While not all of us venture into a healthy lifestyle for weight loss, a large portion of us do. For anyone who has tried to lose weight, whether it be on your own or with the guidance of an expert, it may seem as if you need to intensely track the numbers on the scale. It can also be extremely disappointing when you’re motivated, accomplishing your goals, getting in all your workouts, and eating properly, but when you go to step on the scale, it says you’ve gained a pound or stayed at the same weight. It’s important to understand that while the numbers on the scale can be important, they’re not everything. 


What The Scale Doesn’t Tell You

The scale can be a rather blunt way to assess your progress, to put it lightly. That’s because the scale just reports your overall weight, that’s it. But there are so many different aspects that make up your overall weight, such as bone density, water, fat, and lean muscle. The scale is just totaling all those numbers up, which can lead people to think that they’re not progressing as much as they really are. For example, water weight is something that fluctuates in our bodies constantly. Your water weight, or retention, can go up and down throughout the day and changes often. For instance, if you’re out with friends at a pizza place and you then go to weigh yourself the day after, due to all the sodium you consumed the night before, your body may be holding on to a large amount of water weight. Water weight can add as much as five pounds to your body. For women, during their menstrual cycle, women are prone to holding onto extra water weight which then affects your weight number. So while you are able to understand this, basic scales do not. 


Another prime example is bone mass. The average person’s bone mass accounts for about 15% of their total body weight. If you think about it, the average person is not physically active. If you’re someone who engages in weight training or other forms of exercise, it’s likely that you have a heavier skeleton. This is because resistance-training and active movement increases bone density, and those that have a greater density will weigh more. But just because you weigh more, does not mean that you have more body fat. It’s very unlikely that your scale is able to differentiate between the amount of muscle mass and fat mass that you have. There are some scales on the market that say that they’re able to account for water weight, bone density, muscle mass, and more but most of the time, you would need to see a doctor or specialist to get those types of exact measurements. 


You may have heard the saying that “muscle weighs more than fat”, which is true to a certain degree. A pound is a pound, whether that pound is made up of muscle or fat. However, muscle is denser than fat, which means that it takes up less space on your body. So if your body is gaining muscle mass, that pound of muscle is still going to add up and the more muscle you have on your body, the more you will weigh. But, when you lose fat and build muscle, it may be harder to see a difference on the scale but visually you’ll look different. Once again, many scales can’t differentiate the difference between the two, so when you weigh yourself, it may seem like you’re plateauing and not losing any weight, which can be frustrating. 


So, What’s The Point Of A Scale?   

While it may seem as if we’ve harped on the scale, we’re not saying that it’s entirely useless. Some people will argue that stepping on the scale is a great way for them to track their own accountability without obsessing over the number that it shows. It’s great for tracking changes that occur over a prolonged amount of time. So if you like the scale, and you like tracking your progress that way, you do you. Just remember that it’s not everything! 


What Can I Use Other Than A Scale To Track My Progress?

Since most people start out using the scale as their initial way of tracking, because it’s how many of us think we should start, you may be wondering about other methods you can use in order to track your progress. Some of our favorite ways of tracking progress without the scale are the following.

Progress Pictures 

Fat loss and muscle gain are a marathon, not a race, and the changes that happen from one day to the next may be difficult to see on the scale. However, they’re usually easier to see when you take the visual approach. Taking full body photos of yourself in the mirror is a great way to track your progress without the scale. Now you don’t need to take a photo of yourself everyday — taking photos weekly or every other week are great ways to track yourself. You’ll be astounded at the difference in your body from week one to week eight.


Tape Measure

Measuring yourself is another great way to see your progress. Like we mentioned earlier, muscle is denser than fat and takes up less room. So while you may not be seeing a difference in the number on the scale, you’ll probably see a large difference in the numbers on the tape measurer. Measuring your waist, hips, thighs, biceps, and chest are all great ways to see where your body is changing and leaning out. If your waist and hip numbers are decreasing but your chest and biceps are increasing, then you know that you’re on the right track of building more muscle and losing fat. 


Clothing Fit

This is probably the easiest way for you to see your progress. Try on a pair of jeans that were once challenging for you to fit in, and you may find that you are able to easily glide into them. It can be an incredibly rewarding way to just track that you’re on the right path. The scale may not be able to differentiate this change, but if your clothing is fitting easier, it’s a great way to track progress and note that you’re making the right types of steps in your weight loss. 


DEXA Scans 

DEXA, or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, is one of the most accurate ways of tracking and measuring your body composition. However, it can be expensive and not as easily accessible. The whole point of a DEXA scan is to measure your body composition. So if you’re prepping for a competition or just a fitness junkie who wants to learn more about their body, it may be a great option for you. Even a quick visit to a weight loss specialist or doctor can help give you accurate results and numbers for your body. Everyone is different and your doctor or specialist will be able to help make sure that you’re on the right track and most importantly, that you’re losing weight in a healthy way.


The purpose of this blog post is not for you to throw away your scale. We don’t hate them. It’s just important to understand that the number you see is more complicated than you think. It is a great tool for you to understand the changes that are happening in your body, but it’s not the only tool you should be using. Scales can also be unhealthy and cause people to focus on one number that is only a very small aspect in the grand scheme. Don’t be too hard on yourself if the number on the scale is not what you’re wanting or expecting to see. Remember that weight loss is a journey that takes time.


If you’re someone who is needing weight loss help, no matter where you are in your life, Life Wellness Center can help! We have expert specialists that can help you live a healthier lifestyle that is customized to you and fit for your needs to help make it a sustainable process, not a quick fix. We have two convenient locations in Lakeville and Egan. Learn more and connect with us directly to schedule a consultation with us. We look forward to hearing from you!