Even the word itself is enough to put some people in a state of horror. S-C-A-L-E-S.
But why? Why are scales so scary for some people? Why are they seen as the enemy, the scum, the scary monster who hides underneath the bed or in the closet?
Because they lie. Well, not exactly. The number itself isn’t necessarily a lie, but it’s not an accurate representation of your weight loss progress. I know this because there’s been countless times I’ve stepped on the scale at various times in the SAME day and got different numbers each time. How is it I can put on 2kg in a day?
And trust me, that’s how much the scales can fluctuate in a 24-hour period. Sometimes more!
So how is that on Friday evening I can weigh 84.4kg and by the time I wake up on Saturday morning and weigh myself again, that number has gone up to 86.2kg? Did I just put on an extra 2kg of fat!?
No. Certainly not.
It’s nearly impossible for the body to put on 2kg or more, of pure fat in a day. It just doesn’t work like that. Yes, the number doesn’t lie (unless you’re still using your Nan’s tatty old scales from the 50’s with the needle that moves when you step on it), but it doesn’t mean that’s your FAT. It’s just your weight.
There are a multitude of things that affect what your current weight is, including what you ate, what you drank, how much you ate, how much you drank, whether or not you’ve exercised in the day, digestion, the time of day and if you’ve been to the toilet or not that day. I could name some more but you get the point.
Some of these things aren’t even in your control.
Furthermore, the scales weigh everything, and I mean everything. Your bone mass, muscle mass, water weight and poop. It all gets included. There’re no prisoners.
You could even be gaining muscle in the process causing the scales to go up, without you even knowing you’re gaining muscle. Imagine that. Imagine getting disheartened and becoming unhappy, just because you put so much emphasis on what that number says, and don’t even realise you’re gaining muscle and looking better.
A good analogy to use here is; let’s say I have a cup, which weighs 1kg. I then fill half of it up with water and weigh it again. It now weighs 1.5kg. I then leave the half-filled cup out in the sun for the day and when I come back to it the water has evaporated. I put the cup back on the scales, and low and behold, it weighs 1kg again. And that’s what’s happening to your body daily. Each day things are coming in and going out of your body causing the weight to fluctuate drastically.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still track your progress using the scales if you do it once a week, on the same day, at the same time of day (preferably as soon as you wake up) and preferably naked or in your underwear. Even then, there will be odd time when maybe the scale goes up, down or nothing at all. This is to be expected, after all, the scales take no prisoners remember. Just use the number as a tracking tool, rather than getting too caught up on the number itself.
So, here’s the 3 more effective ways to assess your weight loss progress without stepping on the scales.
1. Body Fat Callipers (The Skinfold Test)
I say this one over and over again to all my clients trying to lose weight. Weight loss is about losing body fat, whilst maintaining muscle. You want to lose fat, not necessarily weight. Theoretically speaking, you want to be as heavy as possible with minimal fat. This means you’ll be strong and likely carry sufficient muscle.
One of the cheapest and most accurate ways to do this is by measuring your fat using body fat callipers. This is called the skin-fold test.
For males, a simple 3-way method will suffice. These include taking a measurement on your chest – between your nipple and the top of your armpit, your stomach - roughly 1 inch to the side of your belly button, and lastly, your thigh - halfway up between your knee and hip-flexor.
Click this link to watch a quick demonstration on how to do it -> https://bit.ly/3hCHyL6
For females, I recommend doing one on the back of the triceps - exactly mid-point from where the shoulder starts down to the elbow, the suprailiac - which is just above the hip bone and the thigh - halfway between your knee and hip-flexor.
Click this link to watch a quick demonstration on how to do it -> https://bit.ly/3hEv9q7
It’s important to note that it’s not so much the number that is important at this stage, it’s more so that you use that number as a way to track your progress. Obviously, each time you do it you want your body fat % to be lower.
Once you’ve taken your measurements, input them into a body fat calculator, like the one provided here -> body fat percentage calculator.
This method is better than jumping on the scales because it specifically measures your fat as opposed to weight, to give you a more reliable indicator of progress. If you’re sticking to your diet and workout plan you should see a gradual decrease in this number over time.
Depending on how accurate your measurements are will affect the accuracy of the results. You should however be able to get relatively close to the true number. Similarly to scales, don’t get too caught up on the number itself, just look for progress over time.
With this method, it’s important that each time you take a measurement, you make sure to do them in the exact same spot as the previous time and track the results.
2. Progress Photos
I love progress photos and here’s why.
Progress pictures are such a great way to physically see how your body has changed over a period of time. You get a really great visual representation of how the hard work you’ve been putting in is taking effect.
Personally, I like to accumulate my progress pics and use a frame app on my phone, so that way I can see them next to each other, side-by-side and easily compare the changes.
The great thing is that once you notice these changes (which you will), you get such a massive boost in confidence. That boost will spur you on to keep going and keep working hard!
It even psyches you up for the next picture.
You’ll be thinking, ‘gee, I’ve got to make sure that the next progress photo is even better than this one’. This gives you a great bit of extra motivation to go on and push hard for the following month. At the end of the day, you’re doing this for yourself, so you’ve got to prove to yourself you can do it.
Without fear of sounding like a narcissist, I personally I get a huge buzz when I know I’ve been working hard with my diet and workout plan and it’s time for a progress pic. I actually look forward to the progress picture day, knowing that it’s going to give me a good feeling after comparing it to the previous months photo.
If you’re active on social media, you can even post your progress pictures on there to show your friends and family. In return they’ll likely comment to say how well you’re doing. At first it might be scary, putting yourself out there, but it’s really something you should be proud about. It’ll take you by surprise at how responsive and supportive people are towards you, encouraging you further.
