For years I’ve been encouraging people that the number on the scale isn’t everything.
This is usually something I say once clients ring me concerned about not moving on scale weight on this weeks weigh in. I encourage them, explain the possibilities and the fact there’s much more to look at. Hopefully they leave the call worry free, but I do realise it can be frustrating.
The same thing happens to me.
My goal is to increase my muscle mass and strength and I’m always looking for scale weight to be trending upwards and increasing. Recently I had a cold (mixed in with hay fever and aching joints) and ended up losing some weight (80kg down to 77.2kg). Something that used to really annoy me.
Note: This also usually happens when I’m away on holiday, especially in India. Perhaps it’s the weather and the increased activity or even the reduced calorie intake through not having access to the same foods I eat here, but I always end up losing up to 4kg.
It hit me, this is how clients feel when the hard data they’re supposed to be tracking (weight) isn’t showing them progress.
But there’s so much more to it then that. In my case for example I ate less through loss of appetite for those few days while I wasn’t feeling too good, plus probably didn’t drink enough water. My weight would and did just normalise with a few days back to my normal routine (and normal food and water intake). The same thing happens after being away on holiday, a few weeks back into the gym and normal eating routine is all it takes to be back to normal.
In the case of clients not seeing the weight moving down, is that really a bad thing?
Well we certainly don’t want to be at a wall for more than 4 weeks. That would mean efforts need to be adjusted. But one week or two of what seems a halt in progress isn’t really anything to worry about.
Everything from the amount of food you eat (in weight), how much water you drink, how much you sweat, pee and excrete can all make a difference to the number on the scale. These factors and more can mean daily fluctuations.
Scale weight is one tool out of many tools to track progress.
You can and should also monitor measurements (like waist, neck and hips), progress pictures, your day to day energy, how you feel, your strength in the gym which will all likely be improving.
People can get somewhat attached to the numbers on a scale, but there are many other factors which are arguably more important. Waist measurements for example to let you know about your fat loss. Or strength in the gym to let you know if your routine is effective.
Sometimes I’ll come off calls with clients who feel better, leaner and healthier who are still bothered by the scale not shifting in which case I’ll tell them one of two things.
To stop measuring weight on the scale and focus on other areas. Especially like how they’re feeling.
To measure scale weight every single day so we can calculate a weekly average and actually prove its trending downwards.
This second option is a fantastic tool I incorporate to help people get over the mental challenge of stepping on a scale. It’s almost built up in the mind like a test or a huge event for some! Once they begin to see the daily fluctuations because of some of the reasons mentioned above, they realise it was really nothing to be worried about. I find it helps their understanding massively.
You can also check out a short video I made on this very topic.
To conclude I just want to say that whether you’re trying to get lean or add mass you do want your weight to be moving in the right direction. It’s completely reasonable to expect 0.5% – 1% bodyweight change per week however there are other factors which are important too like how you’re feeling. You may be losing a lot of weight per week but feeling dreadful, that is not ideal.
Take care of some other forms of measuring progress, ensure that you feel good and your measurements and strength are improving. Give your weight on a scale a little less importance, especially if it’s demotivating or discouraging you to step on it every week.