It happens all the time. You’ve stayed on top of your workouts and watched your diet every day, but you can’t get the scale to budge one bit.
Instead of getting angry at what the scale says, take a minute to think about what the scale is NOT telling you.
The scale’s not giving you a lot of information. It doesn’t tell you when you’ve gained muscle. It doesn’t tell you what’s happening with your immune system or how much more energy you have when you work out. It doesn’t tell you about your blood pressure or the way your pants fit!
I’ll give you an example: At my lowest weight, I weighed 118 pounds — but I looked horrible! Now, I have a lot of muscle on my frame and I am fit and healthy — and I weigh 140 – 150 pounds depending on the day. If I had a benchmark that stated I should weigh 118 pounds, I would be freaked out.
By letting your scale tell you how much progress you’re making, you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Here’s why you can’t trust the scale:
1. Fat takes up less volume than an equal mass of fat.
Have you ever looked at what a pound of muscle looks like compared to a pound of fat? One is really small and dense, and the other is wide and puffy. If you were to replace all the fat in your body with muscle, you would look amazingly fit, but you would also weigh a lot more. What this adds up to is if your fitness regime is adding muscle tone, as it should, your scale is likely going to show you a misleading increase in weight.
Instead of looking at the number, you need to calculate your body fat percentage to measure your true progress. Your body fat percentage is calculated by looking at your weight, your height, your age, your gender, and the width of various body parts. It takes a little bit longer to collect and input all the data, but that will help prevent you from measuring yourself against the wrong standards.
2. Water weight isn’t a lie
If you bring a 32 oz. water bottle to the gym and polish it off before you step on the scale, you will find that you weigh two pounds more than you did before you drank it. Have you actually gained two pounds? No. That weight will be flushed out of you in no time. But the scale doesn’t know that.
If you had something with a lot of sodium in it the night before you step on the scale, and your body is holding onto a lot of water, the scale doesn’t tell you, “Oh, you weigh 5 pounds more today because you ate pizza last night and it had a lot of sodium in it!”
This goes doubly for women when you are on your period. If you weigh yourself during that time, your body’s not telling you about all the things that are going on inside your body!
If you really want an accurate read of your weight, weigh yourself first thing in the morning, once a week, first thing in the morning before breakfast or coffee. You’ll be happier with the results.
And whatever you do, try to resist the urge to weigh yourself at the gym! We have a healthy tendency to drink a lot of water at the gym. But that’s also where we like to measure ourselves. Don’t set yourself up for a disappointing — and untrue — measurement.
3. Scales don’t know which part of your body the weight is coming from
Here’s another problem with the scale: it can only measure the total weight of your entire body. If your goal is to tighten a particular trouble spot on your body, like your waist or your legs, then the scale is far too blunt of a metric. A better approach is to take a tailor’s measuring tape to the body part you’re looking to slim down and measure progress in fractions of an inch instead of pounds.
What I like to do when I want to find out if I’m losing weight is to find an article of clothing that doesn’t fit and has zero stretch when I put it on. After I start working out, I try it on once a week. If I see that it’s getting looser, I know that I’m on the right track because I’ve lost inches, even if I haven’t lost pounds on the scale
4. Scales have no idea about the state of your health
You get in shape on the inside before it shows on the outside. A long-term lifestyle change means prioritizing your fitness goals to include having a healthier heart, immune system, and digestive system. Improving those should be motivation enough! But that’s easy to forget when you’re starring at a number on a scale. It takes time to build momentum towards health and develop a sustainable workout regimen before you actually see significant outward results.
I suggest trying to measure your progress by the way you feel instead of what you weigh.
Take a mindful moment to be present when you’re working out. Think about how the experience feels, how your body feels, and how you feel about yourself. Now compare these sensations with how you felt before you committed to a healthier lifestyle. If you see progress in how well you feel, that’s probably the best measurement of all.
How do you feel about stepping on the scale? Do you rely on it too much or just enough? I’d love to hear about your experience!