I’ve done it and likely so have you.
Stepped on the scale with our eyes closed hoping, that upon the big reveal, the number would be smaller than yesterday. And then, upon opening our eyes, picked up the scale and throw it across the room.
Ok, maybe I’ve never actually done that… but I’ve thought about it several times.
Over the years, my relationship with the scale has gotten much better but I still see many fitness professionals demonize the poor little thing, making it seem as though the concept of weighing one’s self is completely pointless.
I mean, I understand why they do it- there are many things the scale cannot tell you- like water weight and muscle gain. So, while I don’t believe weight is the end all be all, I believe it is one component of keeping ourselves accountable and measuring progress.
Scale weight should be used IN ADDITION to other methods as a way to stay accountable without driving yourself crazy.
First you must form a good relationship with the scale. You have to be able to be nice to it even when what you’re seeing feels like a personal attack. We have to remember that the scale is just a measurement telling us if we’re headed the right direction. We can watch our bodies become leaner, more muscular and more defined and the scale could go up, down or even stay the same.
So before you toss that little sucker through the window consider adding one of the following methods to help you track progress:
1. Body composition measurement:
The gold standard for understanding where you stand. You’ll learn your percentage of body fat and fat free mass (muscles, bones, skin etc.). Most gyms have a reliable system- i.e. the BodPod yet, some still use calipering. Make sure if it is the latter that you have a seasoned professional taking measurements as variations can be huge.
2. Circumference measurements:
My favorite method for tracking! There are multiple locations on the body where these measurements can be taken. I tend to prefer the right upper arm- half way between the elbow and shoulder, the bust- across the nipple line, the waist- at the belly button, the hips at the widest spot, the right thigh and calf at the widest point. It is important that you measure the same place every consecutive time so you should either measure how far down from a landmark you are measuring or, have a stealthy memory.
3. Clothing fit:
This is a great nontechnical way to measure progress. Grab your favorite pair of jeans and try them on every couple of weeks. I would likely avoid the timeframe around the menstrual cycle as a woman’s weight can fluctuate up to 10 lbs.
4. How you feel- energy levels:
Again, pretty nontechnical but a very good indicator of progress. A journal will come into play here and you should be recording in it quite often. Here are some questions for you to consider: Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy? Are your workouts becoming easier? Are you lifting more?
5. Bloodwork/ other health markers:
If you’re not super concerned about weight or the fit of your jeans and you’re doing this mainly for health implications then you may consider getting bloodwork- checking cholesterol LDL/HLD/VLDL, Triglycerides, A1C, Glucose. Obviously your Physician will know these but it will give you a great way to stay accountable and track progress.
I would pick one additional metric to use in addition to taking weight. If your measurements are going down, your clothes are fitting better and you feel better daily, a stagnant scale or a couple of added pounds could mean you're gaining muscle but without some additional context it's almost impossible to know what is occurring physiologically.
However, if just looking at the scale makes you want to vomit it might be time to call the window repair man- go ahead and toss that baby. There's no use getting fired up about a few pounds here or there- aim to measure one of the above instead.
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