Is Your Scale Ruining Your Weight Loss?

Is Your Scale Ruining Your Weight Loss?

One of the biggest challenges faced by the fitness professional, in my personal opinion, is the client who presents him- or herself with a fixed number of pounds to be lost.

Compounding the difficulty associated with this type of order is the strong possibility that the individual is most likely a fervent user of the good old bathroom scale as a means of quantifying the success of the program.

Even further complicating the whole thing is that our weight loss enthusiast has most likely previously employed a few to possibly a multitude of weight loss solutions that used the scale as the primary means of measuring results. This means that the individual has been programmed for years to use the scale as a source of weight-loss feedback.

While the desire to lose excess body fat is an admirable objective, is using one's weight as a measure of that loss really the ideal approach to take?

Maybe not.

In fact, it could be convincingly argued that constant weight monitoring during a weight loss process might actually guarantee an individual of failure. This can happen even when the person is, in reality, succeeding in losing unwanted excess body fat.

There are a few reasons why weighing one's self is counterproductive to the eventual and successful completion of the weight loss process.

Firstly, at the beginning of a weight loss campaign the reduction in body weight can be quite impressive, sometimes ranging between five to ten pounds in the first week or so. While this is certainly encouraging, it opens the door quite wide to unrealistic expectations and projections concerning the time it will take to lose all of the weight associated with the goal.

For example, if an individual lost five pounds in their first week of a weight loss program, and the goal was to lose a total of fifty pounds, it is easy and tempting do some quick math and estimate that it will take a mere ten weeks to lose fifty pounds.

Unfortunately, true weight loss is not a linear trend. You do not go from an old weight to a new weight in a straight line. It's a sporadic process that usually tapers the closer one gets to the desired weight target. This means that certain weeks may only offer one or two pounds lost, the occasional week might show a pound or two gained, some periods might just be a flat line on the scale with no movement in either direction. While not necessarily the fate of some people looking to lose weight, the end result might turn out to be a roller coaster of emotions, stress, discouragement, and the heightened possibility of abandoning the whole thing out of sheer frustration.

Secondly, a conventional bathroom scale will not be able to tell an individual what kind of weight was lost. So, out of a ten pound loss, the scale cannot accurately show if it was purely ten pounds of fat, or five pounds of fat and five pounds of muscle. Maybe it was ten pounds of muscle, or three pounds of muscle coupled with five pounds of fat and two pounds of water. Who knows. Even those fancy scales that offer body fat readings through bioelectrical impedance cannot do this with any accuracy. With a blind approach like that, how can anyone determine if the weight loss process is really leading to an effective and successful reduction of body fat and the protection of precious muscle?

Thirdly, if the weight loss project is truly an effective and balanced approach, it will not be comprised solely of a dieting component. Exercise will most likely be an integral part of the equation. Usually there is a combination of cardiovascular training for a calorie-burning effect, and resistance training for muscle-sparing and body shaping.

The resistance exercise part of the project makes it such that one might gain some muscle mass during the weight loss process. For example, a person can lose five pounds of fat, and gain five pounds of muscle in the initial stages of a weight loss project. That is a ten pound difference resulting in a smaller body size simply because five pounds of muscle takes up much less room than five pounds of fat. However, the scale, much to the dismay of the individual staring at the numbers, will unemotionally show that the effort did not lead to any weight loss at all, even though the fat loss process is working fabulously.

In all of the previous examples, the scale was most definitely not a friend. It was more like a source of constant anxiety, an encouragement to abandon a worthy cause or to engage in more aggressive and much less healthy weight loss options in order to force the issue.

Of course, if an individual has a substantial amount of weight to lose for health and medical reasons, the scale is a valuable measuring tool to chart evolution.

That being said, from my perspective as a personal trainer, weight loss has its root in a person's desire to improve his or her appearance, more than anything else. The positive health effects are there, but they are not always the driving factors.

From a purely aesthetic point of view, while there is data pointing to the benefits of weight monitoring during a weight loss phase, the only time that the scale logically has its place in the game is when the individual has attained the desired appearance that he or she wants because the new weight represents that new appearance. At that point, weighing one's self on a daily or weekly basis, whether by using self-regulation or one-on-one interventions with a coach, is a valid and positive process because it allows the individual to make sure they are not backsliding. Essentially, the scale acts like an alarm to wake the person up to the possibility of weight gain, thus allowing the individual to implement appropriate nutritional planning strategies and physical activity adjustments before too much damage takes place. This is extremely important as recovery from weight regain, even if it is minor, is difficult to control.

Ideally, one should go with the mirror and clothing size for sources of feedback. If those tools of evaluation show that an individual's shape is going in the right direction, body weight becomes irrelevant. Why else do so many advertising campaigns designed to sell weight loss programs to the masses depict people who were successful at weight loss showing off the oversized clothing they used to wear?

In the end, it is important to concentrate on how your physique looks as opposed to how much you weigh. If you look great, and your health is improved, what does it matter what the scale says?

Daniel Eamer is a professional personal trainer, author, speaker, and fitness blogger. He is the author of two books: The Fat Burner Secrets and The Muscle Builder Secrets. Visit Dan's website at [] to download the first two chapters of his ebooks for free.


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