While not all of us venture into the fitness world for weight loss, a large portion of us do. For anyone who has tried to lose weight, it may seem as if you need to intensely track the numbers on the scale. It can also be extremely disappointing when you’re motivated, crushing your goals, getting in all your workouts, and eating properly, but when you go to step on the scale, it says you’ve gained a pound. It’s important to understand that while the numbers on the scale can be important, they’re not everything.
What The Scale May Not Be Measuring
The scale can be a rather blunt way to assess your progress, to put it lightly. That’s because the scale just reports your overall weight. But there are so many different aspects that make up that overall weight, such as bone density, water, fat, and lean muscle. The scale is just totaling all that up, which can lead people to think that they’re not progressing like they want to. For example, water weight is something that fluctuates in our bodies constantly. For instance, if you’re out with friends at a pizza place and you then you go to weigh yourself the day after, due to all the sodium, your body may be holding on to a large amount of water weight. Water weight can add as much as five pounds to your body. For women, during their menstrual cycle, women are prone to holding extra water weight. So while you are able to understand this, basic scales do not.
Another example is bone mass. The average person's bone mass accounts for about 15% of their total body weight. And if you think about it, the average person is not physically active. If you’re someone who engages in weight training, it's likely that you have a heavier skeleton. This is because resistance-training increases bone density and things that have a greater density will weigh more. But just because you weigh more, doesn’t mean that you have more body fat. It’s very unlikely that your scale is able to differentiate between the amount of muscle mass and fat mass that you have.
You may have heard the saying that “muscle weighs more than fat”, which is true to a certain degree. A pound is a pound, whether that pound is made up of muscle or fat. However, muscle is denser than fat, which means that it takes up less space on your body. So if you’re body is gaining muscle mass, that pound of muscle is still going to add up and the more muscle you have on your body, the more you will weigh. But, when you lose fat and build muscle, it may be harder to see a difference on the scale. Once again, many scales can’t differentiate the difference between the two, so when you weigh yourself, it may seem like you're plateauing and not losing any weight, which can be frustrating.
So, What's The Point Of A Scale?
While it may seem as if we’ve harped on the scale, we’re not saying that it’s entirely useless. Some people will argue that stepping on the scale is a great way for them to track their own accountability without obsessing over the number that it shows. It’s great for tracking changes that occur over a prolonged amount of time. So if you like the scale, and you like tracking your progress that way, you do you. Just remember that it’s not everything!
How Should I Track My Progress Then?
Since most people start out using the scale as their initial way of tracking, you may be wondering what other ways you can use in order to track your progress. Some of our favorite ways are the following.
Fat loss and muscle gain are a pretty slow process, and the changes that happen from one day to the next may be difficult to see on the scale. However, they’re usually easier to see when you take the visual approach. Taking full body photos of yourself in the mirror are a great way to track your progress. Now you don’t need to take a photo of yourself everyday — taking photos weekly or every other week are great ways to track yourself. You’ll be astounded at the difference in your body from week one to week eight.
Measuring yourself is another great way to see your progress. Like we mentioned earlier, muscle is denser than fat and takes up less room. So while you may not be seeing a difference in the number on the scale, you’ll probably see a large difference in the numbers on the tape measurer. Measuring your waist, hips, thighs, biceps, and chest are all great ways to see where your body is changing. If your waist and hip numbers are decreasing but your chest and biceps are increasing, then you know that your on the right track of building more muscle and losing fat.
This is probably the easiest way for you to see your progress. Try on a pair of jeans that was once challenging for you to fit in, and you may find that you are able to easily glide into them. It can be an incredibly rewarding way to just track that you’re on the right path. The scale may not be able to differentiate this change, but if your clothing is fitting easier, it's a great way to track progress.
DEXA, or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, is one of the most accurate ways of tracking and measuring your body composition. However, it can be expensive and not as easily accessible. The whole point of a DEXA scan is to measure your body composition. So if you’re prepping for a competition or just a fitness junkie who wants to learn more about their body, it may be a great option for you.
The purpose of this blog post is not for you to throw away your scale. We promise we don’t hate them. It’s just important to understand that the number you see is more complicated than you think. It is a great tool for you to understand the changes that are happening in your body, but its not the only tool you should be using. Don’t be too hard on yourself if the number on the scale is not what you’re wanting or expecting to see.
At Fit In New England, we are here to help you reach your fitness goals, whatever they may be. Our gym in Medford is committed to providing all of our athletes with the best training, whether it be personal or group training. All of our staff members are extremely experienced and are there to help you feel and look your best. Contact us for more information! We look forward to hearing from you!