors such as hormones, fluid retention, or even constipation. 

Writing your weight down can help you follow trends over time. If you notice your weight is consistently up after days or weeks, then you probably have gained a few pounds. But obsessively weighing yourself, or checking your body fat every day will likely make you miserable.

But you shouldn't bypass the scale all together, because when you catch upward trends before your clothes don't fit, it's easier to make corrections.

"Getting over a little bit of that anxiety - your weight is what it is, whether you're measuring it or not - but you having that information is going to allow you to make the small tweaks to your lifestyle to continue on what your goals are," Dr. Heinberg says.

She recommends picking two days a week to weigh in and be consistent. Try to weigh yourself at the same time of day, wearing the same amount of clothing.