THE SCALE IS A POOR MEASURE OF SUCCESS
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
The scale really is not the best tool to use to measure your fitness progress and I am dedicated to make you see that!
Many people associate seeing lower numbers on the scale directly with fat loss and seeing a larger number with instant fat gain.
In reality, neither one can be measured accurately with a scale. I will even risk saying that the scale is one of the least reliable tools used to measure success when it comes to fat loss or gain. That is ultimately, because the scale does not differentiate the kind of weights it measures.
While most people are focused on losing weight, what they really admire (based on conversations with my clients) is not necessarily a smaller body (a smaller version of their current self) but a better body composition. The road to that comes through reducing body fat and maintaining or even building lean muscle mass. Improving your body composition this way as opposed to trying to get smaller and smaller is going to make you feel and look your best. Now with all this in mind, let's get back to our original statement; the scale being a poor measure of your success.
There are a number of problems with using scale as a measure of success and the main ones I want you to remember are:
1. Scales do not differentiate the kind of weight you are losing. If your nutrition and training are not on point, you are definitely going to lose muscle mass and water before fat. This is especially true for women. You will look and feel smaller but likely to not feel satisfied with your and results overall body composition. A pretty horrible, but descriptive term commonly used for a slimmer but softer figure is ''skinny fat''. Mindlessly chasing a smaller weight on the scale will likely to get you there and there only. Similarly, you might put on some amazing lean muscle mass, because of your training. That will show as an increase on the scale too, although you cannot argue that it feels and looks absolutely great!
2. Your weight will fluctuate daily due to many different things.
Everything you eat and drink adds to your weight. Of course you weigh more in the evening than in the morning. You have liters of liquids and grams or even kilograms of food within your body that is waiting to be digested and released.
Factors that will influence your weight during the day and have absolutely nothing to do with fat gain or fat loss:
the weight of food and water you consume
the weight of the resulting stool and urine
water weight retained from medication, training, menstrual cycle
water weight from (even healthy) carbohydrate sources and sodium intake
Your weight can easily fluctuate 2-3 kilos within the day and it is completely normal, actually a good sign of your body functioning well. Women's weight fluctuates throughout their cycle to an even bigger extent. Closer to the first day of their periods and until the end of it they can weigh even 5 kilos more. While this is completely individual, it is absolutely normal and also a sign of the body doing what it needs to do in order to keep you healthy.
While the scale can be a useful tool to measure some aspects of a weight loss or weight gain progress, overall it will not help you see whether the weight you lost or gained is fat, muscle, water or anything else. If you are trying to lose body fat, you are likely to start watching your food and perhaps start exercising.
It is highly likely, that you end up building some lean muscle during this process (which will increase the number on the scale), not to mention the water retention due to exercise. On top of this, if you are a woman, you will have 4 completely different physiological phases throughout a month (due to your menstrual cycle-link), making it completely misleading to compare daily or weekly measurements.
If you are working on improving your body composition (losing fat, maintaining or building muscle mass, or even both!) through diet and training make sure to measure your progress with reliable tools.
Ditch the scale or keep if to weigh your luggage before traveling.
Here are the things you should be watching closely when it comes to seeing results:
HOW DO YOUR CLOTHES FIT?
Whether you are trying to size down or up, you will definitely feel the difference in the way your clothes fit.
HOW DO YOU LOOK?
Take weekly progress photos (at the same time of the day, in the same clothes, in the same lights) and compare them every 4 weeks. Progress is not linear, it is often slow, but it is progress!
PERFORMANCE, ENERGY, MOOD?
How do you feel? How do you feel during the day, during exercising, and how do you perform at work and in the gym? Are you in a good mood? Do you enjoy exercise you are doing and the food that you are eating? These might seem unimportant, but they are essentially what will keep you going!
YOUR BODY COMPOSITION
You can get a quite accurate measurement of your current body composition a couple of different ways these days. The most common and perhaps most available and affordable ways to measure your body composition are:
o Handheld body fat analyzers, like the InBody
A professional specialized in using these tools will measure your body composition within a few minutes with these tools and will give you a comprehensive overview of what is up in your body.
Handheld body fat analyzers and a Dexa will even show you your lean muscle mass, water weight and differentiate visceral (stored around the organs, can be harmful in excess) from subcutaneous (harmless jiggly excess) fat and also show you your metabolic age, which is basically how old your body feels.
Pretty cool, huh?