The number displayed by the bathroom scale as you cautiously step onto it has become synonymous with ‘getting in shape’.
The sole aim of many misinformed individuals is to get that number as low as it will possibly go, without taking into consideration the plethora of other indicators that far outweigh (yes, that was a pun) the importance of your scale’s judgment.
This was a lesson I had to learn myself all those years ago, and have been imparting to my clients ever since: Your weight is not the be all and end all of ‘fat-loss’ and ‘getting in shape’.
As Steve Maraboli eloquently stated in his book; the “scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity”.
That is to say- the scale can give you only one judgement of your body, and is leaving out numerous other ways you could be progressing towards your goals.
For example, I’ve had clients beaming to me and talking about how they’re fitting into a dress they hadn’t been able to in years, and they’ve noticed their arms are less (their words) ‘jiggly’.
Only for them to step on the scale, notice there’s been no chance, and become visibly upset.
We’ve become so accustomed to thinking we need to ‘lose weight’ or ‘drop pounds’ in order to improve our health and physique, that even when presented with tangible progression, it’s in our nature to refer only to the number on the scale.
Here’s why this thinking is flawed:
The scale doesn’t account for fat vs muscle.
Per square inch, muscle weighs significantly more than fat.
Its presence on our bodies however, fuels performance, longevity, prevents injuries, improves our health and prompts an increased metabolism (lowering body fat).
Muscle on our frame is what gives us that toned, athletic appeal.
However, the scale doesn’t recognise that… to the scale, weight is weight.
Therefore, an elite athlete and a sofa & ice-cream enthusiast can weigh in at the exact same, despite the former having a much leaner physique.
Ok, but I don’t want to get bulky?
This is the common response I’m faced with when I explain the multitude of health and aesthetic benefits of adding muscle to your frame: and the truth is- you won’t.
Getting ‘bulky’ requires a large amount of testosterone- as women, we don’t have the hormonal profile to reach ‘bulky’ levels.
(Oh, and those bulked up physiques you’ll see on body building magazines? They’re even injecting more of those hormones to get to that level, so no risk for you there!).
Adding muscle gives you a lean and toned appearance that not only looks great, but also serves to function for more optimally than a physique carrying excess body fat.
Did you ever notice you lose weight when you’re sick?
I certainly do- If I’m down with the flu for a couple of days I’ll weigh myself in once recovered and I’ll have dropped a couple of pounds (mostly due to dehydration and lack of food).
Using the ‘scales is everything’ logic, should be celebrated right?
But then have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror after that 2-day flu? Not our greatest hour hey? That’s exactly why ‘weight loss’ shouldn’t be the goal. Rather, the goal should be making physical changes.
What about the ‘detox diets’ celebrity X, Y & Z are peddling?
We’ve become addicted to the ‘quick fix’.
Smart phones have created an impatient culture where answers are at your fingertips, and you’re only a short call away from food being delivered to your door- life is getting easier for those of us lucky enough to live in the developed western world.
So you know what sells? The ‘Lose 10 pounds in a week’ or ‘3 Stone in a fortnight’ ads you’ll see in every women’s magazine, usually endorsed by some smiling celebrity.
These claims may often be true- if you reduce your calories to only tea and blueberries for 2 weeks, you will drop a lot of weight.
But, will a lot of that weight be the body fat we don’t need or muscle tissue we do need?
Remember how we talked about the benefits of muscle?? Its probably best not to let that go to waste.
And what happens once you begin to eat solid foods normally again? You’ll put that weight back on, and usually more.
This is because you’ll have lowered your metabolic rate via starving yourself to an extent, and dropping you toned muscle levels.
So, you’ll lose muscle, add fat, and then after a month of eating normally the scale will probably be the same again anyways- which is why chasing a lower weight as fast as possible is a recipe for unsustainable results.
So how else could we judge our progress?
So, if becoming obsessed with the scales isn’t the way to go, how should we suggest you judge your progression?
How do you feel?
This is one of the most common barometers of progress I see people forget to appreciate.
I’ve had clients come in and go on and on about how their energy levels have improved, their skin has cleared up and they feel more confident at work, they haven’t been ill for ages…. And its because of the nutrition changes and exercise routine we’ve implemented.
They then step on the scale, see the number hasn’t drastically descended, and become disheartened.
Keep an ‘energy & mood’ diary for a few weeks, ranking yourself out of ten in the morning and night, and see if there’s an upward trend.
If there is? Awesome, surely feeling happy and confident is a bigger win than starving yourself to drop another kilogram right? You’ve just got to get yourself into that mindset to appreciate it.
Clothes fitting test
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as slipping into a pair of jeans you’d previously discarded into the back of your closet after they become impossible to fit into.
I’ll often advise clients have their ‘test’ clothes ready to go as their physique begins to change, and it’s one of the most satisfying aspects of my role as a coach to watch a client proudly walk into a session wearing an outfit they had abandoned years ago.
Some clients have even gone as far as to buy clothes specifically as goals- grabbing themselves a fancy pair of jeans a size too small, so they have their reward waiting for them as they put in the work to get there!
This barometer is obviously fairly linked with your clothes test- and for most people will produce a less emotional reaction- but from a stats point of view it’s a greater marker to keep track of.
And again, as is often the case, I’ve had clients lose 2 inches from their waist and less than half a kilo on the scale- if they were only using the latter to judge progress they might have been discouraged, but luckily we’d already discussed the multiple drawbacks of weigh-ins, so could leave the appointment with a satisfied smile as we were crushing targets.
This is one of my personal favourite way to see myself, and my clients progressing.
Oftentimes upon beginning a training programme, even after the ‘weight isn’t everything’ discussion, people are less enthused by hitting personal bests in the weight room or on a rower.
Flash forward a few weeks and those same people will be high-fiving and cheering each other on as they squat their heaviest weights yet, or get their fasted time on the exercise bike.
Having performance goals is an amazing motivator for progress- and that’s more by allowing yourself to focus on personal betterment within the gym, you’ll find the other barometer (energy levels, measurements etc) begin to take care of themselves!
So how can this be done?
So now we’re fully aware that to improve your physique and health, the scales can be thrown in the trash in favour of measurements, clothes fitting and so forth; how do we start making those changes?
Firstly- it’s never going to be looking after nutrition or training.
You need to acknowledge both.
A well planned training programme with resistance training and HIIT components will add metabolism boosting, toned muscle to your frame, and create a lean and attractive physique.
But, only if done in conjunction with following well balanced nutrition protocols and lifestyle choices.
To find out more about how you can build the body you deserve, get in contact today at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up an action plan together to smash your goals.