If it were up to me, I would personally go to everybody’s homes and break their scales (okay, maybe not their food scales).
Okay, I should be clear: scales can certainly be helpful.
When you have specific weight loss goals, or even weight gain, having your weight as a reference to measure your progress can be helpful. But it is not the ONLY measure of progress…. far from it, actually.
In many cases, the scale becomes way more of a source of stress than a source of useful information.
We become so easily obsessed with the number on the scale that any fluctuations we see send us into an immediate panic.
“But Matt, I want to lose weight. How do I know I’m losing weight without weighing myself?”
Obviously, if your goal is weight loss, then you hope that your weight is going to go down.
But, there are 2 problems with relying on how much you weigh to measure your progress.
1. FAT loss and WEIGHT loss are not one and the same.
You can lose fat, feel great, but still weigh exactly the same due to increased muscularity.
If you’ve been working out, odds are that you’ve been building some muscle along the way on your journey, too.
If you step on the scale and see the number hasn’t changed, it can be discouraging.
This is not an accurate reflection of your progress. Not even close!
On the flip side, you might drop 5 pounds overnight and think you are making incredible progress. I mean, 5 pounds is great progress, right?
I’m sorry to break it to ya, but it’s simply not possible to drop that much fat overnight. If you see super quick results, it’s likely just due to a loss in water weight, not fat.
2. Your weight is ALWAYS going to fluctuate.
While your weight might be trending down over time, your day-to-day weight is going to go up and down.
One day you might lose 2 pounds, the next day you might gain 5 pounds. Water retention can make your weight do confusing things from one minute to the next, and can be caused by hundreds of different factors that the scale can’t comprehend.
Something as simple as eating dinner a bit later or pooping less can lead you to weigh more the following day- this has absolutely nothing to do with fat gain!
Women are especially susceptible to water retention, too.
I am far from an expert, but I do know that women’s hormones do some wild things during their periods, and those fluctuations in hormones often lead to retaining more water and seeing large weight fluctuations. It’s totally normal!
If you want to weigh yourself to track your weight loss progress, by all means, go right ahead! But understand that your weight is only one small measure of progress. It can absolutely be helpful to know if your weight is trending up or down, but it shouldn’t be the sole driver of your progress.
How to best measure your progress
Instead of relying on your weight alone, you might find it more beneficial to chart your body fat.
It can be tricky to get a 100% accurate body fat reading, but you can get fairly consistent estimates by using a skinfold caliper (assuming you know how to use them, of course). It may not be completely accurate, but it should give you a solid estimate.
Of all the methods, the skinfold caliper is also the cheapest, as all you need is a simple caliper. There are plenty of videos available online breaking down how to use them if you want to go this route, so I recommend conducting a super quick search if you’re interested.
I do not recommend using a digital scale that measures bodyfat, because those are usually extremely inaccurate.
I used a body fat scale myself to test it out, and my body fat percentage was off by a solid 10%. Granted, I estimated because I do not know my exact body fat percentage, but it was clear that it was very much off. Even worse, when I stepped on the scale the following day, it claimed that my body fat dropped by 3%, which is simply not possible.
All of this is to make the point: don’t get so wrapped up in numeric goals that you lose sight of your overall health.
There are so many ways to measure your progress that go well beyond the number on a scale. It doesn’t always have to be about losing weight.
Here’s a list of just a few things that mean you are making incredible progress:
1. You’re feeling more focused & energized
2. Your mood has improved
3. The workouts you used to struggle with have gotten easier
4. You can keep up with your kids
5. You’re feeling less anxious
6. You feel more confident
7. Your skin is clearing up
8. Your clothes are fitting better
9. You’re sleeping more soundly
10. You like the way you look
The signs of your progress may be physical, or they may be mental. Please, do not neglect the mental benefits of your journey. Speaking from experience, as someone who has long struggled with anxiety, I cannot emphasize enough how much exercise and eating healthy has helped my mental health.
All in all, I hate relying only on the scale to measure weight loss progress, or any health progress for that matter.
If you set a goal of losing 20 pounds, you’re going to be discouraged when you only lose 5 pounds. You’re likely going to feel like you’ve failed.
Sure, maybe 5 pounds is not as much weight as you set out to lose.
But look at all the things you accomplished with those 5 pounds… if you feel more confident, you feel stronger, you’re sleeping better, and you have more energy than ever before, isn’t that some incredible progress?
I’ll leave you with this question to ponder:
Would you settle on losing less weight if it meant feeling better both physically and mentally?
For me, the answer is always yes.
That is why I don’t rely on the scale.