No matter what your health and fitness goal is, you need to somehow measure and track your progress. So, how do you do it? The scale, BMI, body fat, pictures, measurements, how clothes fit… there are so many options!
Many people rely on the scale to let them know how they’re doing, especially in a weight loss situation. Honestly, I think the scale has a time and place for progress measurements, and I think some people put too much emphasis on it, giving it a bad reputation. I think there is a right and wrong way to use the scale.
Personally, I weigh myself as a way to monitor if the number has moved – not WHAT the number is. I send my weight to my coach once a week along with my pictures, but the pictures are the most important part.
Key things to remember when using a scale for progress:
- Weigh yourself at the same time of day, after the same number of meals. Easiest way to do this is first thing in the morning.
- Use the same scale! If you don’t have one, go buy a good quality scale to use at home, and then stick to that one. Don’t try to compare that number to a number off a different scale.
- Don’t weigh yourself each and every day, or numerous times a day… there’s no point. Your weight will change day to day based on water. If you’re tracking progress, weigh yourself once a week at the max.
Use the numbers objectively. No matter what your starting weight is, that’s all it is – your starting weight. Whether you weigh 115lbs, or 200lbs, you’re the same person you’ve always been. This base number will just let you know the changes you’ve made over time, either adding to, or subtracting from it. Remember, the most important thing is that you’re healthy, and working towards a healthy body weight FOR YOU.
Overall, I think the scale is a useful tool for tracking progress and changes. It’s a cheap, easy tool that everyone can use. Just remember, the number doesn’t define you, it’s just a marker. Don’t get hung up on what the number is, instead focus on how you feel and how your clothes fit.
The above picture is a prime example of how the scale can be misleading if you don’t LOOK at the product. The difference is about 15lbs between the two, and (minus the tan), they look pretty darn close. My body has changed a lot in the six months between, so 145 is my new benchmark to monitor progress from, and will be my guideline for when I start my next off season. I definitely won’t be stepping on stage at 128 this year, I have no idea what my stage weight will be at this point. We’re just going to have to wait and see where I end up looking my best – maybe it’ll be closer to 135. Doesn’t matter!
Body fat measurements are the same as the scale. However, these are a little more difficult to have done accurately and properly, so you can’t put a lot of stake into the number being “right”. Many scales now have body fat functions built into them, which can be used the same way as the scale – as a benchmark to track progress. Getting a truly valid body fat measurement is expensive and it’s hard to find someone who knows what they’re doing. For some reason people get hung up on BF% too, I often get asked what mine is, and I truly have no idea… I can guess, but that’s about it. Again, the number doesn’t matter to me, as long as I look how I want / need to.
So, what do I use? Personally, I use pictures, the scale (to monitor changes during prep so I don’t lose weight too quickly), how my clothes fit, and strength to gauge my progress. Strength? Yup, due to the fact that my goal is to continue to build muscle, one of the best ways to monitor this is how your strength changes. Can you lift more than previous weeks? That’s progress! Huge progress – when your previous max weight is now your warm up! Bask in those achievements.
Other ways to use this is to monitor your cardio endurance, how long you can keep a pace and still feel good. How easily you can get through an aerobics class that you once struggled through… etc. Look at all these aspects as ways you’ve changed as more positive measures. You can’t see these things outright, but they’re in you!
It’s all about outlook – you need to be able to keep an objective view on the measurements you’re using and what they really mean to your overall health. If you find you have a hard time staying objective, and start obsessing over the numbers, you need to step back and stop measuring yourself. Focus on enjoying the process of what you’re doing: try new activities, cook new recipes, and hang out with friends more. If you find that you’re slipping into an unhealthy area, speak to a health care professional about it.
Stay happy & healthy!