Let me tell you a quick story about one of my in-person clients. Let’s call her Juanita.Juanita had been training with me for about 4 weeks. She was doing great, although she was a little hard on herself.
She lifted weights for around 40 minutes and finished with some steady state cardio for around 20 minutes, and did this 3x per week.
She was also tracking her food intake, and would bring me her food log each week. After checking her food log over I would make a very tiny suggested change for the following week, Juanita would execute the shit out of it with ease, and we would lather, rinse, and repeat.
Week 4 rolled around, and Juanita was hoisting heavier weights, resting less, and feeling great. But she was feeling down about her progress.
Juanita’s goal was to lose some weight. It’s very important to distinguish here that when someone says their goal is to lose weight, they mean they want to lose fat. Your body's weight is made up of a lot of different things. Fat is really the only one you want to lose, trust me.
Back to Juanita and her disappointingly slow progress. She had only lost 1–2 pounds of scale weight since we began 4 weeks ago, and she was blaming herself. Mentioning things like “I shouldn’t have had that birthday cake this weekend.”
Side Note: If you are celebrating your kids birthday, please eat a piece of birthday cake. I promise I will have more questions if you don’t than if you do.
I knew Juanita was making great progress despite her scale weight so I whipped out my favorite fat loss metric tracking tool.
As it turns out, Juanita had lost 3/4" off her neck, 2" from around her shoulders, 1" from her chest, 1.5" from her waist, and .5" from each of her thighs.
That is a lot of fat loss and a lot of progress in four weeks. Juanita was thrilled and encouraged, and you won’t believe it, she busted her ass extra hard in the following session.
Something about positive feedback that kicks effort into high gear. Likewise, the disappointment of not seeing the scale move had her energy low, she was feeling lethargic and she was generally experiencing negative feelings about herself and her efforts.
Here is your takeaway message. The scale is fine to include as a fat loss metric, but be sure it is not your go-to. In fact it should be fairly low on your list.
How clothes are fitting, how you look in the mirror, and measurements should top your list of progress trackers.
Here is a really quick explanation for the scales lack of progress exhibition. When you first begin training, your body is trying to make quick adjustments. Once it realizes, “Oh man! I am going to need to exert force on a regular basis!” it begins to shuttle fluids and nutrients to your muscles. Your body stores more glycogen in your working muscles, which is very helpful in getting stronger, training harder and making progress. Not to mention, those new to weight training will add some lean tissue (muscle) as well, which is also super helpful in getting lean.
This all weighs something, and will generally off set your initial fat loss on the scale.
Avoid the frustration and negative feedback of frequent weigh ins on your bathroom scale. Put it away in a cabinet or under your bed and bring it out, along with a tape measure, every 4 weeks for your progress checks. The negative feelings you get from an unchanged scale will ultimately hurt your execution of your daily plan, which hurts your progress in the long run.