Scale Back the Scales: Measuring What Matters

scales measuring weight


So many measure their health and fitness goals against a number on the scale. And here, personal trainer Melanie Gilder talks about how it's only a fraction of the story.

The scales. So many of my clients understandably obsess over the scales when they embark upon a regime to lose weight. And it’s understandable. It’s one of the easiest ways to measure the effect of what we’re doing in the gym and with diet.

The majority of clients I train will come with a goal of “losing weight.” And as such we tend to measure this in pounds or kilos. But I think it’s time to stop making the scales our primary measure of progress and here’s why.

The Scales Don’t Tell the Full Story

In the first few weeks, you might find the scales move just the way you want them to. But weight loss slows over time as our bodies adapt to our new regimes. So it’s only natural that the rate of loss shown on the scales will drop and this can result in you feeling disheartened. I’ve had so many clients who work out several times a week, eat all the right foods and then get derailed by the scales only showing a small loss.

After the first few weeks of a new regime, I’d encourage clients to either weigh less frequently or to look at other measurements too.

My Clients’ Real Goals Are Usually Size Related, not Weight Related

When I start working with a new client and we talk about goals, sometimes they give a specific amount of weight they want to lose. Sometimes they say “I want to lose weight” without knowing how much.

But when we really break it down, most people who want to lose weight actually want to fit into a certain size clothes.

One client I work with knew this immediately and told me,

“I’ve got a size 10 pair of jeans I bought and I need to drop 4 sizes to fit into them. My goal is to wear them out comfortably.”

Muscle Weighs More Than Fat

Muscle is denser than fat. So when you’re well established with a new regime that encompasses strength training, you may well find that sometimes the scales don’t move, but your waist size reduces or your arm size reduces.

It’s about changing body composition, not just about a number on the scales.

How You FEEL is More Important Than What the Scales Say

Lots of my clients will tell me they feel loads better. Training can have a significant impact on your mental health. And as people see their shape changing and muscle building, alongside fat going away, they tend to feel more confident.

That right there is, to me, the most important thing we can take from a health and fitness regime.

I’ve also had clients who’ve been feeling absolutely amazing, seeing their measurements improve and having a real surge in confidence then find their confidence dented by a result on the scales that’s not quite what they wanted.

Scales Can Fluctuate for Many Reasons

Water retention, particularly for women, can cause the scales to inflate. Women in particular will find their weight may increase around menstruation down to bloating.

In fact, many also find their weight can vary by a couple of pounds at different times of the day.

So if you are going to use the scales as a key measure, I would recommend weighing at the same time of day each time you do weight and perhaps skipping menstruation week!

How to Measure Progress with Health and Fitness

I’m not saying you should ditch the scales altogether. But when you set out on a diet and fitness regime, there will be multiple metrics to measure and a slow week on the scales might not tell the full story.


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