Many individuals, myself in the past included, start our fitness journeys by saying “I want to lose 5, 10, 20 lbs”. We have this idea in our heads that tells us that as long as the number on the scale says a certain number we will be happy. Well what happens when you are eating healthy, working out regularly, and doing everything that you’re supposed to be doing…. and the scale stops moving? The number stays the same… or you even gain weight?
Now, do not get me wrong. The scale is a very useful tool when it comes to measuring progress. When i begin competition prep, i weigh my coach every day (per coaches orders). I weigh myself every day so that my coach is able to look at trends and take my weekly average weight. The importance of taking each day’s weight and dividing by 7 as opposed to relying solely on one weigh in on saturday, per say, is to try to account for the daily fluctuations that happen in our bodies on a daily basis. These daily fluctuations can come from water retention from say the foods we eat, dehydration, and if it’s that time of the month for us ladies–hellooooo bloat and holding water. If you do want to use the scale to gauge your progress: weigh yourself at the same time everyday (i.e: when you first wake up, before you eat or drink anything), same clothes (or no clothes), you get the point… keep it consistent.
When deciding whether or not the scale is a good way for YOU to measure progress, you need to ask yourself a few questions. How will you feel if the number goes up and you’re trying to lose weight? How will you feel if the number goes down and you’re trying to gain mass? Will it ruin your mood? Affect how you view your body? Cause insecurities? It may sound silly to you but some people can not objectively step on the scale, weigh themselves, step off, and move on with their day. That was me at one point during my reverse diet… stepping on the scale wasn’t a problem until i woke up one morning and didn’t “like” the number i saw on the scale. From then on, the thought of stepping on the scale in the morning gave me anxiety and the number on the scale dictated how i felt about my body. I couldn’t stop thinking about THE NUMBER. When i felt this way, i talked to my coach, and only stepped on the scale twice a week instead of everyday. This helped for a little bit… If this is you, the scale may not be the best way for you to measure progress. But don’t worry, there are several other tools you can use to help you measure progress on your fitness journey.
- Progress Pictures: This is one of my favorite ways to measure progress. During prep and my reverse diet, i took progress pictures 1x a week. This can help you notice small changes that can happen week to week. If you are consistent with taking progress pictures, you will be able to compare photos from weeks or even months before. It is difficult for us to see changes in our bodies because we see ourselves everyday. But with progress pics you will be able to eventually see the drastic changes your body has made over time.
- Measurements: Measuring tapes (the flexible ones used for sewing) are cheap and another great tool. These can be used to measure your waist, hips, thighs, arms, booty, any area really. Even if you only lose .5 inch eventually those .5 inches add up. The scale could be being stubborn and yet you could still be losing inches in your thighs and waist (or other areas). During prep, i measure my waist 1x a week to help gauge my progress.
- How Your Clothes Fit: Are pants that were once snug finally fitting a little better? That shirt that pinched in all the wrong places is finally fitting fabulously. Those are great ways to gauge progress.Those jeans that you couldn’t squeeze your booty into when you were 140 lbs. last time finally fit your booty perfectly even though you are still 140 lbs! The scale still sucks but your jeans fit so that’s whats important.
- Body Fat Testing: This is something i have never done personally but i am very interested in doing. You hear people say “muscle weighs more than fat” … no, that’s false. Muscle just takes up less space. With that being said, you could be gaining muscle mass while simultaneously losing fat mass and the scale could not be moving as a result. So, a good way to test if you’re making these types of changes could be by using a BodPod. The BodPod uses air displacement technology to detect changes in fat mass and lean muscle mass. It is quick and easy and accurate within 1-2.7%. (I am currently looking into getting this BodPod test PRIOR to starting contest prep so that i can track my body fat % from before, during, and after my prep.If i do, i will be sure to share with you my experience with you guys as well as the results). This test can range in price from $5-$50 so do some research in your area and see what you can find if this interests you. I would not necessarily recommend using Body Fat Calipers from the drug store, etc, as those can be very inaccurate and not very reliable.
- Strength: Whether your fitness goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, strength can be a good indicator of progress. If you are increasing your weights in the gym that is AWESOME! That means, most likely, you are getting stronger and ultimately- the stronger you are –> the bigger the muscles. I don’t know about you, but i want to be able to throw around heavy weight at the gym. If you can deadlift, squat, bench crazy amounts of weight that is badass and something to be proud of. If you could only do 2 pull ups last week and this week you do 3… that’s still progress! Keep increasing your weights and keep pushing through!
- Macros: If you are in a reverse dieting phase for example, the goal is to usually to up calories slowly by decreasing cardio and upping carbohydrate and fat consumption. If you are able to INCREASE your macros and maintain weight that is an awesome form of progress. We all want to eat as much as possible, true? True. So if you can eat 70g of fat and 300g Carbs at 130 lbs as opposed to 45g fat and 150g carbs at 130 lbs… why would you not want to do that?? Metabolism gains! Macro increases are a great way to measure your metabolic progress.
- How Do You Feel? Sometimes i think we get so caught up with what the number on the scale is doing that we don’t focus on what is important. Do you feel healthy? Do you feel energized? Are you happy? If the answer is YES, than forget what the scale says. If you are doing everything you can do and you feel good than the number on the scale should be irrelevant.
This are just a few of the tools available to you to help you gauge your progress in your fitness journey. Choose the tool that works best for you. Don’t let the number on the scale determine how you feel about yourself. It has taken me a long time to grasp that my weight is just a number and it’s been a long time coming. I recently stepped on the scale for the first time in over 3 months. I could critique myself and be like “Oh Lauren, you gained so much weight… yada yada” But the truth is..Yes, i did gain weight… But it’s not all fat. I never once stopped working out during the 8 months since my competition so there is bound to be some muscle gains in there somewhere. I also have a healthier relationship with food, my booty is bigger, my weights in the gym increased immensely, I’m eating more, i can wear clothes i couldn’t wear before at this size and you know what, for that, i love my body. I am more than a number and so are you.
Choose the tools that will best help you measure your progress. Keep in mind that progress is never a straight line- there are bound to be ups and downs in your fitness journey- but don’t let that get you down. Consistency and patience will get you where you want to go. Keep going and NEVER QUIT.
Like/share this post if you found it helpful and comment below if you have any other tools that you use to help measure progress that i may have missed.
And remember,YOU ARE MORE THAN A NUMBER.
As always, thanks so much for reading and keep checking back,