One of the best things I ever did for myself was get rid of the scale.
I know what you’re thinking- “But- how can you make sure you won’t gain weight and get out of control?! How do you know you’re on the right track and are making progress?!”
Let me explain.
One major thing on my already pretty long list of things about the diet/fitness industry that I loathe- is the extreme exaggeration of the importance of the scale. Whether it’s from rapid, “inspirational,” weight-loss shows like The Biggest Loser (which was recently blasted by a former competitor for obscenely dangerous practices that you can Read Here), the cover of so many women’s magazines, or misinforming Doctors- it’s just staggering how much the scale and bodyweight tends to factor into the collective consciousness of women when to comes to evaluating their fitness goals.
Obviously in many cases the scale can be quite telling and necessary- especially if you fall into the overweight/obese category. But what about if you don’t fall into that category? What if you just want to “tone up?” Or what if you DO fall into that category- but the scale isn’t moving as fast as you’d like? We have women hitting the weights in the gym, doing morning cardio like nobody’s business, dieting, and then having full on nervous breakdowns when the scale doesn’t move. Even if they have great results otherwise! They get discouraged because they are doing so much work but aren’t seeing “results.” And in their brains, “results” basically ONLY means seeing the scale move.
Sadly, yet inevitably, these women then give up. They think they’re doing something wrong. Those are also usually the women that are quick to say “Lifting weights bulks me up!” and things like that.
Little do they know- MASSIVE changes are happening underneath it all- changes that the scale just can’t measure.
The worst part is- these women will right then turn around and pursue “quick” weight loss programs that promise “quick” results. Yes- the scale weight will go down- but so will their muscle mass = instant weight re-gain and a slowed metabolism, too. Fast doesn’t always mean better. In fact- it rarely does, actually.
“Okay,” You may say. “But if the scale isn’t moving- what’s happening, then?”
I love this passage from HealthDiscovery.net:
Robin Landis, author of “Body Fueling,” compares fat and muscles to feathers and gold. One pound of fat is like a big fluffy, lumpy bunch of feathers, and one pound of muscle is small and valuable like a piece of gold. Obviously, you want to lose the dumpy, bulky feathers and keep the sleek beautiful gold. The problem with the scale is that it doesn’t differentiate between the two. It can’t tell you how much of your total body weight is lean tissue and how much is fat.
When you’re on an EFFECTIVE and healthy program- a program that specializes in correct, balanced nutrition with adequate protein and a workout regiment that includes strength training of some kind- you’ll build muscle, most definitely. This helps your lean muscle mass percentage go up higher- and over time, that lean muscle mass you are building will also help your body BURN FAT AT REST.
Think of it this way- you know those “Calories Burned” meters on cardio equipment? Well, if you’re lifting weights regularly, it’s as if that meter is constantly running. But you have to build that muscle first before it can start the calorie burn process!
So then it’s very common that after a month of being on a strength training regiment and diet that the scale may not move at all. But you know what CAN happen? You can lose 2-3% of body fat. You may have 5 lbs. of muscle gained and 5 lbs. of fat lost. In case you don’t know- here’s what 5 lbs. of fat looks like:
Now- as you can see, muscle doesn’t weigh *more* than fat- but it takes up less space. So theoretically- you could gain 5 lbs. of muscle and lose 5 lbs. of fat in a month and be LEANER, your clothes will fit better, your body fat will drop- but the scale may stay exactly the same.
Over time, it’s even possible that the scale can go UP- yet your overall bodyfat will go down.
Here are some examples of this process in action:
Here’s my own example:
I say I’m 125 currently because that’s the last number I saw when I weighed myself God knows how long ago. Honestly- I probably may be back up to 130 again based on the muscle I’ve gained or at least am trying to gain in the gym! But regardless- you can see that it definitely looks like I lost 15-20 lbs.! If I still had the “The scale weight means everything!” mentality- I’d have probably given up a long time ago. But it just goes to show you how much it doesn’t matter at all- especially if you are actively weight training.
More Reasons to Throw Away Your Scale:
It’s also important to note that there are plenty of other factors besides solely muscle gain that can influence the scale and show less-than accurate results:
1.) Water retention (Especially around your period!)
Water makes up 60% of your total body mass. So depending on how dehydrated you are, and just natural water fluctuations can influence the scale greatly! *Note* it’s important to remain hydrated, because if you’re dehydrated your body will retain water far more. That’s why a lot of these “Lose 5 lbs. in ONE WEEK” plans involve massive amounts of fluids- all you’re losing is water weight. And most people are dehydrated.
2.) Excess Salt
3.) Glycogen Storage
This can change depending on your carb intake and can make your weight fluctuate up to 2 lbs. with no other changes!
Remember- it’s just not possible to gain 3 lbs. overnight based on one bad meal you ate. So if that ever happens- just realize that it’s a combination of all the factors above- and not anything else.
