Do you know what I hate hearing?
“The scale is just a number.”
Hearing that makes me darn near cringe.
Because when I was trying to lose weight and become more comfortable in my own skin
hearing that made me feel stifled or quieted.
Those words made me feel like others were telling me that my insecurity was invalid or that I wasn’t allowed to feel these emotions.
I feel them, and I have every right to do so!
Yes, it is all about the journey. It’s about learning new habits, creating new behaviors,
and learning to love and respect yourself in a new way.
But that number on the scale still drives me insane.
Take all the good habits, behaviors, and self-love out there and have me step on that scale. I guarantee if it showed a number north of what I believed to be my appropriate weight; I would lose it.
Weight is not just a number.
There’s an emotional attachment to that number no matter how hard we try to focus on the process and the big picture change.
I’m here to tell you that weight is more than a number. I know this because I’ve lived and felt it.
However, I’ve also learned and experienced that the scale doesn’t tell the whole picture.
The scale ONLY gives you a number, and there are SO MANY other things to track and evaluate beyond that number. In my personal journey, I’ve learned that evaluating these things lessens the impact of the number on the scale. Let me show you what I’m talking about.
How Far You’ve Come
In literal terms, the scale doesn’t remind you where you started. The only number that pops up is your current weight, and while there are apps to record your scale weight and monitor progress, it doesn’t pop up right on that tiny screen.
Outside of a literal sense, the scale doesn’t tell you how far you’ve come.
Think back to the unhappiest version of yourself.
The scale doesn’t list off all that’s changed from then to now!
That screen is way too small for all of that!
That’s why body measurements, progress pictures, food logs, clothing sizes, journals, metric-based lifts, and other forms of tracking are so important! They fill in the gaps between then and now.
If you need help finding the right methods for tracking your progress, check out the [Guide] Finding the Best Tracking Guide for YOU by clicking HERE.
Personally, the scale and I have come A LONG WAY.
I used to place so much value on that number. To me, that number told me where I was at in that moment and it represented just how far away, I was from my goal.
It took me a long time and a lot of practice (that I still have to keep up with) to realize that the scale doesn’t tell me how far I’ve come.
There were times where I avoided the scale at all costs because I knew I wouldn’t just hate the number on the scale but the person standing on it.
There are plenty of times where I obsessed over that number and was willing to do whatever was necessary to bring that number even an ounce closer to my goal.
Then I started tracking a number of things to better see the big picture, and that’s when I started to realize that the scale doesn’t need to be avoided or obsessed over. The success of my journey is not determined by a 3 digit number. There have been habits formed and behaviors established that have no numerical value.
Look beyond the scale to recognize how far you’ve come.
How Strong You Are
If you’ve been on a fat loss journey, you know it takes some strength.
Heck, these days if you’ve lived at all, you know it takes strength to make it through each day.
Life, especially fat loss, is an emotional roller coaster!
The scale cannot read your emotions.
The scale operates on physics, and there are no emotions in physics (Trust me, I cried enough over physics in college to know it doesn’t get you any closer to the answer).
But beyond the emotional strength, the scale cannot tell you the strength of your cardiovascular and muscular systems.
That’s why you need to keep track of your training progress!
With all of my clients (online and in-person), we used metric-based exercises or workouts to evaluate training progress. We’ll keep certain exercises or their variations in workouts for 12 to 16 weeks in order to evaluate progress over that time span.
The scale can’t tell you anything about that. The scale has no idea what you did in the gym!
One of my favorite questions from clients is “Am I getting any better?”
Look, I’m all for having someone tell you what to do in your training (HELLO, that is how I make a living), but that’s why tracking your progress in the gym and progressively overloading your system each week is important!
Metric-based exercises or workouts make for an easy identification of your progress.
Whenever a client asks this, I just pull up their training log and point out exactly where we’ve seen gains in strength.
If you’re looking to step up your game and better track your training progress, check out these 3 blogs I’ve put together that talk about Metric-Based Training:
[Guide] Finding the Best Tracking Guide for YOU (Can you tell I think this one is good?)
Your Body Measurements
The shape or size of the person on the scale has ZERO impact on the number that shows up on the screen.
Let’s take two people for example.
- Has not worked out in 3 years.
- Prefers convenience over quality for nutrition and does not spend any time on nutrition.
Competitive Olympic Lifter
- Works with a nutrition coach year-round.
Does the scale say anything different despite their vastly different body types?
It also holds true that your scale cannot tell you anything about how your body is changing.
Measurements are important!
I get it, it requires more time and effort to do than just stepping on the scale, but it’s worth it!
There will be times where maintenance or even muscle-building is the goal (yes, even if your overall goal is fat loss, we cannot diet constantly forever).
Body measurements clue you in as to how your body is changing. They point out where your body needs an extra bit of attention to allow us to adjust training.