Again, this is a massive boost and will just solidify that your hard work is paying off.
Look, I’m not saying you have to post it on social media, I’m just saying that if you like using social media and like doing those things, then you can use it to your advantage to help you. On the other hand, keep them completely private if you want.
So, how often should you take a progress picture?
I would suggest no more than once a month.
Once a month should be enough time in between each photo so you can get a good gauge of progress made.
Reality check here, the body takes time to change and adapt to its new composition. Some months you might make more progress than others, but if you’re consistent and see your journey out to the end, you’ll 100% see some huge differences! Just be patient, trust yourself and trust the process. Results will come. Even the smallest of changes are just as important and worth celebrating. Without baby steps, the big steps are not possible. Keep positive. Progress is progress.
So, grab your phone or your camera and either ask someone you trust to take a picture of you, or set a countdown timer so you can do it yourself.
A few months down the line you’ll be thanking me and yourself.
3. How You Feel in Your Clothes
How about those jeans you bought 2 years ago which you absolutely loved, and when you bought them, you knew they were a little tight but you promised yourself that you’ll lose a couple of pounds so the fit perfectly. Before you know it, a few months or even years have passed and now they don’t fit at all. All they do is just collect dust at the back of your wardrobe.
What about the t-shirts and shirts that have become noticeably snug around the stomach area, becoming uncomfortable to wear and making you feel uneasy about how they look when you wear them in public?
Yeah, it happens to the best of us. I’ve been there before, it’s really frustrating. Also, it’s so expensive to keep buying new clothes, just because your old ones don’t fit anymore. To add insult to injury, sometimes the best clothes aren’t even in our size anymore.
Luckily, I’ve got some great news.
Instead of buying new clothes, lets take those clothes collecting dust in the back of your wardrobe and use them to our advantage. Give yourself a minimum time of 12 weeks, roughly 3 months, and use that old pair of jeans as an indicator to how we’re making progress with our weight loss.
Your body and mind are deeply connected. Just as quickly as you noticed the clothes becoming too tight to wear, the same will happen when you realise, they’re starting to fit more comfortably again. And when that happens, your face will light up with a bundle of joy.
It sounds really simple, and it is.
If your clothes which no longer fit you due to the accumulation of any unwanted fat around the waist, when they start to fit again, it’s an obvious indication that you’ve made some great progress. That means your doing a really good job!
Take one particular t-shirt, shirt, jacket, jeans, or whatever, and use that as a measurement. Every 2 weeks or month, try that same item on again. For example, March - might still be too tight, oh well, stay consistent with your plan and keep believing in yourself. April – hmm, this t-shirt feels less tight around the shoulders, it didn’t feel like this last month. Nice! May – Wow, I can put it on without it feeling like my auntie giving me a hug because it’s the first time she’s seen me this century. June – summer time is approaching and this t-shirt is actually feeling comfortable on me for the first time I can remember since buying it last year.
My girlfriend actually took her pair of jeans which became too tight for her, hung them up at the front of her wardrobe, and looked at them every morning as a constant reminder to stay on track with her goal to make sure she accomplishes it.
Guess what? The jeans now fit and she actually needs a belt to help support them. She doesn’t stop wearing them. She’s super proud of herself. In fact, she wears them better than before because she is so comfortable in them.
The scales might not have moved much, but who cares? My clothes fit and I’m rocking them. More importantly, I’m feeling great about myself.
As you embark on your weight loss journey, you’ll more than likely become obsessed with the mirror. Not in vain way, but every time you walk past one you might have a quick 3-second look. You’re putting in a lot of effort and committing to this so it’s only fair you check up on yourself every so often to see how you’re getting on. A bit like a boss looking after his staff, just making sure everything is in order.
Of course, you’ll notice the good changes, but just like when you’re getting taller, you’re not always aware as it’s happening.
You’re looking at the mirror thinking, ‘yeah not bad, I think I’m losing some weight. I feel like my arms are looking a bit leaner but I’m not really sure, it might just be this angle’.
You go out to get your shopping supplies and you BOOM, you notice an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. First thing she says, ‘wow, you’re looking really good Jane, have you lost weight?’ You play it cool, but on the inside you should be screaming ‘YESSS!!. That must mean I’m making some amazing progress. I didn’t even say anything to her or hint anything and she noticed straight away’.
Harmless comment made by your dear friend but it had such a significant impact. It really confirms you’ve made progress. Be proud. Be happy.
Now I understand this isn’t something we can choose when to happen whenever we want a little pick-me-up, so don’t rely too heavily on this one. However, from experience, at least one person will likely comment on any positive changes to your body, so when it does, take it as a huge compliment and affirmation that you are definitely making noticeable progress.
The most important thing here is that you learn that you don’t have to be completely dependent on that number on the scale. Sure, still use the scales if they don’t frighten you and you know you won’t allow them to let you get upset you when the number doesn’t go down every week.
I honestly believe you don’t actually need to use scales at all. Weight loss isn’t about a number going down. It’s about how you look, how you feel, the self-achievement you get from it by reaching your goals. It’s about improving your health, your well-being, your life.
If there’s alternative ways of measuring progress other than the scales, which will give you greater satisfaction and make your journey more enjoyable, such as the methods mentioned in this article, then go for it.
You can use a combination of all three to vary it up and get some different perspectives of your progress.
Just enjoy the process, be patient and go for it.
Most importantly, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. I tell this to all my clients, as well as myself, EVERY DAY. I’ll never stop saying it to people. Dedication, commitment, consistency, determination and patience. All that stuff is necessary, but what’s the point if you don’t actually believe you can do it?