Picture this: You’ve been working out consistently, eating pretty well and feeling good about your progress and how your body looks. You decide to put that confidence to the test and step on the scale, only to be devastated by the number you see. Two minutes ago you were feeling great, but now your day is ruined by that stupid number. Sound familiar? I know I have personally fallen into this trap and from conversations with clients, I’m not the only one. Here’s the thing though–nothing has actually changed from the time we felt confident to when we stepped on that scale. Nothing at all. We still look the same, we are still as strong and fit and beautiful. We are still us. So why let a number sidetrack a good thing? I really want to point out a few of the flaws with the scale today to hopefully help break it’s hold and offer some alternative ways of tracking progress that are more accurate and more helpful when it comes to assessing growth.
You might be asking, why do scales suck? Well for one thing, they aren’t always accurate. I had a client step on a scale the other day that showed a 3 pound difference between weigh ins taken seconds apart. Now clearly this scale needed to be calibrated, but that just goes to show you that they aren’t the infallible piece of equipment that we often make them out to be.
But, lets assume for a second that all scales weigh perfectly–what if you weighed yourself first thing in the morning and again before bed? You might be shocked to see a difference of 5-10 pounds depending on the day! Did you actually gain that much weight? Of course not, but factor such as hydration, bowel movements (gross, I know, but true), whether you ate recently, and numerous other factors will affect the number you see. For this reason, I recommend weighing yourself, at MOST, once a week at the same time of day. First thing in the morning, after using the bathroom, is best for accuracy, but keeping your timing consistent is key. Any more than that and you run the risk of driving yourself crazy over fluctuating numbers. Personally, I only really check in on a client’s weight (or my own) once a month as a small factor to consider among many others that track progress.
So, if I’m not really using the scale, what are some better ways to track progress? I’m so glad you asked. Here are my top 3 measures of progress:
You know that pair of pants that sits at the back of everyone’s dresser just waiting for them to finally fit? Well if those pants are suddenly able to zip when you weren’t able to get them past your knees a few months ago, who cares if the scale hasn’t budged? That is the kind of progress that means something.
2. Tape Measure
This goes in line with the clothing measurement, but if you have a tape measure at home it is a great way to put tangible numbers to your progress. Losing an inch at the waist or gaining an inch in the bicep is a great way to know whether your workouts are giving you the results you desire.
3. Fitness Goals
Let’s say a month ago you were able to do 10 push ups. Now you can do 15. Who really cares if the number on the scale didn’t move? The reality is that you gained muscle so what the scale isn’t showing is an increase in muscle and loss of fat that led to the same number. All pounds are not created equal!
All this to say, fitness is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Why make that any harder on yourself than it has to be? Years of fighting with the scale has led me to see that it is simply not the only, or even best, way to measure progress. Give yourself (and your scale) a break and try using some other, more reliable ways to track your progress! Your sanity will thank you.