We’ve all been there and done that–looked down at that pesky number and felt ashamed about what we saw, then immediately started thinking about how we were going to lower the number, eventually spiraling into vicious cycles of crash diets, different weight loss plans and frustration to see the number either stay the same or increase. As difficult as it might be to steer away from it, the scale is not a true reflection of your weight loss journey or fitness level. Here’s why.
IT CAN HINDER YOUR PROGRESS
Let’s face it–the scale does a lot more harm than good for many of us. This is because we don’t truly understand how weight loss works and we rely on a number to tell us that we are doing better or worse. The scale unfortunately goes hand and hand with yo-yo dieting, short-term weight loss and the people who have the misconception that results come quick. These same people often will turn to the scale, see a lower number, but will feel defeated shortly after when that number goes back up, causing their progress to suffer and the whole process to take way longer than it should.
IT CAN BE MISLEADING
Weight fluctuates too much
Although it’s usually safe to say that the number you see on the scale is fairly accurate, it’s not your true weight. So many factors fluctuate your actual weight like water intake, bloating, hormones and sodium levels, according to Fight to Fitness. People who aren’t losing weight “correctly” will often find the number on the scale decrease from loss of water weight, but their clothes fit the same and they haven’t lost inches.
Fat loss is different than weight loss
This is possibly the biggest weight loss misconception. When people say they want to lose weight, they typically mean they want to slim down and trim fat but make the mistake of relying on the scale to track their progress. Someone may lose inches and slim down but the number on the scale either increases or stays the same. This is because fat loss and muscle gain are taking place at the same time. Muscle mass is also denser and leaner than fat. This explains why someone might see an increase on the scale, but their pants are looser. According to Very Well Fit, the scale can’t tell the difference between fat and muscle, which is why stepping on one can be confusing and deceiving.
Weight looks different on everyone
A tall person will carry weight a lot differently than someone who is short. Take for instance someone who appears thin. This person may be satisfied when they look at the scale but could be out of shape and have unhealthy levels of body fat, while another person with better endurance weighs exactly the same is made up mostly of muscle.
THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS
Although the scale can be helpful, especially for people who are looking to lose a lot of weight, the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Here are other ways to measure fitness progress:
How your clothes fit:
The way your clothes fit will tell you a lot more than a scale will. Whether that means pants feel looser or you can finally button old jeans again, how your clothes fit is a direct result of losing inches and fat, and once again, this is because muscle is leaner than fat. Plus, this method focuses on how you feel rather than placing a number on your progress. Although some might see both a drop in the scale and looser jeans, many people would surprisingly see no difference in their weight, but they can fit into smaller sizes.
Better endurance and fitness levels:
According to Health Magazine, the scale will not tell you how fit you are. How much weight you can lift and how fast you can run matters. If you can run a mile faster now than you could four months ago or you can lift 10 pounds heavier than you could a few weeks ago, you’re in better shape. Endurance and strength training are key to a healthy fitness journey that the scale doesn’t measure.
If you want to lose weight, focus more on non-scale victories like improving your endurance. Instead of making it a goal to lose 20 pounds, make it a goal to be able to do a full push-up or pull-up. The weight loss part will naturally come in time as your endurance improves and you won’t beat yourself up in the process.
How you feel:
Do you have more energy? Do you feel more confident? Has your perspective on living a healthy lifestyle changed in a positive way? All of these components are key to healthy weight loss and cannot be measured on a scale. The issue with weight loss is that we focus so much on the way we look rather than how we actually feel inside. Not only is that an unhealthy approach that typically leads to confidence issues, crash diets and a bad relationship with the scale, but effective and long-term weight loss actually works in reverse of the status-quo. Since the way we see ourselves is very mental, healthy weight loss begins in the mind. Practice altering your mindset by taking baby steps, making subtle changes to unhealthy habits and focusing less on numbers. The better you feel, the more results you will see, and the healthier you will be overall.
The scale should be used as a tool to know basic numbers about yourself, but it’s not always correct. If you’re someone who feels more at ease when you know your weight, avoid obsessing over it and letting it dictate the way you see yourself. If you’re someone who prefers not to know, that’s perfectly okay too. Besides, at the end of the day, it is just a number.