What metrics do you use for measuring your level of health and fitness? If you use your weight, you may want to think again—the number on the scale is not an accurate metric, and it can actually take away from your health and fitness success. Keep reading because I’m about to give you four reasons why your scale is not your best friend, plus how you should actually be measuring your health and fitness progress!
1. Weight Loss and Fat Loss Aren’t the Same
Did you know you can lose weight and not lose any body fat at all? Did you also know you can lose body fat and gain weight at the same time? How confusing! Well, the scale isn’t as smart as you may think—it doesn’t know the difference between muscle and body fat and ultimately calculates them as the same.
It’s common to lose weight and not lose any body fat at all. Regardless of the work you’re putting in, you may actually be losing muscle. More often than not, when you are working to lose weight, you start to either over-exercise or under-nourish your body with too few calories—or, in many cases, both! If you do this, you aren’t providing your muscles with the proper environment to rebuild and grow. So, what happens when your muscles can’t rebuild? It results in muscle breakdown and muscle loss. That number on the scale may be going down, but weighing less because of muscle loss is not something to celebrate. Muscle is great for your overall health—particularly for increasing the number of calories you burn on a daily basis, even when you are resting.
It’s a well-known fact that muscle weighs more than fat. But when I have been crushing it at the gym and eating extremely healthy, and I step on the scale to only see the number go up, that “well-known” knowledge gets pushed aside. I feel frustrated, confused, and just demotivated. I’m sure you’ve been there before, too. Well, you and I both need to keep in mind that even though muscle weighs more than fat and will make the number on the scale go up, it gives your body a much slimmer appearance. This is because muscle is more dense, which will improve your overall body composition. Basically, when you have more muscle, you look much smaller than someone who weighs the same but has a higher body fat percentage. This is why it’s much more beneficial to focus on your body composition rather than your weight. You could gain 15 pounds but go down in your pant size at the same time.
2. Weighing Less Does Not Mean You Are Healthy
This is something that frustrates me the most in the health and fitness world and something I want to get straight once and for all: Losing weight and being healthy are not the same thing. You could weigh the least you have ever weighed and also be the unhealthiest you have ever been. I’ve been there, and I am telling you this from my personal experience. Yes, weight loss is extremely healthy when you go about it in a healthy way, but let’s be real, most of us go straight to the quick-fix solutions that are the furthest thing from healthy. We confuse eating healthy with simply eating fewer calories. Or, we think eating healthy means drastically restricting our diet, usually leading us to cut out entire food groups.
First of all, when you eat too few calories each day, you may see short-term results, but you’ll end up with worse results in the long run. The scale may not be smart, but your body is unbelievably smart. When you are not providing it with enough calories each day, it eventually adapts. It will do its very best to conserve the calories it does have by burning fewer throughout your day. If your body naturally burns 2,000 calories a day, it won’t continue to do so if it’s only being given 1,200 calories. Over time, it will slow down all of its processes to burn only 1,200 calories, matching the energy it has coming in. What’s worse is that when you do start giving your body a healthy amount of calories again, you will gain all your body fat back; in many cases, you will gain even more. Your under-eating or drastic restrictions will absolutely kill your metabolism, and it can take years to heal! This is serious business you don’t want to mess with.
Secondly, drastically restricting your diet and cutting out entire food groups will cause nutrient deficiencies. As everything in your body is intertwined, nutrient deficiencies can affect your gut health, hormones, metabolism, immunity—everything. It puts you at risk for developing serious health issues that can potentially become chronic, can take years to heal from and, in some cases, are ultimately irreversible.
So if you see the number on the scale go down, before you celebrate, ask yourself if you are losing weight in a healthy way. Are you developing lifelong habits that provide you with greater energy and vitality, or are you taking shortcuts that are jeopardizing your health? It is so much better to weigh 10 pounds more and be healthy than to put your health at risk. At the end of the day, the most important thing you have is your health—without it, you cannot live your happiest, best life.