There are so many places to track your body composition changes, but here’s a list to pick and choose from:
- Right Arm
- Left Arm
- 2” Above the Navel
- 2” Below the Navel
- Widest Point of the Hips
- Right Thigh
- Left Thigh
- Right Arm Flexed (Optional)
- Left Arm Flexed (Optional)
- Right Thigh Flexed (Optional)
- Left Arm Flexed (Optional)
Now, there are different recommendations as to how often and how many sites you measure, but here is what I recommend for my clients:
- Take your measuring tapes with the same measuring tape, at the same time of day, and in the same clothing (better yet, directly on your skin).
- Select at least 5 (preferably all) measurements from the list below.
- Record measurements on a biweekly or monthly basis.
- Make note of exactly where you held your tape measure for consistency.
The Muscle You’ve Built
Now before we dive into this one, we have to address one very harsh reality.
If you’ve stopped losing weight or are suddenly gaining weight again, it is NOT because you’re building muscle.
Harsh, I know.
But here’s the cold, hard truth.
You CANNOT naturally build muscle at that rapid of a pace.
Also, it takes a VERY lean physique to see weight changes caused by muscle building.
Now that I’ve probably crushed your self-esteem, let’s build it back up.
Just because that number stays the same on the scale doesn’t mean you’re not building muscle, but you will never know that based on that tiny 3-digit number.
There are scales now that claim to be able to read % body fat and lean muscle tissue but beware of the accuracy.
The best way to assure you’re building muscle is to follow a program designed to progressively overload your muscles paired with progress pictures or body measurements.
Pictures and measurements show changes in body composition. They’re able to actually show you where you’re leaning out and building muscle.
USE THESE STRATEGIES. I know they can be more time-consuming and painful, but I PROMISE they make the scale number a lot easier to handle.
How Good Your Body Feels
I don’t think there’s been one client who has said they feel worse after starting to improve their diet and exercise.
Muscles you didn’t know you had begin to fire and contribute to your daily movements.
There are less aches and pains because your body is fueled and nourished.
Your body flat out feels better.
And do you know what?
There’s no way to see that on a scale because you can’t put a number on it.
One of my favorite biofeedback metrics for clients to track is how their body feels.
Together we’re able to break it down and find correlations to things that make the body feel and operate as it’s supposed to.
Do a check in each morning by asking yourself how you feel. Are there aches and pains?
Do you feel bloated or dehydrated?
These aren’t things a scale can tell you. Find yourself a journal and get tracking!
Your Energy Levels
One of the most noticeable ways you start to feel better comes in your energy levels.
“A body in motion stays in motion.”
I love that quote.
When you consistently exercise, it adapts to it and begins to CRAVE movement. The best part? It’s able to adjust hormones and nutrient stores to properly fuel it for that movement!
When it comes to nutrition, most people are so nutrient deficient that they don’t realize how sluggish and tired they feel until they’re body is restocked with vitamins and minerals.
Just as the scale can’t tell you just how good your body feels, it also can’t compute your energy levels.
The best thing to do is to keep track of this alongside the assessment of how your body feels.
I recommend all my clients do an assessment of their energy levels at the start of their day (before the stressors of each day kick in).
Pair this with an assessment of how your body feels, and we can really breakdown the different workouts, exercises, and foods that keep your body feeling its best!
The Confidence You’ve Built
If you track your progress using body measurements, progress pictures, metric-based movements, body mobility, and/or energy levels you’re really going to see progress on a variety of levels.
If you’re doing all of these things AND seeing results, you’re going to feel more confident.
Another thing a scale cannot compute with a number.
Confidence is completely felt within, but it’s shown with actions.
You walk a little taller.
You’re more willing to try new things and behaviors.
You start wearing old or different clothes you never thought would fit.
You start talking to more people and putting yourself out there.
Not a single one of things comes when you step on the scale.
The scale is a time of vulnerability and those are some of our LEAST confident moments.
Remember, it’s just a number.
Yes the number holds value within, but there are so many moments that exemplify your confidence and progress throughout the day.
Your Total Progress
The scale only tells you where you’re currently at, and while I completely agree that no matter how hard you work, there’s still an emotional attachment to that number.
But that one number doesn’t show your total progress.
If you haven’t received the memo yet:
Track your progress!
Track in a variety of ways!
But here’s the important thing – know what your goal is!
If you’re in a fat loss phase, track your weight, body measurements, and progress pictures.
But if you’re in a muscle building or maintenance phase, understand that the scale will not show your total progress. Honestly, the scale won’t be moving much. It’s great to keep track of to be sure you’re taking in the right amount of calories, but in these scenarios, do not ride or die by the scale.
Know your goal, the phase you’re in, and how you’re tracking progress (off the scale).
Whatever that number says on the scale when you wake up in the morning, it does not determine your future.
Your current weight only shows where you’re currently at.
You have the power to change that number on the scale.
You have the power to take action, eat a little better, and be a bit more active today.
The choice is yours, so are you going to get locked in by the number on the scale or find a way to change that number for tomorrow?
About The Author
Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.