If you are on a weight loss journey or about to begin one, your weight will be important to you. The numbers on the scales symbolise where you started, the hard work you are putting in, and what your ultimate goal is.
However, weighing yourself too often can be unhelpful and even detrimental to your motivation. In this post, we are going to discuss the pitfalls of jumping on the scales every morning and share with you some other ways of tracking your progress.
Digital scales aren’t always 100% accurate
The number you see on the scales – your weight – is made up of fat, muscle, water, organs, skin…literally everything! So, when you weigh yourself, you are measuring your sum total.
If you want to ‘lose weight’, what you really want to do is reduce your body fat. It is important to understand the difference because there is a whole range of factors that can influence your weight that is nothing to do with gaining or losing fat.
There are lots of reasons why your body might be clinging to water, such as dehydration caused by not drinking enough water, eating excess salt or processed foods, or drinking alcohol.
Hormonal fluctuations can also trigger water retention. Estrogen and progesterone affect women’s bodies’ storage system for water and salt leading to bloating and increases in weight that are nothing to do with fat.
Another thing that will bear on your body weight is the amount of muscle you have. We would hope that anyone who is on a weight loss journey is engaging in both cardio and strength training.
Muscle weighs twice as much as fat, but it is obviously good to build because of the aesthetic and health benefits. As muscle mass increases, it will affect the number on the scales leading to stalled weight loss. Of course, the body will be shrinking and becoming more defined, so this is nothing to worry about!
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Progress tracking with body composition scales
There are therefore lots of factors that can affect the number on the scales, making it an inaccurate way to track fat loss.
So, how can you measure whether your hard work is paying off? As just mentioned, when muscle mass builds and fat loss occurs, your body shape will change for the better. When you look in the mirror you will be able to see results, but most of us want something a bit more precise.
Are body composition scales accurate?
Body composition scales are an option for those who want to understand the balance behind their body weight.
These will tell you the percentage of body fat, muscle mass and water that make up your body weight. Most gyms and pharmacies have a set that you can pay to use, but there are decent home scales available if you want to have the option to weigh whenever is convenient…or to weigh naked first thing on a morning (if you know, you know!).
The only drawback with body composition scales is the price tag. Embarking on a weight loss journey can be expensive – from the fresh and healthy foods bumping up the cost of your weekly shop to the new workout gear, you will soon lose more pounds than you bargained for! So, it is understandable if you want to make savings where you can. A good old-fashioned tape measure can be a good alternative.
Taking measurements of your chest, waist, biceps, wrists, and thighs once a week/fortnight will give you a good idea of whether you are heading in the right direction. If your waist suddenly expands 2 inches but your other measurements stay the same, you will know that you are bloated and have not been sleep-eating!
Weighing yourself can cause stress
A final thing to be aware of is the effect that weighing yourself can have on your mental health. Daily weighing is completely pointless, from a progress tracking point of view, because fat loss (or gain) does not happen overnight.
Recent studies have shown a link between self-weighing and your mood, with a link showing a negative impact on your mental health.
There is absolutely no need to weigh yourself or take any other type of measurement, more than once a week. Any more is likely to lead to an unhealthy fixation on the scales, which can affect your mood if the numbers are not ‘right’.
How often should i weigh myself when you’re in training?
Reducing the frequency of weigh-ins can help to protect your mental health, but if you find that you are sensitive to the results you could try blind weighing. Smart scales can send your weight to your phone, which can produce a weight trend graph.
Looking at your weight in the context of a period of time contextualises your results and takes the pressure off that day’s weight. If you do not have a smart scale, you could have your partner record your weight instead.
At the end of the day – or preferably at the beginning of the day before breakfast – your weight is only a metric to track your progress.
Whether the results show on the scale or not, if you are putting in the time and eating right, then you have done enough. Our bodies are not machines, so do not be disheartened if you do not see the number you want and certainly do not let it define your day.