Inspiring your health and fitness
Throw out your scales!

Throw out your scales!


Numbers can be very useful to us. When used correctly in your training they can show growth and development. If your squat weight goes up by 20kg it’s easy to say that you’re stronger. If you’re 5km time drops by a minute it’s easier to say your faster. If your weight increases by 2lbs it’s easier to say your fatter, right? Well, no actually.

Your weight is a measurable number. It will fluctuate from time to time and it will plateau. It is however a useless method of measuring your success in terms of losing fat or gaining muscle. Here’s why:

Our bodies are composed of various different things including muscle, fat, bone, water and all the other things in between. Weight is simply a measurement of all these combined elements total mass. Weight does not take into account our actual body composition – which is really what we all need to be concerned with primarily. The amount of lean muscle compared with the amount of fat on a person can greatly affect their appearance, performance, hormonal balance and immune function. Basically, the fatter you are, the more likely you are to suffer from things like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hormonal dysfunction, and a host of other fat-related illness. It is highly likely you will often feel fatigued (due partly to carrying excess fat around) and if you are doing exercise, you performance is likely to suffer. I’m aware some sports like strongmen and the like require more body fat for high performance but these are the exception and not the rule in this case! So let’s say we have two athletes, one who is very high in body fat, and one who is very high in muscle. Both could actually weigh the same. But their body composition would differ massively, and so would their appearance, health and performance.

So what’s the answer? Well we all need a measuring stick to log our progress by. Keeping records and setting goals is a major factor in achieving the physique or performance you desire. S here are some ways in which you can measure your progress without getting on the scales.

  1. Photos. Before and after shots are usually a cheesy marketing scam to get you to buy the latest pill or product. If done correctly though they are a powerful tool to help you gauge your progress and keep you motivated. Make sure you take your photo from several different angles and at the same time of day and week (and in the same point of your monthly cycle ladies) to make sure you are keeping all the other parameters constant. I.e. your getting a true reflection of your progress.
  2. Ski fold tests. Get a qualified PT to take some ski fold measurements. These are basically measurements of fat around certain points of your body. Tis helps determine a baseline number by which you can monitor your fat reduction or addition. Ignore body fat % calculations. These are VERY difficult to ascertain and most people who claim to measure body fat as a % are most likely not doing it correctly.
  3. Girth measurements. The ol’ tape measure. Measure hip and waist, arm, leg any relevant circumference really to see a change in size. However, be aware that this can be much like the weight issue. It’s just a number so use it with skin fold tests to determine whether you have lost fat or fat and muscle. I.e. if ski fold decreases on the arm but circumference stays the same, you have lost fat and gained muscle. Well done you!
  4. Dress size/clothing. If you have a pair of jeans, or piece of clothing you want to look good in then use that as your measuring stick to success. Granted this is not really a ‘scientific’ way of measuring progress, but it is extremely reliable and motivating. Pus it’s easy to do and doesn’t require any equipment. (Except the jeans of course).
  5. Bodpod dexa scan etc. if you don’t mind paying or have access to them, bod pods and other more scientific body composition devices will give you an incredibly accurate reading of your body fat % among other things. In fact this is the only time you should take your body fat % reading as an accurate representation of your body composition.

So my question to you would be what next for the scales? Maybe throwing them out is not such a wise choice. If you’re competing in a sport where you need to make a weight category, or if you are massively overweight then they might be a useful tool. But be warned, the scales are more likely foe than friend, and they don’t really tell you anything about the progress you’ve made or the changes your body has undergone. Your weight is not the issue. It never was.