I just love this photo from Barbells and Beakers illustrating this point exactly:
Okay, so How Should I Measure Progress, Then?!
1.) How your clothes fit.
Is it getting easier to get into those jeans that you usually have to fight to the death to get in? Do you notice your shirts fitting looser around your middle? These are tell tale signs you’re achieving fat loss! Even areas that you wouldn’t think, or may not necessarily want to lose anything in like your chest- are huge signs of progress.
2.) A less “puffy” face
Personally, this is one of my biggest cues. When I notice that my cheeks and jawline are more defined and I have a less “round” face- I know that I’m losing overall bodyfat and am headed in a leaner direction. You can see the differences here- they are VERY slight (they are both somewhat recent!) but it’s a difference that I can tell, even if nobody else can, really. It helps that I take lots of selfies to document my make-up. 😉 But anyway, here’s an example:
You can see how I’m just generally a little puffier in the face in the first photo. If I can sense that or see that in myself- it’s usually a sign I’ve either not eaten enough (pretty common for me, actually,) that I’ve been indulging a liiiitle too much in sugar, or haven’t been drinking enough water. So I make those adjustments and then I’m back to normal!
I highly recommend getting a tape measure for yourself if you’re the type of person that wants to see numerical progress. It’s a lot better than using a scale, that’s for sure! But even still- measurements can’t differentiate between water weight…which is why the following are the best options in my opinion:
4.) Skinfold Measurements/BIA Testing
You can use calipers as demonstrated in this article to measure your body fat accurately- which serves as a great at-home option. However, many health clinics also offer BIA testing- which uses electrical currents to determine your lean body mass, body fat percentage, water storage, and other factors that shows the most accurate results that I’ve seen! We offer this at the wellness center I work part-time at, The Nutrition Shoppe (locations in GA and PA) and clients really enjoy seeing the results this gives because it’s very numerical and very accurate.
Positive Results You Can’t “Measure”
The above are things that measure a visual change in progress. But you shouldn’t discount the non-visual, positive aspects, as well! These are more signs that you’re on the right track:
1.) More Energy
2.) Better Sleep
3.) Increased Stamina and Endurance as evidenced by being able to run faster, or for longer, or do high intensity workouts
4.) Increased Strength by increased weight or reps being lifted
5.) A generally more positive well-being
6.) Increased motivation
7.) Decreased cravings for sweets/processed foods
8.) Better/clearer skin
9.) Increased flexibility, mobility, and range of motion
10.) Improved overall digestion
11.) Improved self-confidence
12.) Increased body awareness
All of the above are things that the scale won’t tell you. And if you’re experiencing all of them- but the scale doesn’t move- why would you continue to let that silly number determine your progress? It’s just not worth it and more de-motivational than anything.
I recommend weighing yourself no more than once a month if you absolutely HAVE to do it. And even still- you shouldn’t be discouraged when it doesn’t move for all the reasons listed above.
Some more things the scale can’t measure:
Your self-worth. Your beauty. Your positive attitude. How your family loves you and looks up to you. The joy you feel when accomplishing things you never could before. How great it feels that you’re making the right choices. Strength. Your education. Your career achievements. Your commitment to being a great friend. Your excellent taste in coffee. The amount of times you laugh a day. The joy that comes from having a significant other to enjoy life with. How great wearing red lipstick makes you feel. How your smile lights up other people’s day. How it feels to set personal records in the gym. Your goals in life. Your importance and contributions to this world. Your mind.
I hope this post helps some of you, whether you are just thinking of possibly starting a fitness journey, are in the middle of one, or are knee-deep in the “#fitfam”. We all need to hear it sometimes.
If the scale is currently your enemy- get rid of it. I challenge you to just chuck it in the garbage. I promise nothing terrible will happen. The diet gods will not strike you down with lightning. The only thing that will happen is you will probably feel a joy and liberation that you’ve never felt before.
Now-it’s important to NOT replace obsessing over the scale with excessive body scrutiny in the mirror, either!
I came across this quote recently which just really resonated with me and I know it will with you, too:
You know when you stare at a word for so long, that it starts to not look like a word anymore, like something is wrong with it? I think this is the same thing girls do to their bodies.
I just think it’s so important to pursue an acceptance and attitude of positivity around your body even if you’re actively trying to change it for the better. There is no reason that we have to remain enemies of our bodies! We were made with a purpose, and our real and true selves are embedded in our spirit, our soul, and our mind. Don’t place your entire self-worth on your outer shell. Yes- get healthy. Yes- lose weight if you want to. But never forget- YOU are enough just as you are, RIGHT NOW. Not when you lose those last 5 lbs. Not when you lose that “roll” (that by the way, even very lean people have.) We all have rolls. It’s just skin.
You’re Allowed to Love Yourself. Remember That.