3. Your Weight Fluctuates
How many times have you stepped on the scale and weighed five pounds more than the day before? Do you really think you gained five pounds in one day? Let’s be realistic here. It would be nearly impossible to gain five pounds in one day—that would require you to eat 17,500 extra calories in only 24 hours. Those five pounds are most likely coming from water weight.
There are so many factors that go into how much you weigh outside of the amount of body fat you are carrying, and water weight plays a big role. How much salt you eat, how many carbohydrates you consume, how much water you drink—plus your hormone levels and vitamin deficiencies—all determine how much water you retain. Obviously, water weight and body fat are two very different things, but again, the scale doesn’t know how to differentiate between them. So, as you can see, stepping on the scale can cause unnecessary frustration!
On the other hand, when people start a new diet and lose a substantial amount of weight extremely quickly, in most cases, it’s just water weight, which isn’t exactly the weight loss they are looking for. Therefore, focusing on the scale can encourage you to lose “fake” weight. Trending quick-fix solutions generally promote low-calorie or low-carbohydrate diets. As just one gram of carbohydrates can cause you to retain three to four grams of water, when you reduce your intake, you’ll retain much less water. So if you see amazing results quickly from diet shortcuts, the majority of the weight loss most likely is actually the loss of water weight. Unfortunately, if you don’t stick to whatever diet you are on, you will quickly gain that weight back.
4. Using a Scale Can Create an Unhealthy Obsession
Stepping on the scale every day can ultimately lead to an unhealthy obsession with your weight.
That one number can dictate your mood and how you feel about yourself, encourage you to skip out on social gatherings with your family and friends, and completely drain you of energy and ruin your relationship with yourself. Obsessing over that number can take away from the overall quality of your life and lead to more serious issues, like exercise addiction and eating disorders.
I’ll admit, I fell victim to this unhealthy obsession. Reaching my “ideal” body weight became my biggest priority in my life and took away from the things I should have actually been focusing on. I realized I needed to stop and reevaluate what I was doing and why I was doing it. What was my weight loss costing me? It was costing me my health—and, even worse, my happiness.
If this is you, ask yourself, is it really worth it? My answer was no. I should have never allowed a silly little number that isn’t even an accurate measurement for my health and fitness progress control my life and dictate my happiness!
What to Do Instead:
I have now tossed out my scale and stopped focusing on what I weigh. If you’re ready to do the same, here are some alternative, and more accurate, ways to better measure your health and fitness progress:
- Focus on how your clothes fit.
- Take progress photos to see the changes in your body composition. Take a picture once a week at the same time of day.
- Focus on how you feel. Do you feel happier, healthier, and more energized? Make it a priority to check in with yourself each day.
- Measure your success by the improvements you make in the gym. Are you lifting heavier weights? Are you running a faster mile?
- If you are going to measure anything, it should be your body fat percentage, not your weight.
- Focus on moving each day and making healthier eating choices. If you are living a healthy lifestyle and giving your body what it needs, whatever size you are is the size you are naturally meant to be.
- Instead of forcing weight loss, listen to your body and give it what it needs. Listen to the cues it gives you. Eat when you are hungry, rest when you are tired, work out when you feel sluggish. Deep down, you know exactly what you need.
I challenge you to let go of that number you want to see on the scale and shift your focus to what you want your life to look like. When you do, everything will naturally fall into place, your relationship with your body included. Being happier in your life will lead you to feel happier with your body. Generally, focusing on what is best for your life will align with what is best for your body. Focus on how you can be happier in your life and your body will be happier too. Ditch the scale once and for all!
For more encouragement in a healthy lifestyle, check out:
What Every Woman Needs to Know About Body Image
Forget About the Scale and Be Happy!
This Is Why You Need a Self-Care Day (And What to Do)
Keto, Paleo, Vegan or Whole30? How to Pick the Best Diet for You
Want to Be a Trim Healthy Mama? Try This Simple Plan
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