Using scales has been a common way of monitoring your health and fitness progress over the years. But they are probably doing more bad than good.
Let me paint you a fairly common picture...
Your goal is to lose a bit of weight and improve your body shape, possibly for a wedding, or holiday or maybe you just want to feel better.
You've been on a health kick for a few weeks, started introducing some form of exercise into your lifestyle and making healthy choices when it comes to eating.
You notice that your jeans are fitting better, you have more energy for the kids and generally feel more like 'you'.
Upon waking up one morning, you walk into the bathroom and step on the scales.
They haven't budged. No weight lost. You feel terrible and feel that you've failed in your ambition to become healthier. Motivation might as well be flushed down the toilet.
The consequences of basing your health and fitness progress from a number on a scale alone can be utterly demotivating.
But do you really want to base your health and fitness progress on a number on a scale?!
How we can truly quantify our wellness from a set of scales is a reason why so many people start routines and stop so quickly.
The truth is, a set of weighing scales won't truly reflect all the hard work you've done and what you've really accomplished.
To understand why using scales and weight alone as a progress checker is a bit daft, we need to understand key changes in the body when we make healthier choices and exercise more.
Muscle vs. Fat
Most people want to burn fat and tone up to look good and feel good. This makes sense from a health perspective too, the more fat you have the more at risk you are from cardiovascular disease and conditions such as heart attack, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
To improve body shape usually requires building a bit of lean muscle too.
Muscle is generally much more dense than fat and takes up less room in the body.
Body fat does play a role in the body, mainly insulation (keeps us warm) and stores nutrients. Other than that, it is fairly inactive tissue and doesn't do much for our metabolism (the rate we burn energy / calories).
Muscle however is active tissue and needs to be fuelled 24/7. Building lean muscle through exercise is one of the best ways you can burn fat long term. You will essentially have an engine in your body that raises your metabolism round the clock.
But this is why the scales won't always reflect the awesome progress you make.
If you burn 5lbs of fat, but build 5lbs of muscle, you will feel noticeable changes in how your clothes fit. You will feel better in yourself, leaner, stronger and more confident. But you won't see any difference on the scales.
And this is the crux of the issue. Scales are one dimensional. They have their uses, for example in certain sports where you need to weigh a particular weight to compete, like boxing.
But unless you're aiming to be a competitive boxer, you don't need them.
They can contribute to a poor mindset and send you down the wrong path.
Instead of thinking 'I want to lose weight' try thinking 'I want to be healthier'. When you start to make healthy changes to your lifestyle, fitness goals usually fall into place.
So let's look at some different ways to mark your progress instead of using the scales.
- If you want to work with numbers, take measurements of arms, chest, waist, hips and thighs instead. This is really simple - just make sure you measure exactly the same spot each time.
- How do your clothes fit? Do you feel noticeable differences in your jeans or belt? Do your t-shirts feel slightly baggier?
- How do you feel when you wake up? Are you tired and fatigued or are you sleeping well and feel refreshed?
- Do you have more energy than before?
- Are you generally feeling happier, less stressed and more content from exercising and making sensible eating choices?
No matter what progress you're making, learn to be happy in your body - it's the only one you'll have for the rest of your life.