The Scale Isn’t the Answer

The Scale Isn’t the Answer

Frequently I will meet with a new client who is looking to lose weight and get in shape. One of the first questions I ask is “how will you benchmark your progress”? The common answer “by how much weight I lose.”

The problem with this is that if one is to begin a weight training program, they will gain muscle weight while they lose body fat. If you rely exclusively on the scale to track your progress, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Benchmarks to Consider:
  • Circumference Measurements—taken from several sites on the body (bicep, chest, waist, hip, thigh, calf)
  • Body Fat—there are a variety of methods to measure this: Skin-fold calipers, Bioelectrical Impedance and Underwater Weighing are the most common. Most fitness professionals don’t have an exercise physiology lab at their disposal, so the skin-fold calipers are the most often utilized. All methods have challenges that can create imprecise measurements. I tell clients that it is just one of the benchmarks we use to track improvement and not to get overly concerned about the actually number.
  • Waist-to-Hip Ratio—This is more of an overall health assessment as there are correlations of certainchronic diseases and fat stored in the mid-section.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)—much like the waist-to-hip ratio this is an assessment more reflecting general health, but again it is another benchmark to utilize.
  • Body Weight—yes the scale. Contrary to the title I put on this piece, it is important to monitor weight.
  • The Mirror—for many they can feel success through their general appearance. How they see themselves in the mirror and how their clothes are fitting them.

I recommend a full fitness assessment when people begin a workout program as it gives us a good starting point on overall health in addition to physical appearance. It is important to be clear on the different benchmarks and understand how they relate to each other. The scale may not reflect the weight loss goal that someone had in mind originally, but their body fat may reflect a huge improvement, their clothes might be looking “baggy” on them and they physically feel great. I call that success.

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