Can I let you in on a little secret? I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with my bathroom scale for over ten years now- making it both my longest lasting and most consistent relationship to date (scary, I know!).
The truth is, I relied on that digital reading from my bathroom scale each day. For whatever reason, it dictated my feelings toward myself, my attitude towards others, and it colored my outlook on life. That number defined me; it mattered; it set the tone for everything I did and was the center of every thought I had. As health-conscious as I believed that scale was making me, in reality, it was slowly becoming an unhealthy addiction of sorts.
Just last year we broke up and there are no hard feelings over the separation. In fact, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be finally free of that machine!
In many fitness programs, body weight is the ole standby for measuring progress.
After all- as long as we’re losing, we’re winning …right? Not exactly.You see, just because you’re losing weight, doesn’t mean you’re losing fat. And just because you’re losing fat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re losing weight.Click To Tweet
Yes, you read that right- just because you’re losing weight, doesn’t mean you’re losing fat. And just because you’re losing fat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re losing weight.
There is a distinction between weight loss and fat loss- and that distinction is utterly important.
Humor me a moment and try this simple exercise (please!): step on your bathroom scale and record the reading. Hop off and drink a few glasses of water (yes, zero calories water). Now step back on the scale and record the new reading.
Did your weight increase? (Mine did!).
How do you explain what just happened? Did you suddenly gain fat in 5 seconds flat from drinking zero-calorie water? Relax, take a deep breath- the answer is no. However, did you gain body weight in those 5 seconds from drinking that zero-calorie water? Absolutely.
What many of us fail to realize is that body weight is so much more than just fat. It is the sum of not only fat but also muscle, water, bone, organs, and other tissues.
Whereas fat loss only measures the amount of body fat which we remove from our bodies, weight loss accounts for fluctuations in our stomach/bowel/bladder content, water loss or retention, muscle loss and/or gain, not to mention fat loss/gain, … using bodyweight alone, it truly is impossible to know what the heck is going on with our physiques!
Especially in a strength training program where the goal is to lose fat yet gain lean muscle mass, that bathroom scale may never budge. You will certainly look different as the weeks progress, but because muscle “weighs more” (is denser) than fat, that scale reading may remain constant as you lean out.
So throw that bathroom scale out the window! Want a better way to measure progress on your fitness journey? Try one of the methods below.
Best methods to measure body composition without a bathroom scale:
1.Body fat percentage: Considered the Gold Standard in the Fitness Industry, the DEXA (Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) Scan is the most accurate method of determining body composition. The process is simple and takes only 15 minutes; it requires participants to lie on a table while a small x-ray scans the body, measuring bone mineral density among other factors. Participants end the test with knowledge of precise muscle gains and fat loss in specific areas of the body.
While informative, this type of testing can get pricey- a single visit, depending on location, may cost on the upwards of $150. For a simpler, at-home version of the scan, consider using calipers to determine personal body fat percentage. With a bit of practice, this method is fast, convenient, and reliable- not to mention super affordable (I bought my own set of calipers for less than ten dollars).
2. Strength Stats: Not sure if you’re actually improving in the gym? Log your workouts! Recording the weight used and number of reps executed per exercise will allow you to visual see the progress in your strength- a direct reflection of the results gained from your time spent in the gym!
3. Progress pictures: I’ll be the first to admit it, I hate pictures. And taking pictures of myself early on in my fitness journey when I’m not terribly excited about the way I look- well, that’s just cruel and unusual punishment in my book! But progress pictures work- especially when taken on a consistent basis during your fitness journey.
I finally broke down and started recording my progress via camera after an online coach who I was working with requested them for tracking purposes. As much as I dreaded that “selfie day” every time it came around, I am so thankful to have these photos to look back on even now. They serve as reminder to what my body is truly capable of- which is the ultimate motivation for me when my willpower is lacking. What’s more, as I look back on these pictures from just a few short years ago, it amazes me to think of how frustrated I was at the time- I recall the conversation with clarity to my coach how I told her that I “wasn’t making any progress at all”. Clearly my vision of myself was distorted.
Looking at yourself in the mirror is fine, but pictures allow you to see yourself from a new perspective (a more subjective perspective). Having that side by side comparison makes it pretty difficult to dispute the facts- you are, in fact making progress though you may not feel like it.
4. Measurements: Don’t want the hassle of measuring body fat percentage but still want something a bit more accurate than your body weight? Try simple tape measurements. Record the girth of areas such as your waist, chest, hips, thighs, etc. and track the progress of those areas as the weeks progress. Note that some areas (especially in a strength training program) where lean muscle is gained (hypertrophy), will increase in circumference. Think- bigger biceps and more defined quads! Not to worry, as you lean out, other areas like your waistline will surely shrink!
Need a recording sheet for your measurements? I got you covered, friend. Enter your email below and get instant access to your own Body Measurement Tracking Sheet (not to mention, access to my entire library of (free) fitness resources).
A long story, short- there truly is no wrong way to measure progress in your fitness journey- stick to your goals, celebrate your successes and enjoy every minute of the crazy ride you’re on. It’s all worth it in the end, that I can promise.
As we end this conversation, I wish to leave you with one final piece of advice: please don’t every let something so subjective as “happiness” or “success” (as it relates to fitness and to life) ever be defined by something so objective such as numbers. You my friend, are way more than a number- remember that!
P.S. If you’re looking for help on your fitness journey, and would like to focus on fat loss rather than weight loss, then I urge you to check out my new online, 12-week Transformation Program: HER Fit Body Blueprint. I am only taking on a limited number of clients this year and would love for you to be on of them 🙂
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